A white (faranje) adoptive mother to two Ethiopian (habesha) girls wends her way through
Exotic Ethiopian Cooking by D. J. Mesfin

Sunday, September 5, 2010

This is What a House Should Smell Like!

 ye'atakilt alich'a (top) and yesiga fitfit (bottom)

It's been a great summer, but as Labor Day weekend churns its way inexorably towards Tuesday, I find myself with a chance to take some breaths!  As my husband and I discussed the options for dinner tonight and looked over what we had in the freezer (a lovely, new, huge chest freezer, thanks to my mom) and the refrigerator, I thought to myself "I could make a yesiga fitfit and ye'atakilt alich'a!"  All right, what I actually said was "I could make yesiga and some of that cabbage and carrot stuff".  (I know my yesiga.)  Since things here have been so quiet, I thought I'd blog about it.  It's not an official post or anything like that, so I'm not going to document the process, but I just thought I'd poke my head up out of the hole to prove that I'm still here.  :)

It turns out we actually needed to go out and purchase more potatoes and red onions and tomato paste, but everything else we had in the house.  Yes, we are a household that has berbere and qibe, but no potatoes.  Alas, we are also a household that didn't have injera (except for the frozen stuff that we didn't like before, which lends itself well to fitfit).  Enkutatash (the Ethiopian New Year) happens to be this Saturday, the 11th, and I've decided that injera will be our Ethiopian new year's resolution.  Our local Ethiopian restaurant is now only open for dinner, after 5:30 p.m., which is too late to be of much use for us (I used to be able to pick up injera around lunchtime, but no more), and the mail-order injera currently in our freezer doesn't do it for us (it has an odd texture and breaks instead of being all flexible).  So, 2003 (the Ethiopian calendar is 7 years behind ours) will be the Year of Injera.  A friend has offered us an injera skillet, even!

yesiga fitfit (left) and ye'atakilt alich'a (right)

I winged the fitfit. There is no recipe in Exotic Ethiopian Cooking for yesiga fitfit, but the fitfit part is the easiest of all: just add pieces of injera to the yesiga we't (or whatever we't you like; my personal favorite is doro fitfit).  The berbere came courtesy of my friend, Amy, over at Reimagining Our Lives.  It's different from what we've been using in the past, but it still comes straight from Addis and it was some seriously good berbere.  I'm starting to wonder exactly what is put in that homegrown stuff over there.  Every single one of us can't stop moving our hands from our plate to our mouth.  The Ethiopians are crying, panting, swigging milk, and taking bites of bread in between bites of the we't, yet I believe I served them fourths.  The ye'atakilt?  The alich'a? (alich'a is a mild stew; we't is the spicy stuff with berbere)  They didn't even ask for seconds.  They like it just fine and ate it, but there is just something about dishes with berbere.  We are going to have to videotape it one of these times because it's like a comedy routine.  You wouldn't think that somebody who appeared to be suffering that much would keep on eating that which is making them suffer, yet I understand it.  It gets to me sometimes, too, but it's so good it's hard to stop!

The Ethiopians forgave me for the lack of injera and used some of Daddy's homemade wheat buttermilk bread instead.  Poor ND was so excited to have Ethiopian that she scooped up the all-but-bubbling we't and threw it in her mouth.  :(  She did something similar at Meaza in Northern Virginia once, except that time she only burned her fingers a bit.  We have made a mental note to remember to either tell her to let it cool or just hold off on serving her until things are manageable for her!  After an ice pack to her tongue for a minute, she got right back up on that horse and dug in.  

The Ethiopians start preschool on Friday and have requested the yesiga fitfit for their first lunch.  "Can we bring it in our lunchboxes?" they asked.  I can just picture the scene now.  Eleven soynut and jelly sandwiches (the school is a tree-nut-free zone) and 2 dishes of yesiga fitfit with buttermilk bread.  I'm not sure I can explain it to their teachers...I'm fairly sure they'll think we're trying to torture them.  We'll have to see if there is a microwave there when we go to orientation on Wednesday.  

The start of preschool brings me about 12 extra hours of time a week and I'm looking forward to getting back into the swing of this blog again.  After all, it was a new year's resolution and Saturday marks the Ethiopian new year.  It's a perfect transition!!  Despite the fact, however, that it has been pointed out to me that I have approximately 13 hours of things-to-do planned for every 4-hour school day.  


  1. Welcome back! Good luck with 2003's Year of Injera. My friend attempted it a few weeks ago and it ended up pretty dense..delicious still, but more like a heavy pancake. Definitely keep us all posted!

  2. We ate Ethiopian today too, just not cooked by me! And then we went to the injera store and found that they were out of injera...the man said it was "because of the holiday" and I was confused for a second about why injera would be so popular for Labor Day - until I remembered the New Year on Saturday...

    Glad you're back here, I need some inspiration for cooking Ethiopian at home.

    PS - there's no microwave at Elfe's pre-school, but I find that if I microwave something in the morning right before we leave and immediately seal up the container, it's still a nice warm temperature by the time she eats lunch.

  3. Target sells great containers (BPA free) that retain heat. I used them last year when Aster and Milki wanted chili and rice for lunch (daycare thought I was nuts)!

  4. Nice to read you. Please blog the injera making if you do it. I'm sick of having to drive into the city to get it, and find that I'm not doing it that often these days. I miss it. I want to buy a Heritage Grill and do it myself. All prior attempts have been disastrous failures. I'm ready to try again. Good luck at pre-school.

  5. Yes yes, can't wait to read about injera making. Glad you're back!

  6. Whew, nothing like a little pressure! :) I'm only tackling it out of sheer necessity. We like fresh injera and it's become nearly impossible to get it easily, unless we eat out. I've heard the horror stories about how impossible it is, how even Ethiopians purchase it in the market, and so forth, yet there is injera out there for purchase, which means that somebody's making it. So I figure I may as well give it a go! I may have to start a support group of some sorts. Or go beg starter off of my local Ethiopian restaurant.