Sunday, September 19, 2010

Celebrating the Ethiopian New Year

The start of the New Year in Ethiopia was actually on September 11. Without getting into the logistics of their calendar, it is 2003 in Ethiopia. This year we overcame our slackness to celebrate not once, but twice with two different parties. Last weekend, we hosted the Ethiopian doctoral student who is Steve’s Amharic language tutor. He brought along another Ethiopian student who just arrived at UW. We also invited an Ethiopian family we met in the park a few weeks ago. They too are new to UW. Finally, our good friends from Kenya were able to come. Serving a traditional Ethiopian dinner to Ethiopians was a bit nerve wracking to say the least!

This Saturday we hosted four of the five Laramie families who have adopted from Ethiopia and one family in the process. We all know each other and get together with each other from time to time, but never as a group. There has always been talk of trying to get a regular gathering started so we used the New Year as our first attempt to do so. We really had a great time and agreement was reached to try to meet every few months. It is great for the kids to spend time together and for the adults to talk and compare notes about our experiences raising our children.

Steve cooked an amazing dinner. He brought home some Ethiopian spices in August and we mail ordered some additional spices and injera. We have given up making our own injera because we lack a proper pan and stove. It comes out too funky. Well, you just can’t serve Ethiopian food without injera so this creates a major problem. I have no idea why it took us so long to figure out that we could Fed Ex injera from an online source since we are big online shoppers. We now have 40 lbs of it in our freezer!

For those of you who have never eaten Ethiopian food, you should try it! It has amazing, rich flavors. Ethiopians love their spices so get ready. Not all of it is hot spicy, just spicy spicy if that makes sense. Our house smelled amazing the last two Saturdays with the stews cooking all day. Of course everything was vegetarian, à la Prager style.

Step one in cooking most Ethiopian dishes is to sauté a large amount of purple onion with Niter Kebbeh, a spiced butter, which Steve made earlier in the day.

This is the finished Yetakelt W'et (a spicy mixed vegetable stew). It was my favorite dish by far. It's full of potatoes, green beans, carrots, tomatoes, onion, garlic, parsley, and spices.

The meal ready to eat. The menu included injera with vegetable stew, two different lentil dishes, and gomen (mixed greens), shiro (a thick sauce/stew made from chick pea flour), and Steve's version of aib (a homemade cheese). Our meal was served buffet style. Ethiopians are communal eaters. If you eat at an Ethiopian restaurant, your food will be served on top of the injera. You eat with your hands, using extra injera to scoop up the food. When the food is eaten off the top, you get to tear off pieces of the remaining injera. Below is a picture of a delicious vegetarian meal we were served in Ethiopia two years ago.

Thanks to all our friends who came to celebrate! Both nights were very special to Semira. She was so excited to eat traditional food and wear one of her dresses. She is such a proud little girl who beams from ear to ear when she and her country are celebrated.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Harvestival Fun

Harvestival at Grant Family Farms was early this year. Usually it is in October during prime pumpkin picking season. Perhaps the big snow storm last year or the year before (can't remember) had the event planners thinking earlier is better, especially if you want to book some big names. Regardless of whether I am cold or sweating, a day at our CSA farm is always fun. And because we are CSA members, we get free tickets to the event. The girls usually have a good time as there is plenty to see and do for kids. This year, the chicken buses, 2,000 baby ducks, and worm composting were the big hits. For me, it was the chance to hear Joel Salatin from Polyface Farms speak.

Last year, Lily and Semira helped to paint these buses. This year, the buses are home to the chickens. They roam free during the day and sleep in the buses at night so they are not eaten by the local coyotes. This picture is for my dad. He freaks out about my $5 a dozen eggs. I keep telling him that at least I know where they come from. Speaking of knowing where your food comes from, Joel Salatin's talk was pretty interesting. Joel Salatin may sound like a familiar name, especially if you have read Michael Pollan's books (The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food) or watched Food Inc. He is pretty well known these days in the organic, local food circles. While a lot of what he said today was stuff I have already heard, food talk is still interesting and he is pretty entertaining. He's a tell it like it is kind of guy. Of course he was preaching to the choir today, but still a few points he made are worth repeating.
  • Buying organic is more expensive because we are paying for the true cost of producing food. The externalities of the mainstream food system in the U.S. are endless and not reflected in the prices we pay.
  • People can afford to pay more for food. They just need to make different choices (i.e. trading things of little or no value for things of value). Of course, it helps to eat in season, then freeze, can, and preserve the extras.
  • Our entire food system is this country is so messed up. We are subsidizing all the wrong things...the things that are making us overweight and unhealthy (can you say corn, corn, corn, and more corn?).
  • Embrace the pigness of pigs. Ok so we don't eat meat, but his point was that modern industrial agriculture ignores the natural inclinations of animals. The goal is to produce meat faster, bigger, fatter, and cheaper and that is not good for us on many levels. I have many reasons for not eating meat, but the ways in which animals are raised and killed is definitely a big one for me.
  • And my favorite: RESPECT. We need to start respecting food and where it comes from. People are so disconnected from the process of growing food that the process itself and people have no soul as a result. Amen to that!
Anyway, it was a great day! Fun with a little inspiration.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Salvaging the Big Camping Weekend

We had big plans this weekend. We were heading to Rocky Mountain National Park with our good friends, the Deacon family. Since this summer really wasn't a big camping summer for us, we were just so excited to get out of town for three nights of communing with nature. Besides, I really needed the break having just rewritten an entire draft of my dissertation in about a week. After packing the SUV for two solid days and picking the kids up early from school, we took off on Friday afternoon. Instead of making it to our camp site in the park, our car broke down in Big Thompson Canyon about four miles from Estes Park. To add insult to injury, we broke down in the no cell phone coverage zone with barely six inches to get off the road. Long story short, we had the towing service take us the 100 miles back to Laramie. After calling around to a few repair shops, it became evident that they would tell us what was wrong with the car, but wouldn't be able to fix it over the holiday weekend because of parts.

Well my desire to salvage our weekend was greater than my fear of driving the "Scruffy Kitty" back down to Rocky Mountain National Park. Scruffy Kitty is our other car. She's a 1994 Toyota Corolla wagon with a lot of miles on it. She's reliable for town driving, but doesn't exactly inspire confidence for longer road trips. And we can't fit all of our camping gear in it. Not even close. So we dumped most of the cooking stuff and a few other non-essential items, loaded up Scruffy and packed the rest of the gear onto Steve's motorcycle. We made it by mid afternoon on Saturday and ended up having two great days of camping.

Overall, considering the circumstances, things worked out pretty well.
  • The kids were awesome riding back to Laramie in the tow truck very late Friday night. Not much complaining...could have been the fantastic cheese doodle and orange soda dinner they had in the truck (courtesy of the Harley Davidson shop vending machine).
  • Strangers are usually willing to help people in need. We met Lisa, the cabin owner, who let us use her phone and bathroom and offered to drive two of us into Loveland if the tow truck couldn't fit us all. She actually cringed at the idea of one adult and one child hitchhiking a ride back. We also met Diane (wife of Bob who owns Bob's Towing and Repair in Estes Park) who was kind enough to spend her Friday night driving us back to Laramie even though it was a bit over the 100 miles allowed by AAA.
  • The motorcycle guy riding in the tow truck with us on the way to the Harley shop in Loveland was in far worse shape than we were. He threw his back out trying to load his bike onto a trailer. And he lives in Dallas. This guy was in some serious pain. Suddenly, I felt lucky!
  • Steve got to ride his motorcycle all weekend, which he absolutely hates doing:)
  • The kids got to run around in the woods and get dirty while the adults got to enjoy some time by the camp fire drinking those adult beverages we brought along.
  • It's a beautiful place that I never get tired of visiting or looking at.
  • Finally, we made it back to Laramie safe and sound. Tragically, there were two fatal accidents this weekend - one involving UW football players and another involving a UW professor. I wish I could say these type of accidents are seldom around here, but they aren't. Now I feel very lucky!
Still gotta get the car to the repair shop!

The view from Trail Ridge Road

Motorcycle Man

Motorcycle Girls

Lily with her friend Hannah

Lily and Semira with Hannah and Hailey;
You can tell they really like each other!