Once the rust of the first couple of days is off, suddenly there are slices everywhere. I enjoy it while I can because I know it won’t last. Somewhere in the third week of the challenge, inspiration will dry up and I will have nothing to say anymore. It will feel like I never had any stories to write, will never have any stories to write at any future time. But for right now, there is potential everywhere I turn.
I pull out Ethiopian leftovers from the fridge and think there’s a slice in this beast of a meal that uses more pots and pans than I actually possess. When I cook Ethiopian for my son, I have to cook in shifts.
There’s a slice in learning how to cook this food of his childhood. I never use as much olive oil, onions, garlic, or berbere as an Ethiopian cook would, but this is how he likes it. And my one attempt to make injera at home was a dismal failure, but that’s what mail-order and my mother’s frequent trips to Denver are for.
There’s a slice in the days he asks for Ethiopian. When he’s sick, when he’s sad. When he misses his mother. But also when he’s happy, when he wants to say “You are my mother now. Even though I don’t begin to understand it, I love you as if you’d also given birth to me” but doesn’t have the words.
There’s a slice in discovering that there isn’t enough shiro, his favorite and now mine as well, and the hasty chopping and sauteing of an onion in too much olive oil, the sprinkling of berbere and the more than sprinkling of salt, the pureeing of tomato to pour over the onions, the whisking of enough shiro powder and water to form a paste.
There’s a slice in the bottom drawer of my pantry, reserved for my Ethiopian supplies, bought in bulk from an Ethiopian market in Denver, where I am always the only white person and usually the only woman, where a jolly man inevitably eyes the bags of shiro and berbere and yellow split peas I’m buying and asks, “Do you know what to do with all of that?” and when I say oh yes, I certainly do, he invites himself over for the meal.
There’s a slice in the spicy smells that linger in the kitchen for at least a week after the meal is made.
And surely there’s a slice in the eating too, the tearing of small pieces of injera, the pinching and scooping of the various stews and pastes, the adding of a little more salt.
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