Ethiopian Food: In which Karen loses her mouth

Ethiopian food could vanish from the face of the earth and we’d all be better off.

I was induced to visit an Ethiopian restaurant once by friends who obviously bore some sort of ill feeling against me. This restaurant was not like the expensive Ethiopian restaurants in Georgetown that cater to Americans. The restaurant was authentic Ethiopian: the name was spelled in characters we couldn’t pronounce, none of the staff spoke English, the menu had no correlation to the food available, and ordering was achieved via pantomime. “Wallia” was the spoken name of this culinary disaster, but in print, the name looked more like “Pez.”

Tom, who had previously dined at Wallia, managed to communicate to our waittress that we wanted a four-person variety platter. No such dish was on the menu, but Tom indicated that one couldn’t order anything from the menu anyway. Water appeared to be the only available beverage. Some time later, a large round board arrived. The board was covered in a queer, rubbery bread. Thin, stretchy and pock-marked, it reminded us strongly of skin and was quickly dubbed “skin bread”. Arranged on this disturbing dough were dollops of substances meant to be wrapped in chunks of skin bread and consumed like baby burritos. There were cold mushy green piles, blazingly spicy red and brown piles and tasteless yellow piles.

I had the misfortune to sample a pile of fire. I tried to subdue my burning mouth tissue with skin bread and gruesome bits of cold, mushy piles to no avail. When further application of mush and water did not soothe the blaze in my mouth, Tom endeavored to order a glass of milk. The poor waitress had no idea what “milk” meant, and, without resorting to lewd gestures, Tom couldn’t pantomime it. After much frowning, the waitress sent a patron over to find out what we wanted. In the only success of the evening, a glass of milk was forthcoming.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


*