Today’s review has a little bit of a story.

I was intrigued by this book the moment it arrived, because while it looked delicious, my previous run-ins with cooking Moroccan food had been challenging.  I think phyllo dough is a pain to work with, and I don’t own a tagine.

Little did I know these were to be the least of my problems.  I started cooking ambitiously, making a bastila with homemade warqa  pastry which took most of an afternoon.   It tasted great, and I learned how to make a time-consuming but wonderfully resilient pastry using nothing more complicated than a paintbrush and a nonstick pan.    I couldn’t make head or tail of the diagrams though, and the book earned a household sobriquet:  “The Incredibly Complicated Food of Morocco”.

Then came the Halloween snowstorm, and then the power went out.  For four days we frantically used up meat, and since all of it was slated for recipe testing, I simply went ahead with that testing.  My stove is propane-fueled, so I could keep cooking.  But there was no oven, and no running water, and no heat.  I improvised a flame tamer out of foil to approximate the gentle heat of a tagine.  We melted snow and boiled water for the dishes.

It was rugged, in a word.  But then, I thought, this is an ancient cuisine from a developing country.  How many authentic Moroccan cooks over the centuries have had power and running water?  Probably nowhere near a majority.

On the other hand, how many snowstorms do you get in Marrakech?