It took me almost two months to find the perfect m'smmen, a dearly loved fried-bread in Morocco. It took about two months, but it was all worth it.
I loved m'smmen from the start. I mean, what's not to love? I would get it with honey and one of those cheese wedges wrapped in aluminum that barely resemble cheese. Yet, every m'smmen had it's own personality and taste, depending on the chef, who was always a woman. Some m'smmen were round, some square, some doughy - resembling a donut, and some flakey. It was always the best when fresh, and especially tasty when I knew the workers. Once I found the perfect m'smmen, I made sure to go back to it everyday, around six pm, when I knew the woman would be busily making fresh m'smmen.
"Salam wa alikum. Hello." I would great both the chef and Ali, who was one of two workers at the kitchen, and the son of the chef.
"Wa alikum salam. Hello," he would respond, smiling widely.
"La bes? How are you?"
"La bes, humdullah. I am fine, thank Allah."
"Humdullah," I'd agree.
"M'smmen?" He'd ask me, all-knowingly. I would nod, and he'd get right to work, grabbing a piece of m'smmen off the grill, spreading cheese and dripping era honey onto the bread. There was never a need to ask for extra honey after my second visit, because Ali knew of my sweet tooth, and would always make sure I got my extra honey, even if he wasn't the one serving me. On one occasion he nudged the worker serving me to the side so he could put the right amount of honey on the bread.
Almost everyone in Morocco has a certain bakery, hanout, or store, spice-man, butcher etc. that they go to. Due to this loyalty and bond between the customer and the seller, prices are reduced, and free treats are often given. On my first visit to Ali, my m'smmen with honey and cheese was 4.50dh and on my last visit it was 3.50dh. If I ever had to wait, Ali was sure to give me mint tea, or occasionally a small pastry that was ready-made. The bonds I developed between sellers and I became increasingly more valuable to me, and not only because they meant that I was paying less and getting more. It meant I was able to repeatedly see the family to whom my money was directly going to, and that I was able to learn more about Moroccan culture and food through questions I directed at them. Although the bakery near my house, Arizmendi's is delicious in it's own way, the cheese rolls, brioche, hazelnut shortbread, and muffins baked and ready almost simultaneously somehow lack the individual care that the m'smmen, prepared, cooked, and sold by the same person, succeeds in achieving. Although I frequent Arizmendi's, and have lived near it far longer, I still don't know neither the cashier's, let alone the chef's names. Regardless, a different cashier seems to be working in Arizmendi's anytime I go in. There is no wish for conversation, only a wish to ring-up the next customer in line.
After I purchased m'smmen in Morocco, rushing off to the park so I could instantly consume it, I would always say,
"Bslama. À la prochaine. Bye. until next time."
"À la prochaine, inshallah. Until next time, Allah willing," he'd respond.