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There had also been a day when one of His Majesty's golfing companions from the court showed up in wild, multicolored slacks. So the king ordered a pair of scissors, which were promptly produced, and went about cutting off the man's trousers above the knees.
Just before I got there, Hassan had played in Rabat with the Apollo 12 crew—Conrad, Bean and Gordon—Claude told me. "They didn't play too good. I told him, 'Your Majesty, they can play the big ball in the sky but they can't play the little ball on the ground.' He liked that."
Claude had said that although the king was never with you in the evening, he arranged, personally, most of your entertainment. And he always knew where you had been and with whom. Armed with this knowledge, I was not surprised when he asked, "How was dinner last night?"
We had gone to the home of a wealthy businessman of Fez named Mernissi. Whiskey and ice were displayed on a center table in the living room, a help-your-self favor to the thirsty Americans. Few Moroccans drink. Scads of servants moved about, passing snacks and placing incense burners on the floor. A Berber orchestra showed up and there was occasional dancing and singing. Scotch, incense and music do not necessarily make an American hungry, but Claude had warned the feast would be spectacular.
And here it came.
A tureen of soup first, with lamb and lentils and lemon. Then shish kebab. Then a smoking platter of lamb knuckles with artichoke stalks and lemon. Then a huge bowl of meatballs with lightly fried eggs on top, floating on a mixture of paprika or chili pepper. Tex-Mex-Moroc, I thought. Next came an equally large serving of whole chickens highly seasoned and swimming in juices. This was followed by an entire barbecued lamb. Then came the couscous, served on this occasion as a dessert with powdered sugar. Finally, there was fruit and hot mint tea.
We dined Moroccan style, which means that one eats only with the thumb and first two fingers of the right hand. Just reach in and rip it out.
For a napkin there is only your very own huge loaf of crusty bread. You wipe your hand on it, or tear off chunks and dip it in the bowls and platters. Moroccans know where the best pieces of barbecued lamb and seasoned chicken are. My hand followed theirs, to the point, in fact, that one or two of them began to pull off delicate, lean slivers of meat and offer them to me. "Fine. Sure is," I said.
To say the least, it was the best meal I've ever had.
And so when Hassan asked how our dinner was last night, I couldn't resist preempting Claude.