My kitchen hosts Ethiopian Feast Night

Posted August 2, 2006 by Malina

Above: The Real Deal: Spices from Ethiopia courtesy of Yosef and Dereje’s mom!
We’ve in a heat wave, in case you hadn’t noticed. You’ve been thinking it can’t GET any hotter, right? You’re thinking “oh it’s so hot, so hot that if it were any hotter it would be Mars, not Earth. It’s so hot that I can’t even think straight, my cats are panting, and my plants are all wilted. Hot hot hot.” Well let me tell you brothers and sisters, you don’t know hot until you host Ethiopian Feast Night at your house when your house has no AC, no Swamp Cooler, and a devilish ability to absorb heat and store it. You don’t know hot until your kitchen has four burners blasting, pounds of onions being chopped, jars and jars of exotic spices flung here and there, jalapenos being sliced and fried, oil a sputterin’ and meat a’ fryin’.

yosef and elias-1.jpg

Above: Yosef and Elias at the AO River Office

And then just for fun, throw in Yosef, Dereje and Elias by turns arguing over the bubbling pans, singing Ethiopian songs, and dancing in the middle of the kitchen. Amy d and I felt like two wilted princesses, sitting there drinking lemonade in front of the fan while we watched them work (and dance, and sing, and tell stories, and force feed us chili pepper sauce, eyes streaming from the heat and the spice and the onion—did I mention the heat and the no AC?). We tried to help, but what do we know about reconstituting Injera and making bean-flour porridge?


Above: This may look like pork rinds, but it’s really dried Injera, one of the staples of Ethiopian cooking. Fresh Injera looks like a thick spongy pancake and you serve it underneath stews and other dishes. Dried Injera is reconstituted in sauce and then eaten. We had the dried version at our Feast, along with a potato and beef stew, bean porridge, and sauted beef and onions with chili paste. We ate everything with corn tortillas–a truely California addition!

And then finally, all the dishes were done. We called a couple friends and ate dinner outside, on the porch. It was pretty awesome—authentic Ethiopian food served in my very own front yard. The food was delicious, the company delightful. another 3 guys by river-1.jpgI was also struck by the generosity we were shown—it’s pretty neat to eat food that has been carried to Northern California all the way from Africa. Dereje and Yosef’s mom actually made one of the spices they used. Everyone helped, but kudos are especially due to Yosef. Elias and Dereje agree that he is the chef of the group and having eaten his food I have to say I agree. I hope it isn’t embarrassing to him to say this, but it was really touching to see him singing Ethiopian songs, eating traditional food and just, I don’t know, alight with love of the evening and that lovely but bittersweet nostalgia for home that you feel when you’re far away but among friends. This is the first time he has been away from home and you can imagine it feels far away indeed.

Above Left: Dereje by the South Fork of the American River


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