Does anyone else ever think about how violent forks are? They have all those spiky prongs jutting out, just waiting to puncture an upper thigh or stake an eyeball.
Knives fall into that category, too. And spoons, though they look innocent compared to the other two, still pack a punch when push comes to shove. Go home and hit yourself in the forehead with a spoon, those suckers can cause some bruising.
If you can’t get down with my violence theory, we can at least admit they’re a pain in the butt, right? There’s some unwritten rule in my home that whenever I need a spoon, we only have forks, and whenever I need a fork, there’s only an abundance of spoons. Typical silverware crap, am I right?
Enjoyers of Ethiopian food will back me up on this one. In Ethiopian restaurants there’s not a speck of silver in sight, and diners are expected to eat with nature’s silverware: their hands.
The simplicity of using those two movable bits at the end of your arms to transport food from plate to mouth makes sense in a lot of ways. It’s not like you can lose a hand the same way you lose a fork – you have more control of your own fingers than a tool. And while you do still have to clean your hands, you rarely find yourself with a sink full of hands waiting to be washed.
West Philadelphia has several excellent Ethiopian dining options, but my most frequented finger-licking food spot is Abyssinia.
Abyssinia sits on the corner of 45th and Locust streets, tucked away in the tree-lined blocks of West Philadelphia. Though it is a bit of a walk from the subway, it’s still feasible and worth it if the weather is nice.
There’s not much to look at once you’re there – a few ornate chairs and some interesting wall hangings, but an otherwise plain room. Toward the front of the building is an uninteresting bar area seemingly always occupied by a few men, even during lunch.
Despite having previously ventured into the realm of Ethiopian food, I still always find myself overwhelmed by the menu. Your best bet is to choose a combination meal – it comes with a little bit of everything so you have a chance to better assess what your tastes might be.
The food is served on a large piece of Injara, a sourdough bread with a rubber-y, sponge-like feel to it. Diners rip off hunks of the bread and use it to pick up the various vegetables and meats. Expect a lot of spice-laden, exotic sauces to grace your plate, which could be problematic in light of the whole ‘finger food’ concept. But fear not – the meal is finished off with the traditional handing-out of wet wipes to help with cleanup.
It was hard to pinpoint one distinct dish to attempt to recreate at home, so instead I practiced eating other things with my hands. Rice and cooked kale scooped up with pita bread was a success. Thick beef stew sopped up with good crusty bread was another victory. Ice cream shoveled into my mouth with a thin cookie was met with no complaints. After several experiments, I found that hands-only may be a fitting meal policy for me.
I highly recommend heading to West Philly to check out the Ethiopian cuisine at Abyssinia. The price range for lunch is decent and it’s worth expanding your palette beyond cereal and stolen bananas from the Johnson and Hardwick residence hall cafeteria.
In the meantime though, should you find yourself forkless, reconsider those phalanges chilling at the end of your wrists. You’ll be surprised at how useful they can be.
Caitlin Weigel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.