– by Michael!
If you’re familiar with our blog, you know that Joanie and I love to eat.
By “familiar,” I of course mean “have ever even looked at,” because your chances of getting a food-related post are about 5 to 1.
In particular, we love to eat adventurously. Outside of the box. Steak and potatoes is a fine meal, but why not squid and potatoes? With cayenne ice-cream for dessert?
(Note to self: prepare squid and potatoes, and look up recipe for cayenne ice-cream.)
This isn’t new, for either of us. I’ve always been adventurous – “I’ll try anything once,” I said to the vast amusement of the attendant parents at some fancy schmancy restaurant in California where I first tried both squid and rabbit. I leapt at my first opportunity to try sushi in college, and have loved it dearly ever since. There is no cultural cuisine type that I haven’t tried and loved.
Some, however, don’t return my love.
One fine weekend whilst I was in college, my roommate said, “Michael, I’ve driven past this neat looking Ethiopian restaurant a couple of times. Wanna check it out for lunch?”
“Does the pope live in the woods?”
“No. You got that saying completely wrong.”
“I’m not exactly the sharpest cookie in the crayon box.”
“Stop talking. I’ll drive.”
And thus, we embarked upon our epic journey to the Horn of Africa Ethiopian Restaurant.
Now, we had NO IDEA what to expect – this was before everything in the world was available on your phone, and we all know that people didn’t actually learn things before then. So our palates were blank slates as we arrived and grabbed a small table in the back.
“Have you eaten here before?” asked our server. Upon hearing that we hadn’t, and that we hadn’t ever had Ethiopian cuisine before, she brightened immensely and insisted on ordering for us. “You’ll have the combination plate. You only need it for one, it will give you a great sampling of everything here.”
Todd and I looked at each other, then back at the server. We’re both fairly big guys, with very big appetites, and neither of us has ever been a fan of “splitting something” in a restaurant… But the combinations were cheap, and she was being very kind. Instead of shooting down the idea, we just asked that she make it a combination for two. “We eat a lot,” I said with a grin, and she rolled her eyes and went to get our food.
Shortly thereafter, she brought out a massive platter covered with … well, to be honest, covered with a circle of enormous pancakes with fist-sized globes of various colors and textures sitting on top of them.
“This is injera,” she said, pointing to the 20-inch-wide pancake-like items on the plate, “and those are wat.” Here she pointed to the globes. “Different kinds of stew – some are meat, some are vegetable.”
“Can we get some silverware?” I asked in my innocence.
She laughed. “No! Use the injera!” And she demonstrated, picking a small sliver of the flatbread and pantomiming the act of grabbing some of the stew with it.
At this point, without having taken a bite, I fell in love with Ethiopian cuisine.
Lots of meat.
Eaten with your hands.
Clearly, this is how awesome people eat.
We tucked in with a will. It was delicious – heavily spiced, hugely varied, and all completely delicious. Both Todd and I, neither terribly veggie-friendly, thoroughly enjoyed even the vegetable wat samplings.
And the server came back to gloat when it became apparent that we weren’t going to finish more than half of the combination platter.
“I told you, yes?” she grinned. We nodded sheepishly as we paid the check, and asked for to-go boxes. Soon we were home, peacefully enjoying the languid sense of accomplishment that comes with eating too much.
And by ‘peacefully enjoying’ I do mean, of course, ‘man were we grateful we had two bathrooms in that apartment.’ I’ll spare you the details, other than the timeline: we were relatively incapacitated for about four hours. Did I mention that the food was heavily spiced?
Of course, we learned our lesson.
When we went back to Horn of Africa the following weekend, we just split the combo for one.