Sunday, May 20, 2018

This is 39 (Month 7, Check-In 1): That Time I Tried Ethiopian Food

Well you guys. I crossed another goal off my list: Try Ethiopian Food.

Ethiopian food is something I've wanted to try for over a decade, but never brought myself to do it for a variety of reasons which may be interesting but aren't particularly important. But once I put it on my goal list, I knew I'd get it done this year, especially with a few people who offered to go with me (thank you Jeanette, Chuck & Mark).

In the end, my friend Mark was the lucky recipient to share this evening with me. After a series of rescheduling due to conflicts on both of our parts, Mark and I finally set the date for Tuesday, May 8th. We met in Little Ethiopia- an actual neighborhood in Los Angeles that's chock full of Ethiopian restaurants, coffee shops and stores. Mark had already done some research and had two restaurants for me to choose from: Messob and Lalibela. We chose Lalibela because it smelled better and the menu seemed more authentic, even though the ambiance of Messob was more traditional. Lalibela had the type of interior that made you feel like you could be at any restaurant in any city in any state/country. There wasn't anything ethnic about it...ya know, beside the cuisine served inside!

Mark, having declared that he wasn't eating meat anymore (a fact that I unconsciously overlooked even though he mentioned it at least twice) ordered the Veggie Utopia: A special combination of 14 veggie dishes: Shibera Asa, Gomen, Shero, Miser (2), Dinich, Cabbage, Ater, Suf- sunflower seeds, Tematim Fifit, Fosalia, Keke aletcha and salad. It seemed a bit excessive, but he wanted me to be able to taste some of his food as well (thank Gods).

I, on the other hand, looked over the menu completely at a loss of what to get, realizing that doing some research ahead of time may have been a smart move. I consulted the waitress, and Mark helped too. He tried to suggest I try one dish and share his, since it was a lot of food. I was indignant and insistent (this would come back and bit me in the ass Big Time) that I get something more substantial. After all, I was hungry and it was my first time eating Ethiopian food. So ultimately I chose a meat combo, because I love meat and I thought it'd be best to order something that allowed me to try a few different things. I went with Cornis: A combination of the three popular meat dishes: Kitfo, Tibs Fir-fir and Derek Tibs with Kinche soft cracked-wheat layered on top (two servings). Created by Lalibela's main chef, this restaurant favorite mixes the many rich flavors of our most well-loved dishes to satisfy your different cravings. 

Mark and I caught up and talked while we waited for our meals to be prepared. It was, as always, good to be in Mark's company. He's the type of person who makes you happy just by being around him. We laughed and laughed some more. And then the food came.

Oh boy.

As I saw Mark's plate lower down in front of him, I thought "Ooooooh! How pretty!" And then I looked on in horror as my plate came into view and thought "Oh no. I've made a very big mistake." See for yourself:

What the f*ck is on my plate, you're asking? Well...
  • On the outer edge is the Kitfo (finely chopped prime lean beef seasoned with herbed butter sauce and spices served with Ethiopian cottage cheese). 
  • The pile of light brown food that looks like poo/intestines is actually Tibs Fir-Fit (injera moistened with tender beef cubes simmered to perfection in berbere sauce, fresh tomatoes and garlic). 
  • And the pile of mush on top was actually the best part- the Derek Tibs (well-done beef chunks grilled in spiced butter with sauteed onions, green peppers and Ethiopian spices).
  • And then why not just throw sliced hard boiled egg on top? It really pulls the meal together, dontchya think? 😐
I tried everything on my plate. But unfortunately I just didn't like it. Part of me couldn't get over the looks of my food. I mean...honestly. Look at that steaming pile 

Mark was being The Sweetest. He was so excited to share this experience with me and was really generous in paying for my meal. I wanted so badly to like this. But me and Ethiopian food just don't have much of a future I'm afraid. Mark's food on the other hand was definitely more palatable than mine. I wouldn't say I had "major food envy", but there were certainly more things on his plate that I could - and did - eat. By the time we were done, it looked like I had barely touched my food, whereas Mark's plate was pretty near clean. See: 

I packed up my food and brought it home to Steve who enjoyed it far more than I did (phew). I was so glad to not have it go to waste! 

All in all, it was still a really fun night. Mostly because going anywhere with Mark is a fun adventure. He can make anything, including an unappetizing culinary experience, something that makes me smile and laugh.

I am in no rush to go back and have Ethiopian food. But I am grateful for the experience with Mark (and his excitement, generosity and patience). And, crazily enough, I actually would give it one more try. I'd just order waaaaaaaaaaay differently.

More than anything, I'm very glad I get to totally cross another goal off my This Is 39 list!


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