Washington, D.C. isn't really known as a "cuisine" town, like San Fran, NYC, or New Orleans, but one type of ethnic food the city really excels at is Ethiopian. I warn you all that this is not a food for the timid and meek! Which is probably why Ethiopians are such hale and hearty people and gave the Italians such a hard time back in the day. (Had the Italians been successful, all of D.C.'s fine Ethiopian restaurants would be serving spaghetti and meatballs).
First, you know those snobby elite popinjays that you go out for Chinese food with and they insist everyone use chopsticks even though forks are easier? The sort of bilious bloviators who aren't even Chinese, but just love to pretend they're authentic even though in Soviet China they'd be the first intellectual snobs to be sent off to a reeducation camp? Well, with Ethiopian you don't have to worry about utensils at all--you eat everything with your bare hands, using this spongy bread to pick up bits of food.
Second, that spongy bread has a way of expanding in your stomach after you've eaten, so that the rest of the evening you are waddling around like that fat kid from "Stand By Me" who somehow grew up to marry the model Rebecca Romijn. But no marrying models for you! You'll be far too stuffed to even think about models, or movies that took place in the 1950s. Such is the price one pays for Ethiopian.
All in all though, it's a great food experience that can't be found to this extent in other cities. There are some rules to this:
1) Wash your hands before you eat. Your hands go right on the spongy bread which then goes into your mouth. Yes, this is true of hamburgers too, but hamburgers are known disinfectants.
2) Don't order beer or anything else filling to drink. You need to save room for the spongy bread.
3) Don't taunt the spongy bread.
4) Try a sampler platter with a bit of everything. If the people at the next table ask you what you ordered you can pretend you don't speak English even though they clearly heard you speaking English earlier.
5) Don't cut eyeholes in the spongy bread and try to wear it like a mask. Your dining companion will not be amused.
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