Thursday, December 22, 2011

Travels to Ethiopia

Ok, so I didn’t actually go to Ethiopia. But, for me food is more than just eating because you have to. Food is a way that I can travel to other countries and experience a taste of their culture. I especially love trying new flavor combinations. This holds true at ethnic restaurants where I have experienced dishes that I never would have cooked on my own and that have introduced me to new flavors. Also, what people eat seems to be a reflection of the lifestyle or impart some meaning about their culture. (I don’t dare to think what McDonald’s and KFC say about America now.)

Last Friday, Jerry and I went to Davidson to move some of my stuff out of my dorm room. Since we were so close to Charlotte, we decided to go eat there. I really look for any excuse to escape from the monotony of BBQ and Mexican restaurants that Lexington has to offer. I had everything planned out, something I tend to do. But, sometimes things happen and my plans are shattered. Lately I have been working on being more flexible and embracing (occasional moments of) spontaneity. Luckily, this time I did not freak out or get frustrated, but looked up another restaurant that I wanted to try.

I blindly led Jerry to Meskerem, an Ethiopian restaurant in Charlotte. I just vaguely told him that it would be fun and a new experience. It was a few minutes after 2 when we arrived at the restaurant; it was completely deserted other than the  husband and wife duo that were running the front and back of the restaurant. The menus were filled with words totally foreign to us but had helpful descriptions underneath. Our waiter was also extremely helpful especially after he guessed that it was our first time at an Ethiopian restaurant. He wanted to make sure that we ate our meal in the proper Ethiopian way. It was touching to see the pride of his culture in the way he enjoyed telling us how to eat our meal or about how healthy the injera (Ethiopian flatbread made from the grain teff) was.

I ordered the Meskerem Lamb Tibs and Jerry ordered Special Chicken Tibs. Mine was delicious and I appreciated the not-too-large portions. Both of our entrees were seasoned well with a subtle heat that came only after several bites. My lamb was cooked with rosemary, onions and green peppers. Both entrees came with sides of collard greens and lentils. It was a very communal experience because all of the food is brought on one platter, just on different sections of the spongy and slightly tangy injera. It would be very fun to eat here with a large group of friends (but you should be pretty comfortable with each other).


Clockwise form the bottom: Meskerem Lamb Tibs, rolled-up injera, collard greens, Special Chicken Tibs, split lentils

Jerry was slightly freaked out by the lack of silverware involved. I thought it was very fun, especially since our waiter brought a basket of rolled up injera to use. I really liked the spongy but soft and slightly sour flat bread. The best part is using the injera soaked in juices from the meat to scoop up food. The meal was slightly messy but it made me, a slightly fast eater, slow down and enjoy the food, laughing during much of the meal (I realized that dropping some is inevitable). However, I had to convince Jerry of the uniqueness and fun of eating with your hands after he exclaimed for the tenth time that he wished he could use silverware.

Although our water glasses remained empty for about half of our lunch, it was a truly satisfying meal. But, I am willing to say that Ethiopian cuisine may not be for everyone. Germ freaks or very proper people that can’t stand the thought of eating with their hands should probably stay away.

By the way, I was going to put a fun Christmas picture in here only to find that I have pretty much taken pictures of nothing but food for the past month. Oops!

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