Americans Learning Mesob, Join Us for a Healthy Vegetarian Communal Meal

An American in an Ethiopian Restaurant, I usually dine solo.  I shop at Safeway, order Domino's, and occasionally order dishes from Kaffa Coffee and Wine Bar.  Evaluating the price points, it makes more sense to order a dinner from Kaffa Coffee, vs Domino's, since the price is higher for items that last two days with Domino's Menu.  In the piece regarding Injera, I mentioned not knowing the proper way to eat the Green Chicken (my favorite dish).  Even the Kaffa Combo would be cheaper, and that would last for several days.

However, you are looking for a dining experience, so maybe you do not order for delivery or pick up (delivery is coming soon).  If you want the full Ethiopian experience, consider the traditional method of Communal Dining.  You can order a couple of dishes, or the Kaffa Combo.  What do you do then?  For large groups, consider the Mesob.  Ethiopians vacillate between eating on the ground, or with a large Mesob as the main dining table.  Kaffa Coffee and Wine Bar offers a large Mesob, however, smaller groups generally use traditional dining tables.  You do not drink Coffee before or during the meal, but after.  In addition, the Coffee is generally espresso style.

During the Meal, everyone uses the Injera to grab his or her food.  Therefore, a combo plate is excellent when sharing a meal among family and friends.  While American culture prefers sterile metal objects for eating (and Kaffa Coffee does serve with this method), Ethiopian tradition requires hand washing and wiping (some use sand, we can skip that part), before the meal.  Using a knife and fork would tear up the dinner plate of Injera.

For left-hander's, the next part will be difficult.  Tradition dictates that you use the right hand to eat, since the left hand is saved for other duties.  It probably does not matter which hand you use in our country, as long as you adhere to a few Rules: no double dipping the bread (I remember double dipping chips in hot sauce at Mexican Restaurants), and no fingers go in the mouth while eating.  The first rule (called junta) is accomplished through tearing small parts of Injera apart, just enough to pick up your food.  The second part requires using the thumb to push the food in the mouth, without actually having the thumb in the mouth.  As you can see, this takes a little patience.

Now, let us discuss possible repercussions.  Studies have shown that babies eat more, and wean quicker, when they learn to eat with their hands.  Of course, this can side track utensil development, and day care providers may not be amused.  The self-training may just get some folks tired, and they fall back on utensils.  In addition, many will look with disdain, thinking this is a form of non-sanitized eating.

I believe Seattle welcomes many cultures.  And, to truly enjoy the experience, one must learn the methods for the experience.  Come by, where we will indulge either method to embrace your inner hunger

Published 6/23/2015

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