Year V: Progression? Regression? Or Naturalization?
If you asked me a year, or even 8 months ago, where my ingredients’ loyalties lie, I would have said I was a “salt” person. I came from a generation of salt eaters, after all. My grandpa, Fitawrari Gebrekristos ErGetye, was… I’m sure of it … a renowned salt eater of his time – you don’t get that “QomTaTa Hamot” from “Yela’am Wotet”!. My father, to whom today’s food [or whatever is left off the guRshas his kids demanded of him the minute he sat at the "geBeta"] pretty much tastes like yesterday’s, took all his bites with a side of “mitmita”. And my mom’s “berbere” still “calls out to the neighbours”, as we say, two years after I packed it in a glass jar and stuck it at the back of my kitchen drawer.
Don’t hold back on the spices, we say, hand over the shakers.. and we will out-do ourselves. Why.. my little brother “Babi” used to have a “taBa” full of “DaTa” with his morning bread at the tender age of 5!! The same “DaTa”, I may add, my colleagues run to the “shint bet” in the pursuit of water for after eating. And, take this, we did it the way no other Ethiopian family did: chegwara-beshita free!!
So spicy was my thing. Sweets? Not so much. Even back when, for our annual birthday photos, we have been taken to Photo Assefa with the pair of “burtikans”, “mu’z”, a bowl full of fendisha, a cake to center it all and four bottles of soda [two Coca-Cola and two Fanta] to stand guard of the table; I was never THAT into neither the “desta” keremela nor the “CoKa”. Infact, I must still be one of the few Ethiopians whose eyes don’t glaze-over at the prospect of free refills when dining at MacDonalds.
I don’t know if it’s hearing kids who like sugar tend to grow dumber than those who don’t or because the first creamy-topped cake I bit into had a strand of hair that got stuck to the back of my tongue; but I was always willing to give up my slice when it comes to baked goods. The bars of Toblerone chocolate the East-African Manager of our Switzerland supplier used to slip me [so the rest of the Staff doesn't feel left out], while I worked for an importer/exporter company in Ethiopia, were always taken home and spread among the little ones. I took pride in my ability to resist sweets. Saw it as a sign of self-restraint. Even said as much. While my listeners cowered before me, eyes searching the ground for something .. an explanation.. perhaps.. for why they took 6 lamps of sugar with their 1 s’ni-buna ;-).
Things didn’t change for the better after I came to America. Sure, the first time I tasted a DQ’s ice-cream, I have almost wept at my inability to keep it chilled long enough to send it home for Babi and Blen. Then the brain freeze kicked in and I thought the better of it. Not even a box of donuts, or sample fudges that others fight over, or half-off sale prices on chocolates & candies after Halloween day tempted my feet towards the “delicacies” isle [and I'm a sucker for half-off deals! Even when I don't need the stuff or have to return it the next day!].
Then I met troy. Then he made me my first apple dumplings. Infact, he did more than that! He baked it while I was there, introducing me to the glorious smell of burning cinnamon & sugar; and the “flavor” of “home” it brings with it. A week or so after, he took me to this place, Sub-Zero, where you watch the ice-cream of your choice-combination being made from scratch infront of your eyes; one ingredient at a time!. After throwing in everything that I can remember liking [salt, pecan, cinnamon, mint and strawberry] and witnessing some smoky hydrogen thingy freeze it to hard matter; I got hooked.
Then came the pies.
That is when I noticed a change of behavior in myself. An appetite, so to say, for the “sweet things” in life – literally this time. In place of the person who sneers at the idea of a dessert, I became the person who hesitantly browsed the menu for it. Instead of the girl who is quick to cheerfully-say “no thank you!” when a box of muffins a colleague brought is making its rounds, I started agreeing to take “just one”. When I stop by Starbucks or “Specialty’s” on my way home after my walks; the only thing that stops me from reaching for the Oatmeal Raisin Cookie is the price and “feriha egziabher”.
Not even the knowledge of how hard I worked to lose the pounds I lost in the last two years seems to quench my hunger for sugar. Substituting O-Calorie gums, munching on Ice-breakers, taking only small slices when they bring out the Lemon Cherry Coffee cake to our break-room on lunch time seems to work for now. Alas.. I know it won’t be long before I paid the ice-cream machine a visit or start pouring nacho cheese on my tortillas when running out of anything good to eat one of these days.
I have felt Thanksgiving would cure me of this new found sugar-craving of mine. Atleast that was my story when taking chunks of the many kinds of pies that were present at the thanksgiving table. “Making up for lost time”, I have joked, giving as a reason how this was my real first thanksgiving and I was entitled to as much pie as I can eat. And I was. And I did. Alas this must be one sweet-tooth demon that inspred the expression “the more you give, the more it wants” for I dream of a very White Christmas with assorted confectionaries thrown in.
It would have been ok, I guess, if my desire for the sweet things in life has stopped there. No! It has gone on to cover other aspects of my life. I have become.. all of a sudden.. this — person — who likes having her weekends and holidays off. A person who doesn’t necessarily feel guilty for wanting to enjoy her life, as long as (1) she isn’t hurting anyone, (2) isn’t taking it for granted/or feel she earned or deserved it in any way and (3) it doesn’t mess with her self-respect, her dependability and responsibility – the fact that having her parents come to visit America was the sole purpose of her life. Last, but far from least, I have become a person who no longer believes the problem with all her past relationships lies exclusively within her. And, thinks.. that.. perhaps.. there maybe someone out there who doesn’t think breaking up with her is the solution to all his problems. And that.. perhaps.. maybe.. she may.. probably… have found him.
We can blame some of it on Troy, ofcourse. His positive outlook towards life. The fact that he’s a grown up. His mad baking skills, Yo!! But it can’t ALL be him. Isn’t there a chance, perhaps, that there was a side of me that got tired, plain downright fade up, with being anxious all the time? Anxious for the future. Of how things appear to others. Of living a life that honoreth the “abesha” code [of saying "no" to good.. and/or.. "superficial" things, of hoping ..and/or.. pinning for the worst, of not getting used to the cheerful warmth of a wood fire .. and/or gloves.. for fear of weakening the bones]?!. Maybe there was a me, a gray-shadow ["that sometimes half as tall as a church steeple, and sometimes no bigger than a dwarf. That goes on before, and now behind, and then stealing slyly on, on this side, or on that"] that wanted to throw her head back and just enjoy life, for once!? Or is this what “integration” means: part of what it takes to become an “American”?! And would I be able to slip back into my old self without an effort were things to change, God forbid, for the worst?
Or are my tooth ruined for good?
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