Ethiopian Restaurant

I would really like to see an Ethiopian Restaurant in Olympia.
Ethiopian food is great. It features a lot of meats that have been simmered in spicy sauces-chiles, onion, ginger, garlic, cardamom- I don't know what else but it tastes spectacular. There are a lot of vegetarian and vegan options as well. Legume stews, various fried vegetables, spicy salads- one need not partake in flesh to enjoy Ethiopian food. In accordance with a culture which places heavy emphasis on socializing, food comes on one communal platter, and there are no untensils. There is a large tangy, pancake-like bread which the dishes are served on called Injera. Small pieces are torn off and used to scoop the food up and pop it into your mouth. It is a very sweet experience to eat this way with friends.
Sometimes the people of this area fancy we invented coffee culture. But Ethiopians have a coffee culture that I think is even deeper and more evolved than the one here in the Pacific Northwest. Like it is in the NW, coffee is a tool for fostering community. In fact, there is an expression in Ethiopia that translates to "Coffee is our bread." But its not just coffee that is taken seriously: it is the friendship, hospitality, and community that is created around coffee.
In Ethiopia, people gather for the coffee ceremony daily. Coffee is not about staying awake through the work day- its about being together. Its a time to invite strangers in. Its a time to gather to bullshit, share news and gossip, and nurture friendships. Its a way of showing respect to elders. Its a time to pause and appreciate the blessings of the day- even if you are working your tail off, even if you are living in poverty.
Once I was eating lunch in an Ethiopian restaurant in Seattle and it came time for the coffee ceremony. The staff came out from the back of the restaurant, and the owner of the restaurant brought out a tray with incense burning, small cups, the coffee pot, and sugar. The customers were invited to join them for the ceremony. Soon she brought out a pot of smoldering coffee beans that she had roasted over the burner in the back. She crushed the freshly roasted beans and put them into the coffee pot with boiling water to brew. The coffee was delicious!
She poured round after round for us, free of charge. Traditional black with sugar, then cream and sugar, then black with honey. The staff, her children, the customers- all were guests for the hour or more that we sat having coffee. In Ethiopia, they do this three times every day!
One thing I love about Olympia's culture is the people who make coffee a daily ceremony, if an informal one. You know where to find them. You know that if you are ever in need of a familiar face, you can at any hour find someone having their coffee ceremony who has time to argue with you, listen to you, cheer you up, or smoke a cigarette with you.
I think its in no small part because of this ritual that the downtown culture of Olympia is unusually friendly, easy-going, safe, and generous. We have created a plot in which these things grow well.
I lived in an Ethiopian-dominated neighborhood in Seattle and it was the same way. People were so friendly and so good to one another. I felt welcomed and cared for by my neighbors.
Anyway, everyone in Olympia is always complaining that we need more restaurants. It seems to me we have an abundance of restaraunts, but we need more types of restaurants. And I think Ethiopian would be a good place to start...


Blogger crenshaw sepulveda said...

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5:10 PM  
Blogger crenshaw sepulveda said...

It would make me very happy to have an Ethiopian restaurant here in Olympia. Kind of has a nice ring, an Olympian Ethiopian restaurant. Maybe the Urban Onion in the Olympian could become Ethiopian. Thank you so much for your sharing the Ethiopian coffee ceremony with us. When I speak of a more inclusive and empowering Olympia, this is the sort of thing I have in mind. What I want from a business or a place to eat is ownership that gives to the community along with making a profit. That doesn't mean writing a check to the local little league team, that means exactly what the coffee ceremony is all about. The Ethiopians share an extremely peronal and valuable thing with you, with out a doubt something worth far more to you than anything you might have paid for the meal and they gave it to you. That is what this town needs.

5:12 PM  

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