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Recently our friends invited us to an Ethiopian restaurant for dinner. It. Was. Awesome.
The moment we walked through the door, we were greeted with an aroma of herbs and spices that smelled delish. You instantly felt transplanted into another world. Or culture, that is. The decor and atmosphere were anything but ordinary. We could immediately sense that this wasn’t your typical restaurant.
You could tell they really value togetherness; lots of round tables for family-style seating, string lighting to set the mood and roof enclosures to make it nice and cozy. I loved it.
Did I mention how good the food was? I was super excited for it, but I wasn’t sure how Stella was going to handle it.
See, we’ve always made it a priority to ensure she’s eating whatever we eat. And we have a rule: she is not allowed to say she doesn’t like something if she’s never tried it. And I’ll be honest, sometimes it’s not easy getting her to try new foods, but we offer lots of praise and even rewards for doing so. It seems to get tougher the older she gets probably because she is influenced by other kids her age, but we won’t stop trying. And I’m a huge believer in this. It all started when she was a baby when someone gifted me a baby cookbook. I’m amazed at how spice is used in BABY FOOD! It taught me that in other countries, babies eat spice all the time. Wow, we Americans need to take a page from that book, eh?
OK, now back to the Ethiopian restaurant. I won’t try to explain to you each dish and how it tasted, but I will simply say that the food tasted great. It came on large communal platters that everyone shared and there were NO UTENSILS! This was one of the most exciting aspects for me as I always wanted to try feasting like that, I just never had the opportunity (not even in all of my weird travels!). Instead, they used a crepe-like flatbread called, Injera. Not only is it tasty, you use it to scoop up the grub.
There was plenty of vegan/vegetarian fare made from beets, beans and eclectic sauces and dips which is a huge plus for me (I can’t remember the name of every dish on the platter, don’t judge me! I realize I am totally butchering the names of these dishes but the specifics aren’t really what this post is about). In short, I was impressed.
And Stella? Well, at first she was a little hesitant. We reminded her that it was just different and not ‘bad.’ We put some things on her plate that weren’t extremely spicy and she really loved that there were no forks or spoons (it was a nice surprise when they brought us warm towels before our meal to cleanse our hands, this added to her enthusiasm). Overall, she liked it! Did she gobble down half the platter? No, but I didn’t expect her to. She nibbled here and there and definitely got some food in her belly. For me, that’s a win.
One of the best parts about this whole experience was in the people who worked there. It was a family business and the TLC showed up in the food. The owners spoke with us for a long time and ultimately suggested our meals, told us stories of Ethiopia and taught us about some of their customs. Their daughters helped serve and asked if they could play with our kids. And their traditional African garb was beautiful.
I didn’t expect to get such a meaningful experience. And we showed Stella a culture she wouldn’t get to see otherwise (we don’t have travel plans for Ethiopia in our near future) at only a twenty-minute ride from our home. Until we can take her to these places, this is a great way to introduce her to cultures other than her own. Hey, I’d prefer a long plane ride across the ocean, but for now, I’ll take it.
Going outside of our comfort zone and exploring another culture’s food is what great travel stories are made of. Get out there and do it!
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