Thursday, January 7, 2016

Note to Divine Self: Look At What You Can Do When You Meditate and Grow Into Your Ancient Aspects...

For about 20 years and more so than any other civilization on this planet, I've found myself mystically enchanted by the undeniable culture, beauty and flavors of Ethiopia. Often, I have looked in InI mirror and wondered what my connection and purpose are as it relates to the People and spiritual bio-rhythm of the ancient country. My first formal introductions of Ethiopia were in the Bible and in the liberating Reggae music of the Great Bob Marley. His hymnals expand my reality, helping me to see much farther than what is placed directly in front of me. One spring day in the early 90's, my hip Louisiana Auntie C gave me a tape to listen to. I placed it in my cassette player and, at age 15, I was introduced to Bob Marley.
The rhythms, first, opened me to new, agreeable, waves of movement... Light. Love and Self-Love. This music helped me realize that my ear is, too, connected to my heart. What a Blessing! Jamaica's world sound offers me a special curiosity of Afrika and her Indigenous tones of the Diaspora. Reggae and Afrikan drum rhythms extend to us a sonic reflection of our everlasting ability to reconnect and refuse oppression on every level. Needless to say, I, like the many millions of others, fell in Love with the Reggae legend Bob Marley and his tunes. For the first time, I was able to fully tune in to a musical message. Marley introduced me to all of the goodness that comes being Irie and Divinely Afrikan because, for the first time, I was feeling the Nyabhingi riddims as they quenched me with a different yet blazingly familiar sort of flow. My youthfull, radical heart received, readily, the lyrics which spoke of freedom and exalted the glory of Ethiopia, His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I. As the years passed and the internet availed itself as a limitless information base on nearly every subject known to humankind, I began to learn a great deal about the Diaspora, Jamaica and the many kingdoms of Mama Afrika, especially Kemet (Egypt) and Ethiopia. To this day, it still amazes me how InI heart began to grow in the ways of the Ancient Healing Arts and Rastafari. Needless to say, life changed, or rather it came full circle. Full circle... 9 Ether. It's all a spiral... I realize that every day of my life is with me and no matter the imperfection, I'm quite cool with what I have been granted. Now after being on this path for so long, I know and celebrate the gift it is to remember the ancient aspects of myself through our deeply woven stories, music and food. These are among the many ways that I reconnect and find my way home. Freely, Blissfully and Without Apology...
Sooo, moving forward, I enter into a relationship with this Brotha, a Lion who is vegan, a farmer... A handsome Afrikan Man who is dually invested in food justice and the heights of Rastafari. We sharpen each other's iron, helping in the growth and refinement of one another. Together, we dream of repatriation and eat alot of fruit and vegetables. We take turns teaching wellness and being the student. Absorbing and purging accordingly. In both roles, it's evident that we strive for near perfection of ourselves and keep an attitude of "let's do it right the first time." Truthfully, this disposition can be both rewarding and taxing, depending upon the moment. We've been engaged for almost a year now and I decided that I wanted to do something very special: Learn to cook the Family a good Ethiopian dinner... Even though I was born in Louisiana, I became determined to add Ethiopian food to my genres of kitchen love offerings! It's important to remember that I am self-taught in nearly every area of vegan kitchen preparation, with the exception of seizing the opportunities to create some nice vegan versions of my Mama's brown gravy and veggie cornbread dressing [Sidebar: And yes, you already know this recipe was going extra hard during my time at home for Kwanzaa 2015], so it's only right that I approach learning the kitchen handle of good Ethiopian cuisine with grace and humility... Our best date nights have been at this exceptional Ethiopian restaurant known as Desta Ethiopian Kitchen. By far, they offer the best food and overall atmosphere. The reggae music, literally, pours over the many sections of a beautifully quaint space that sits in the heart of Atlanta Briarcliff, as does the Tej. Until I visit Eastern Afrika, it seems that Queen of Sheba shall be my favorite brand of Tej, or Ethiopian Honey Wine, especially on a warm day as I fulljoy the treehouse-styled dining patio. Desta is definitely one of my favorite dining spots in the city, as it is perfect for lunch meetings with my Sistas and intimate dinners with InI KingMan. We have a great time and always, ALWAYS, order the vegetarian platter. There's so much flavor to choose from mild, earthy, rich and spicy and all you need is one platter to share between two people. The family favorite is the ater, which is also known as kik alicha. These yellow split peas are stewed with ginger, red onion and pepper, making this simple culinary staple feel more like a veggie delicacy. Few things can top a bowl of ater and plenty of injera in my world... Now, on the other hand, it seems that my Lion tends to enjoy the berbere-infused potatoes, green beans and carrot because that is one of the items that always ends up near his area of the platter and disappears rather quickly, lol. We both thoroughly enjoy the beets and the variety of greens on Desta's platter, as there is always sauteed cabbage and gomen, or Ethiopian collard greens. This is the exotic comfort food that helped us to become familiar with each other, and because I know that there is no food culture that's more wholistic to us than that of Ethiopia, it was essential that I familiarize myself with some of the ancients' favored spices and create some vital veggie dishes that everyone would enjoy.
Once again, I want to do it right the first time... I convince myself that it's even okay if it takes a while, as I know that the best things for me tend to come the long, strong way. One's veggie game had better be on for this feat of bringing this culinary gifting into fruition... In other words, Stakes is high, Sun and I better Represent as the Moon! The food's gotta turn out right and feel familiar to the taste buds for both myself and my two Rams (aka my Dawta and my King, who both were born under the Aries sun sign). This attitude led me into a few months of intense food meditation, self study and plenty of internal analysis and pep talks about this challenge to ensure that I wholehearted rocked each traditional dish with respect and creativity. Cooking with three distinctive flavors, berbere, turmeric and ginger, took me on a journey that will, I am certain, always be with me... So, I drove across town to Yeshi Ethiopian grocery store for some fresh injera, the infamous teft flour flatbread which pairs essentially with most traditional meals as a staple and the official eating utensil, respectively. Shortly thereafter, I came forward with these finished recipes from my kitchen: Berbere Potatoes, Green Beans and Carrots, the bomb Kik Alicha and an unexpectedly awesome Jerk Kale Gomen with Moringa. The Lioness went in, and it seems that everyone really enjoyed my twist on the timeless, internationally-appealing cuisine of Ethiopia.

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