An antique spice chest greets us inside the kitchen, which is huge and light-filled.
Karim introduces us to Lali (which means "darling" in Arabic), who will be our teacher, only she speaks only Arabaic, so Karim is there to translate to French for us. But first we take a lesson from him in the origins of Moroccan cooking. We sit together at a wooden table where a sheet of paper and pencil have been laid out neatly for each of us, and we listen and take notes.
My notes show that there are three "ingredients" in Moroccan cooking: civilization, ethnography, and climate. The Romans, Wattasi, Phoenicians, Berbers, Arabs, and Jews all came to the region with their various weapons and spices. Meat was scarce, but there was a tremendous variety of vegetables from region to region. Some dishes developed specifically to disguise vegetables as meat ("elle donne l’impression qu’il y a du poulet dans le pôt"). The Sultan never ate the same dish as the rest of his entourage--a safeguard, no doubt. Karim tells us that even poor Moroccans never eat the same thing twice--it’s always something different every day (well, they must repeat a dish ONCE in awhile!). The cuisine is a "vrai mélange" of products and cultures. There are special dishes for marriages and births and funerals. It is, in sum, he tells us, a cuisine that aims to please both the individual and the community and that it reflects the unity of many diverse peoples and ideas.