Maybe its my New York roots, but when it comes to the dinner table, I have always seen two different USAs. There’s the fast, the fried, and the refined that has the health of so many in danger. And then, there’s the melting pot: the mass hodgepodge that has me cooking South Indian fare one day and dining on Thai curry the next. It’s diverse, flavorful, and usually good for our health – which is how I feel about our country’s eclectic nature anyhow. Then again, I may be biased by living in one of the most multicultural cities in the world. [Hmm, can anyone tell I've spent the past 3 days writing about diversity in dance?]
My parents have always loved ethnic food. We’ve patronized nearly every establishment of the kind in the corner of Connecticut in which I grew up – Indian, Thai, Japanese, Ethiopian, Spanish, Mediterranean, Moroccan, Pakistani… Honestly, if a new culture opens its doors by way of food, my family will be at a table.
Even before I took on my food-is-an-adventure philosophy, I was still
into the ethnic atmosphere: back in high school, my friends and I often visited a local Japanese hibachi joint. Under eighteen and stuck in suburbia, gathering around that fiery stovetop for a multi-course meal was the highest form of entertainment. Plus, it’s there that I learned how teriyaki could infuse any food with flavor, and how egg makes quite the addition to rice.
This week, I met up with my blogging twin for an ethnic treat I don’t get often enough: Ethiopian food at Awash . We shared wine [obviously] and a vegetarian feast, digging in to lentils seasoned in all manner of ways and a host of spiced vegetables, from carrots and collard greens to beets and cabbage. Scooping it all up with our hands and traditional injera bread, it was a perfect trip away from the usual fork, knife, and simply-flavored fare.
As Danielle as I discovered yet another similarity between us [a mutual fascination with linguistics], we chowed down in what I consider quintessential New-York-American fashion: at a small table, in a small dining room, tasting food served and cooked by people who live and breathe the culture – after all, in the case of Awash, the chefs and owners are Ethiopian themselves.
I much prefer dining in this American style, as the menu isn’t peppered with the points and calorie counts of the country’s customarychains . Instead, it is packed with whole foods – wide-ranging vegetables and whole grains [How often do we eat anything made from teff, like Ethiopian injera bread? It's a great whole grain.]
As I always say: when the food is real, the numbers just don’t matter. Sometimes, we have to travel around the world to learn that. I’m certainly glad I did.
What’s your favorite ethnic cuisine?