Smells Are Free

November 19th, 2010

Here’s an old Jewish folktale about baking that I really enjoyed.

Long ago, the Jews of Marrakesh enjoyed the protection of the Moroccan King. They lived in a walled-off part of the city called the Mellah. During the day, they could come and go as they pleased, conducting their business and enjoying their lives. At night, the large gates surrounding their Mellah were locked, so as to shield them from harm.

There lived in the Mellah a young lad named Aaron. Like most Jews in Marrakesh, Aaron was poor. But what he lacked in money, he certainly made up for in imagination and ingenuity.

Aaron was possessed of a well-honed sense of smell. Whenever he would venture out into the city of Marrakesh, he would seek out the most pleasant aromas. He especially liked to stand near to the bakery. Of course Aaron had no money with which to purchase anything at the bakery. But the wafting smell of freshly baked breads and pastries was enough to transport him to a blissful place inside his mind.

One day Aaron was standing outside the bakery. He was really enjoying the wonderful smells. Suddenly his daydreams were shattered by an angry voice. It was the baker. “Every day you stand outside my bakery, inhaling the wonderful smells I produce. Yet you never buy anything from me. It is as if you are stealing from me.”

Aaron was panicked. He didn’t think he had been doing anything wrong. But the baker was certainly angry with him. Aaron replied, “Sir, I would love to buy some of your baked goods. But I am too poor. I didn’t think that simply smelling the great aromas you produce was stealing.”

The baker was unconvinced. He demanded justice. He brought the lad before a local magistrate, a man quite renown for his fairness and wisdom.

The baker presented his complaint. The judge turned to Aaron and asked, “How do you reply to the baker’s claim?”

Aaron did not know what to say. He thought that he had always acted honestly. He was terribly unnerved by the whole circumstance. He prayed that he might be able to find the right words to help himself.

“What the baker says is true. I really enjoy the delicious fragrance of his breads and cookies. I wish I could buy some of them. But I don’t have enough money. So, I must satisfy myself with just smelling them.”

The judge asked the lad, “Do you have any money at all?”

“Well, I do have a few dirham in my pocket. But certainly not enough to buy anything that this fine baker sells.”

The magistrate laughed loudly, which was most uncharacteristic for a person of his stature. Then he spoke, “Give me your coins.”

Aaron did as he was told. The magistrate took the boy’s change and put it in a velvet bag. He gave the bag to Aaron.

“Aaron, now I want you to shake the bag. Shake it hard.”

The boy complied. The coins jingled.

The judge then turned to the baker. “I rule that the jingling sound of these coins is fair payment for the fine fragrance of your baked goods. One sense exchanged for another makes great sense.”

And with that, the case was justly settled.

As always, the smells are free at Windy City Baking Co.! Please stop by one of our markets and enjoy our fresh-baked aromas!

The story was found here.

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