Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A is for African Food

Friday night, we returned the boys to their father after a month-long summer visit. They were silly, silly, silly all the way home. On the drive back to our place, J was flipping through the latest issue of Martha Stewart Living and was ogling a pork tenderloin dinner, so I will be making that soon. Our dinner Friday night was leftover pasta, Italian hats with red sauce that J had made while I was down in the Dayton area. We had an uneventful night, going to bed early so that J could rise at 5 the next morning to go to work. The life of a plant manager is not the cushy thing that some employees might suppose.

I slept in much later than 5. My mom called around ten, saying, "Daria, she made it" referring to my grandmama. She has been faltering since my granddad died in December. J, the boys & I had spent our vacation in late July visiting her & my auntie (along with King's Island & the movie theater) and she was doing okay, but my mom had called me the 8th & said she was in the hospital. The whole family headed down there to see her. I feel so blessed to have such a close family. My former step-cousin (who is 100% still my cousin) even came to the hospital. I know it had to be hard for Cousin #2 and his wife because they just lost her wonderful mom to cancer in June. I drove down the 9th & visited for 5 days, then returned home to see the boys off & be with J. My grandmom was doing worse & worse. I knew when I left on Thursday that it would probably be the last time I ever saw her. Frankly, I prayer that it was. We had both said all that needed to be said & I hated the idea of her lingering in misery, not able to enjoy eating or family or anything, not being able to go to the bathroom by herself, being in such pain. So, my mama and I were both hoping that my granddaddy & great-aunt & great-grands would come get her soon. I am relieved that she made it to the other side.

After I got the sad but good news, I headed out to do my weekly marketing. I found some lovely fruits & veggies at the farmer's market- peaches, Paula Red apples (I am anxiously awaiting Winesap season), elderberries, yellow summer squash, cucumbers, green peppers, sweet corn, lush misshapen tomatoes. I just love August. By the time I had perused Trader Joe's & (last & certainly least, but ya gotta get your tin foil somewhere) Giant Eagle, J was almost done with work & clamoring for lunch. I popped over there with a snack of apples and salt & vinegar chips, but most importantly to J, a big ass Coke. J finished her work as best she could while also entertaining Madeleine, a darling tot who was visiting her papa while he worked. She put colorful fish cut-outs all over J's office, sneaked up from under her desk and rowred at her, and sampled both elderberries (which she liked very much) and an apple (not so much).

We had leftover smoked sausage in buns for lunch & vegged out watching t.v. until it was time to implement the alphabet plan. We'd seriously considered heading down to Dayton again, but my mom thought we should just rest & then come down for the memorial service. My uncle Vic had to go back home so he could fly out to Lily & DeForrest's wedding in Georgia the next day & Jazzbo & Anne were heading home, too. John & Nola did go down to spend the night Saturday, but we stayed put.

The alphabet plan was scheduled to begin that night & I had reservations, so we decided to keep them. I had decided it would be fun to go on alphabet-themed dates on the weekends we don't have the boys, alternating letters. J loved the idea and we've had a marvelous time playing with the possibilities. I took A & quickly decided we'd go to Empress Taytu, an Ethiopian restaurant in Cleveland, for African food. It was a secret from J until the moment we passed the restaurant & I pulled into a side street to park. The whole experience was wonderful. The atmosphere was very laid-back. We were offered our choice of a traditional basket table or an American-style table. Of course, we went for the basket table. I was a smidge disappointed not to be seated in one of the thatch-covered "huts" but our table was good, too. When we were seated, our waitress brought us damp washcloths to clean our hands. I had lovely spicy Ethiopian-style iced tea, while J had hers hot. We split an order of sambusa, a splendid savory meat pastry, for an appetizer, then settled on a meat combo for me and t'ibs for J. It came on a round tray lined with a piece of injera, all the food dolloped in little rounds on top of it, with a side plate of injera for scooping up the food. It was all delicious! My very favorites were the kik-alicha (yellow split peas) and the minchetabish. The menu can be seen at if you wish to have fuller descriptions of either food or restaurant.

After we'd stuffed ourselves on good food, we decided to have the special coffee ceremony. Our waitress began by roasting green coffee beans in the kitchen, bringing them out and stirring them so we could see the rich, oily black of the roasted beans and smell the tangy aroma. When the coffee was ready, she brought it out in a clay pot & lit incense at the new table to which we'd been escorted. Then, she poured our coffee and left us to linger over it, enjoying the scent & flavor of the coffee as well as the Middle Eastern sounding music and wonderful artwork and photography that surrounded us. We went to bed that night excited about all the new experiences the alphabet game will bring. I know J is taking me to a Cleveland Indians game for her B.

Sunday morning, we went to church, then hung out at the Borders Café for quite awhile with coffee in hand & noses in books. Then, we walked around Crocker Park, stopping a moment to enjoy the colorful adirondack chairs set in green grass that have sprung up this year. Once home, we napped the afternoon away. Then, I made Russian sandwiches (toasted bread topped with tomato slices, bacon and cheddar & broiled), sweet corn and spinach with blue cheese, cranberries and walnuts drizzled with vinaigrette for dinner. A nice restful weekend.

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