|Tortilla, Abyssinian wine, grandmother|
I said, "No, no, Ethiopian. Ethiopia is a country in eastern Africa . . . "
I stopped myself, checked on my iPhone, discovered she was right. Or at least not wrong.
My grandmother did not like eating with her hands, and did not understand the role of the injera -- the spongy flatbread you use to scoop up the various dishes -- until about halfway through the meal. Lightbulb moment: "This a tortilla," she said.
I said, "No, no, it's actually a sourdough pancake made with teff flour. . ."
She looked at me darkly. "I know. But it's like a tortilla." After that she ate with gusto. My grandmother is a pip.
Zeni is the best Ethiopian restaurant I've been to in the Bay Area, and I'm just sorry it's in San Jose, where I hardly ever go. The injera comes in a basket and it is rolled up tightly, like hand towels. See lower left-hand corner of photo below:
It is pliable, grayish, slightly damp, intensely sour, so good. I am determined to learn to make it, or something like it. To go with the injera, we had super-spicy ground meat, homemade cheese, chicken sauteed in butter, cabbage sauteed in butter, salad, all delicious. One order of baklava for dessert, which I would have skipped, but my grandmother insisted.
I thought about how and what my grandmother eats. It's very simple: She eats everything, including wine, salad, and dessert, but everything in moderation, at mealtimes. It makes me think of the Michael Pollan maxim: Don't eat anything your great grandmother wouldn't recognize as food. That strikes me as the soundest of all dietary advice.
The night after the Ethiopian dinner out, I made an Ethiopian dinner in. I made yataklete kilkil. Or, spiced vegetables.
The recipe comes from the The Africa News Cookbook and you start by simmering butter with spices (ginger, turmeric, cardamom, etc.), onions, and garlic for a full hour. Then you strain out the solids -- both dairy solids and bits of spice and onion -- so that you're left with pure golden butter imbued with a subtly exotic fragrance. It's beautiful. You'll want to dip a crust of bread in it, but try to resist.
Once you have your spiced butter, steam some cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, and potatoes, then saute them in 1/3 to 1/2 cup of the butter. Salt to taste.
|spa food meets spiced butter and salt|
Last night, I made Algerian spicy vegetable soup (chorba hamra), also from Africa News. I will have to write more about this soup later because I didn't really eat any so can't comment on its flavor. I just left the pot on the stove for my husband and went to meet a friend of a friend for a drink. There, in the Marinitas bar in downtown San Anselmo, I consumed so many tortilla chips that I didn't feel like eating vegetable soup when I got home at 8:30 p.m.
My grandmother never would have done that. First of all, she never would have left my grandfather to fend for himself with a pot of soup and two children while she went out for a drink. What kind of negligent wife does that? No comment. But second, and more germane to the subject of this blog, my grandmother never would have stuffed herself with tortilla chips then come home and eaten a Skinny Cow caramel cone washed down with a glass of wine while watching Breaking Bad and called it dinner.
I like to think I have a healthy, traditional diet, but when I actually look at what I eat, that isn't quite the case.