I am an adoptive Mom.
I am an adoptive Mom who can cook.
I am an adoptive Mom who wanted to "get down" with her Ethiopian boys by cooking their favorite dish.
It is really spelled Doro Wat....the national dish of Ethiopia. "Doro" meaning chicken and "Wat" meaning "soup" or "stew". Innocent enough.
However, I liken this dish to a quickie colon cleanse and a potential candidate for a food on Fear Factor.
Here is a picture of Doro Wat. The white thingees you see floating there are not golf or ping pong balls, they are shelled hard boiled eggs. I am dying to know if the idea of this combo started out with a dare, with the dare failing and the dish becoming a national favorite.
One of the main spices of this ethnic dish is berbere. Before I get started on this spice, let me go off on a harmless and point producing tangent. In science, we learned how brightly colored insects and tree frogs are able to use their bright coloring to ward off predators by communicating their poisonous nature. This doesn't work for humans. Ok.....let's be honest. It didn't work for me.
The color of berbere is a deep, dark neon red. This was the first attempt of this spice in letting me know that it is nearly inedible and painful. Here's a picture so you have an idea of what I speak: (It is the bottom one....surely you can see the smoke rise from it?)
I had looked up several recipes for Doro Wat to find different measurements of berbere being used. One recipe called for 1.5 CUPS of berbere and another only called for 3 Tablespoons. I compromised and used 3/4 of a cup. Holy Mother of Pain, had I only known what I was in for. My Ethiopian sons, seeing that I was making some of their favorite food, became quite excited and dipped their fingers several times into the flammable powder and licked it off their fingers like chocolate frosting. Their reaction to berbere was proof to me that we were in for an incredible tasting meal!
I'm such a good adoptive mom.
As the dish was coming along, I finally decided to take my christening taste. Ahhhhhh, tender chicken in a flavorful broth.......absolute heaven. Man, I'm good. But after about 10 seconds, it became brutally clear that I had prematurely ascertained the heaven like quality to this dish. Unexpectedly, I was violently slammed to the floor, mouth first, by a spice induced round house kick to my unsuspecting food loving arse. Coming to, after having sucked down at least five glasses of milk laced with fire retardant, I was convinced I had accidentally created the same elements that are inside the hydrogen bomb. Why this boiling acid was not eating through my stainless steel pot only to spill and sear a hole through my floor, was a complete mystery to me. In fact, I felt quite sure Al Qaeda would be calling me any minute for the recipe.....they would just have to text me because I feared my thousand degree pulsating lips would not be able to form intelligible words......ever again.
But this was dinner....and I had made a virtual butt-load of it with no time to make a back up alternative. And I couldn't waste it. What to do? I am positive that there is a study somewhere out there that proved children didn't have fully formed pain receptors. Well, this meal was going to put that theory to the test. I would plan, like any good parent would, and have EMS on standby should any of my progeny start to exhale fire.....gotta save the curtains and the dog, you know.
Sitting down for our meal, I sat and stared as my children potentially started their cremation process early. Both of my hands were firmly placed on the fire extinguisher in my lap. They were ready for the challenge and egged each other on to see who would wave the white flag of surrender first. My Ethiopian boys stared at us and pretty much decided, instantaneously, that we were a group of complete ninnies and proceeded to eat the 1,000 degree Doro Wat like a bowl of cereal......and then got up to get seconds and thirds. (I am convinced these boys could probably eat staples, stick pins and thumb tacks like Chex mix.) Meanwhile, my other children were on their second and third spoonfuls with faces that mimicked the redness of third degree burns. But because they could not let their siblings one up them, they continued suffering silently until they lost all feeling in their mouths and faces. Wasn't this fun? Eating together as a family is such a treat!
One of the few aspects of eating Doro Wat that I did not count on was the Draino-like effect this meal would have on my system. Ask my husband and I am sure he will give you a play by play on how this all this played out. No, on second thought, don't. It wasn't pretty and I have my feminine reputation to uphold. But I will tell you this; it involved running, cursing and clenching muscles I didn't know I had. 'Nuf said.
The other unexpected aspect was how Doro Wat would affect my breast milk. Having a four month old, dressed in a pink dress, burp like a trucker and fart like a fog horn is carnival worthy, but my sweet baby Sarah found it hard to comply with the same humor we found in it. My husband also had the grand idea of using some of my breast milk as lighter fluid for our evening grilling. Funny guy.
All joking and exaggerated drama aside, it actually was an amazing meal and I plan on making it again for our family. Except next time, I will use less berbere and let Anteneh and Ephrem spice their own dishes themselves to their little hearts' content. The biggest and best part of the meal was to see their smiles as their gastronomical memories went back home for just one night. By going over to their culinary territory, I had wanted them to know that I value, and didn't want them to forget, where they came from and that we are all in this together.
Bon Appetite my sweet boys!