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As many of you know, my daughter has been in NYC, working hard on the Occupy movement; a commitment for which I’m so very proud of her. As a result, I didn’t get to see her on her birthday. Well, she’s home for a couple of weeks for the holidays and to get a break from the immersion of Occupying, so last night we went out for a belated birthday dinner. Kira’s choice of cuisine was Ethiopian food, a type of food that before SCD (BSCD?), I enjoyed with great gusto. The problem with Ethiopian food, however, is not so much the food itself, but the utensil with which it’s eaten. 

You see, one does not eat it with a fork. Nor a spoon, or even a knife. Ethiopian food is served with a flat bread made from teff, called injera. One tears off bits of injera, and uses it to grab a bite of food, then the whole handful goes down the hatch. It really is a delightful way of eating… sensual and involved. I love it! Sadly, teff is a grain, therefore SCD-verboten. But, it was Kira’s birthday dinner, so off to Bete Lukas we went!

Their food is outrageously good… there’s just no other way to describe it. Sadly, all of the appetizers are strictly illegal, so my tummy grumbled as I watched folks enjoy their sambusa. When dinner came, it was served family style, as always. A large platter, lined with injera, and all the various dishes arranged on top. I asked the server for a plate and utensils, explaining that I couldn’t eat the injera. She assured me with a smile that teff is gluten free. I thanked her and explained that I was completely grain free. She thought that was odd, but assured me she’d return with a plate and utensils.

I had just began to think that she had forgotten about me, when she finally returned with a small plate. She also placed in front of me some of the saddest, most decrepit looking utensils I’ve ever seen. The fork tines were bent, and the long sundae-style spoon had long had any vestige of shine beaten out of it. They looked remarkably as though they had come off the back shelf of a Goodwill store. It was clear that I had been given the Spoon Of Shame®, reserved as passive-aggressive punishment for those American customers too prudish to eat with their hands. It took a moment for me to get over the insult and to get over the desire to stand up and proudly pronounce my desire to eat all kinds of exotic foods in whatever way was appropriate for that cuisine, to declare that I had known how to handle chopsticks almost as early as I’d known how to handle a fork, to make known that I would love nothing more than to get my hands greasy and stained from the oily, paprika-rich sauces. One deep breath later, I found within myself the ability to stand proud in my dietary choices and in my choices to prioritize my health over my ego. I grasped my wheezy spoon and my arthritic fork and dove in! From then on, the only challenge was leaving food on the platter for everyone else!

If you’re ever in PDX and want some amazing Ethiopian food, I strongly encourage you to check out Bete Lukas. And to bring your own utensils!

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