Sunday, January 25, 2009
Dinner in Eritrea
When my husband was growing up it was a Friday family tradition to go grocery shopping in the afternoon and then head to Rockway Fish and Chips for supper. This small diner, open for many years, was locally famous for its large portions of fish and fries and its unchanged 1950's decor. It closed in early 2008 when the owner retired and recently reopened as A.M. Africa with new owners from Eritrea in East Africa. They kept the fish and chip menu and have added a new menu of authentic African dishes.
The Becka and I went there on a very cold evening last week. We were warmed with pots of hot African and Chai tea while we waited for our food to be prepared with fresh ingredients. I have copied the following from the restaurant's web site.
"Africa's dishes are based on vegetables and meats subtly or robustly seasoned with a rich variety of native herbs and peppers to bring out natural flavours. Careful and skillful food preparation and service enhance your dining pleasure. These hearty dishes are distinctive for their use of berbere, a favourite seasoning based on red peppers.
Berbere is combined with either kebbeh (herb butter and onions), or other spices, to give these dishes an unforgettable flavour. Diners eat using fingers and pieces of the traditional bread injera to wrap morsels of food for consumption. The breaking of bread together takes on a strong social significance. It is essential to building and maintaining friendships."
We ordered the vegetarian platter which came with roasted lentils, cooked cabbage, mixed vegetables and salad, all wonderfully seasoned and served in mounds on two large rounds of injera. This crepe-like bread is made with teff, a tiny gluten free grain that is ground and allowed to ferment with yeast, much like our sourdough bread is made. Its spongy texture was perfect for picking up the stewed and roasted vegetables.
This was a large platter, not a dinner plate and we could not finish all the food as it was very filling. We both decided this is a place where a new family tradition could be started, perhaps not every week but maybe once a month. This is not a fast food outlet and time is required to go through the menu, wait for the freshly made food and eat it at a leisurely pace.
Isn't that the way dinner is supposed to be?
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