The Ethiopian Diet

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davew's picture

Last week we had a rendezvous with a lovely lady we met when we bought a painting from her. This was one of those random meetings in life that are all the more special for being entirely coincidental. She suggested an Ethiopian restaurant in Boulder called Ras Kassa. Since Ellen and I have never had Ethiopian food before so our new friend ordered a mix of vegetarian and meat dishes for the table. A short time later our dinner arrived on a platter than resembled nothing so much as a trough. Hmm. I saw mostly a sea of vegetables in assorted muted colors cooked down to the consistency of stew. Arranged artistically around the edge of the trough were, as nearly as I can tell, lengths of thin, rolled-up sponges.

No plates or silverware. Okay, I was expecting this, but until this very point in time I hadn't truly believed. We stared mutely at the spread for a second. Sensing hesitation our delightful server took a bit of sponge, dredged it through the center of the miasma, and popped it into someone's mouth -- not mine thankfully. After a few moments Ellen, our friend, and her daughter dove in with gusto. I paused to think for a moment which proved to be a fatal mistake. My brain reached down to my stomach and turned off my appetite like a switch. My last meal had been a couple of sardines and a handful of crackers late that morning so until that very moment I had been starving, but staring into the mire my first thought was "dog food", and that was that. I am told it was delicious, and I will accept this on faith. I demurred claiming a late lunch. Only afterwards did I remember that I had a titanium spork in my backpack. I wonder if I would have had the social courage to use it? I wonder if it would have helped me get beyond the oog factor? Hopefully I'll never get to find out.

I started thinking about this some more, probably too much, and I still can't see the point. What about the meal would be harmed by serving the dishes separately, on plates, with silverware? The flavors would still be similar. They just wouldn't all be jumbled together and mixed with finger oils. Presumably the meal is served this way out of a sense of authenticity, but since no one eating at the restaurant looked even vaguely Ethiopian this too must be taken on faith. Personally slaughtering the chickens would be authentic as well, but would have about the same effect on the meal's attractiveness.

The evening, however, was wonderful. Our dinner companions were interesting and engaging and the conversation was top-notch. I'd do it again in a second, but given my absolute druthers I'd go for Italian next time.
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Ellen's picture

Re: The Ethiopian Diet

Quote:
Arranged artistically around the edge of the trough were, as nearly as I can tell, lengths of thin, rolled-up sponges.

I agree that the sponge bread looked unappetizing, but it tasted fine and in fact created a nice muted starchy taste to underly the spice, sweetness, and herbiness of the dishes in the "trough." Actually, rather than a trough, it reminded me of a western veggie and meat tray except everything was cooked except for a couple mixed salads. There was cauliflower marinated in a vinagarette, chicken marinated in a spicy herb sauce, beans, etc. I would do it again. Although, I definitely prefer the Indian style flat bread, Naan, to the Ethiopian sponge bread. It has a slightly more toasty taste and a bit more heft.

And the company was phenomenal! I will remember that night for a long time -- with pleasant thoughts.

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Ellen
Ever learning, Everlasting

Re: The Ethiopian Diet

It does sound yummy but I think Dave is right about needing plates and silverware. I don't mind sharing but not keen about doing it this way.