We're really lucky to live here in Maryland where there is an active Ethiopian adoption group. Every month these fine families meet up in Baltimore at Dukem restaurant to enjoy Ethiopian food and the general sense of ease that comes from being with families who "know".
This was our first time making the event and beforehand I was really nervous. I am (a) not that comfortable in group situations where I don't know people and (b) not that comfortable in restaurants with my children. Plus, I've been really lonely lately (more about that in a later post) and since we know so few people in the area to me it I approached it like one great big please-be-my-friend interview.
Truly, I did. I showered. I did my hair. I fixed my makeup. I wore jeans without holes and a sweater that wasn't a cast-off from one of my sisters. I wore perfume, which I actually spilled on myself, but it's really light and so it wasn't that strong. One person did mention the smell around me, but in a good way. She said it was "yummy". If I remembered what etsy shop it was from I'd plug it, but I don't, Sorry!
I warned my husband in advice that if it was lame or no one talked to us that it wasn't my fault. No worries there though. Kelly found me right away and they sat with us so we weren't losers. :) I also got to briefly meet Zoe and Renee and I read both their blogs as well.
There were lots of people there and everyone was friendly. I apologize in advance of next month's meeting for not remembering your names! I got to show off Little Miss' picture and talk about how excited we are to travel in July (not March, Gayla!!).
It was LOUD. There were lots of kids there and there was just enough room for them to be up and moving around and burn off some energy. That's good for parents' of children, but hard on everyone's ears. My son was the one trying to slip through the stair railing and crawling around the floor....
What surprised me at first was that there weren't as many kids from Ethiopia as I had been expecting. It seems like this was a "young" group of adoption families and a lot of people were just at the beginnings of wait-lists and the end of paperwork.
There were several families who were home with their kids and they were precious. There were several little ones that I would have loved to have held, but I know the "rules" about bonding. :) Besides, I was busy juggling Peanut and Pickle all night long. There was this beautiful little girl named Netsanet there and she had the sweetest little puffs in her hair and that's my favorite hair style and a beautiful name as well.
I had a really good time talking with the two other couples who ended up at our table, but it was hard for me to have coherent conversations while keeping the boys in line. There were a few times I faded out of conversations to wrangle them around. Some time it would be nice to maybe get a babysitter for the kiddos and then join the group.
Now, the food!! I was a little nervous going in because I'd never had Ethiopian food before and I wanted to like it. I've heard that most people have a love-hate relationship with injera and that some of the food can be pretty spicy. I'm not a big fan of spicy.
We ordered a combination platter which had lamb wot (lamb stew), Minchet Abesh (finely chopped lean beef grilled in ginger and and garlic sauce), and tibs (beef fried with onion, jalepeno, and rosemary). There were also some vegetables dishes on the platter...something that was corn based, something that had cabbage and tomato, and then something with spinach. The entire thing is served on injera, and then you receive a big platter of that as well to eat the rest of your meal with.
Injera...it looks really strange. And my first reaction when I saw it was, "I don't think I'm going to like that". But, ever true to "Green Eggs and Ham" I tried it and I liked it, Sam-I-Am. It looks funky. Think: someone has folded up a linen napkin soaked it with water, put it on a plate and you see them carrying it across the restaurant to serve to someone. It just looks weird. Then, when you get a closer look at it, it kind of looks like the underside of a mushroom...ripply and bubbly and gooshy.
So, you rip little pieces off of the big piece and you use that to scoop/pinch your food up off the platter and eat. Really, I didn't think you could taste the injera. It was kind of a non-taste. Like the bread in a PB&J. You know it's there, but it's not the point.
I liked all the food. There were one or two things that were a little spicy for me, but nothing was outrageously spicy, and it was still all good. Andrew liked it as well. Peanut was quite the adventuror as well and he dove right in. He did well for awhile and really enjoyed eating the injera plain as well as eating the rest of the food with it. Eating with his fingers was very fun for him. At one point he ate part of a jalapeno and he didn't enjoy that and that was kind of the beginning of the end for him. He started chewing without swallowing and then spitting food out of his mouth so I whipped a granola bar out of the diaper bag for him. I was proud of him though and glad that he was willing to eat as much as he did.
Pickle suprisingly enough was the pickier one. He mostly wanted to yank the tray off the table and onto the floor. No highchairs. :( People in Ethiopia are apparently smarter than Americans and they don't take children to restaurants and so they don't have highchairs for them. He gummed the injera and kept it up through the whole meal, but didn't really eat it. He ate a few tomatoes, but nothing else really. He doesn't eat meat and there wasn't a lot that was baby friendly for him. He had a granola bar too.
All in all, the meal was a total success and the evening was a lot of fun. Peanut was losing control (no nap today) as we were leaving the restaurant and it was really crowded and busy then so I think next time we'll leave a little earlier and save ourselves the drama. However, I am excited for next time and I can't wait to try Ethiopian food again!!
Kelly and Erin...you're the two people I know in Baltimore and so expect me to be hitting you both up for some kid-free dinners! :)