East Africa in West Philly ~ Traversing Time and Space

I had a very important meeting today in my old college neighborhood. It is called University City because Drexel University and The University of Pennsylvania are located there. I moved away many years ago, but still have so many fond memories. Sometimes work or a social event will bring me back, but I have not visited in a few years. The last time I was there it was a very sad occasion. I went with a coworker to visit a former client of ours who was receiving hospice care. She died a few days later.  She was not much older than I, but was dying of uterine cancer that was diagnosed way too late. She had schizophrenia and this contributed to her death. Her caretaker did not believe her when she told her she was bleeding. I did all I could to advocate for her, but it was not enough. Her paranoia interfered with her willingness to receive tests and accept care. She was my favorite client and she had an outrageous sense of humor. And what a smile, unforgettable. She also shared my grandmother’s name. She was both delusional and telepathic. Her family said she had the gift of prophecy and she did indeed. She passed about 3 years ago, but her essence is still very much alive.

The meeting I attended was to discuss a research opportunity to work with people who are newly diagnosed as psychotic. This early intervention initiative started in Australia and Europe.  Later on a study was created on the West coast. Now start-ups are developing in Philadelphia and a few other cities in the Eastern United States. This is just the first step. I told the interviewer that I wanted to work with people where there is promise and hope.  She seemed to get it. Now I go on with my life and wait to see what happens.

I could not help but think of my beloved client on the ride home. But I was not going home quite yet. There was a pinball arcade to check out ( only 2 machines). Then I cruised by all the buildings where I once lived. The area has changed, but not really. There are new layers of activity superimposed on the old. I was in need of a lift. Plus I was really hungry. So I went to the Red Sea.

Now it’s called Abyssinia, but to me it will always be the Red Sea. It was about 3 blocks from my very first apartment and I got hooked on their food right away. The website does not show a photo of the food so I will provide one:

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

This is a mandala of culinary bliss! The beige bread that lines the plate is called injera, a spongy pancake- like creation that is sour and tangy. It soaks up all the flavors and is just incredibly yummy. For more about injera, check out Ka’s post here.  I had a combo which included several meat and veggie dishes with some salad layered on top. It is served with extra injera on the side. You eat your meal with your hands by taking a piece of injera and using it to scoop up the food. I also ordered a Kenyan beer to go with my meal. Ethiopian food is very spicy and the beer helps keep the heat in check.

This is my absolute favorite cuisine. I had my go-to dish ~ doro wat – tender chicken in berbere sauce with a hard-boiled egg. It is truly the circle of life! I also had crunchy collard greens that tasted so fresh, a beef dish, a lamb( goat) curry, a split pea stew and a lentil dish. The veggies are smooth in texture and mild in flavor. The meal is reminiscent of a paint palette and you concoct unique tastes and colors and textures with every bite. The beer I selected seemed unpleasant at first, but after a little while it married with the food and all the flavors cooperated. Salty, bitter, peppery, tangy,dense, clean, complex,creamy, crunchy, fermented, earthy, smooth, acidic, chewy, etc. I was so at ease with this meal. We were one. No other way to explain it.

I gazed around the dining room and remembered my various dinner partners from the past. I could only find a few folks who would try this food with me. One of my most romantic evenings ever was spent here with my ‘soulmate’ on a whim. We drove from my new neighborhood back here just to eat at this restaurant. We fell in love in West Philly, so I guess it was only fitting. I am not sure why this night was so special, but it was. We liked trying new things and reading evocative books and discussing ideas that were nontraditional. We liked adventure and were forever curious.

I wonder why I feel more comfortable with foreign cultures than my own. As I scooped up the stews with my injera, I wondered if I was once Ethiopian. When I was watching Top Model, of all things ,Tyra Banks gave the contestants Ancestry.com DNA kits. They will be used to determine everyone’s ethnicity. It amazes me that for $100 you can send your saliva to a lab and in return you can unlock the mysteries of your origins.  I have been wanting to do this for years. It might answer some unresolved questions like why oh why do so many strangers ask me if I am Native American? I would be honored to discover that I have some indigenous blood running through my veins. The test would not determine past lives, but I hope it would help me understand more of my identity, including my foreign food preferences. Mars is in Sagittarius now and it is a fine time to explore what is exotic and unusual.

I hope this post is not too circuitous to understand. Today was an important day for so many reasons, some I have yet to discover. But I wanted to describe my meal while the spices still lingered in my mouth, before the flavors left me. I also wanted to honor the thousands of people who die before their time due to chronic mental illness. Perhaps most of all I wanted to stress that it is never the wrong time to treat your Self to a great meal, a relaxing drive, or a glimpse of an old love.

 

related post: https://litebeing.com/2013/06/11/scenes-from-an-indian-restaurant-collisions-of-parallel-time/

 

image “Plat de cuisine éthiopienne au énélik”  http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5/ via Wikimedia Commons

Advertisements