Today’s word of the day is berbere.
(Oh, I’m sorry. Did I just do that? I’m spending most of the day with a three-year-old. A hilarious, kind-hearted three-year-old, but definitely a three-year-old. As in I KNOW WHAT I WANT AND I FINALLY KNOW HOW TO SAY IT IN COMPLEX SENTENCES AND I AM NOW ALSO AWARE THAT I HAVE A SAY IN LIFE AND NO I DON’T WANT TO STOP JUMPING ON THE COUCH CUSHIONS TO SIT DOWN FOR BREAKFAST NO I DO NOT.
I might be a little bit tired at the moment.
But the joy of this time — and what fuels the patience it requires to make it through without yelling or turning to drink — is all the lessons that are happening. All the time. Lu is burbling words at a steady pace, new ones every moment. Collaboration, festoon, and pomegranate came out this morning. And she goes on talking jags now, telling us about birthday parties for her sister, or the eggplant stew she is cooking in her kitchen, or reciting the recipe Pam made here from memory. Word for word.
The other day, she started chopping tomatillos with her nylon knife and told me all about it. I swear she was doing a Julia Child imitation.
So the push and pull, the constant chance to have conversations about how to be kind and use our words, the relief at the end of the day when she finally falls asleep? All worth it, of course.
Plus, we introduced her to Electric Company this week and she was immediately mesmerized. She has been walking around the house shouting HEY YOU GUYS! And staring at the words on the screen, starting to sound them out. Do you remember Morgan Freeman as Easy Reader? Lu wants to watch this clip, over and over again. It’s still the hippest thing on television.
This is why I have been thinking in Word of the Day.)
That might be the longest parenthetical in history.
Berbere is one of my favorite spice blends in the world. Marcus Samuelsson, in his book The Soul of a New Cuisine: A Discovery of the Foods and Flavors of Africa, wrote that Ethiopian cooking is built on three foods: injera, spiced butter, and berbere. We adore Ethiopian dishes in this house. After I began frequenting the small Ethiopian restaurants on Jefferson and Jackson in Seattle, I fell in love with the communal dining experience of injera bread, spiced lentils, chicken wa’at, and dollops of delicious stewy foods.
(Most Ethiopian restaurants in the US mix in a little wheat flour with their teff to make their injera bread. It’s disappointing. However, we’ve been working on an entirely teff injera for our cookbook and we’re loving the results now.)
As is true of most spice blends, there is no one “right” combination of spices and salts. Each household makes its own taste decisions. Samuelsson uses fenugreek seeds, dried chiles, paprika, salt, ginger, onion powder, cardamom, nutmeg, garlic powder, cloves, cinnamon, and allspice. You could play with those, in any combination that works for you. Or, you could buy a berbere blend from several places online, including My Spice Sage, Zamouri Spices, and World Spice. (Spices should be gluten-free but be sure to ask the company before you purchase spices for your family.)
Danny and I recommend you buy some soon. We’re going to be using it in our cookbook.
Also, on an early afternoon, after the kid has gone to pre-school, you can coat chicken legs in olive oil, salt and pepper, and as much berbere as you want. Roast them in a 425* oven and cook until they reach an internal temperature of 185° (that’s about about 35 minutes in our oven).
Yesterday, we savored the spicy crunch of the crust on these chicken legs. We also enjoyed a few moments alone, as adults, without a kid in the house.
Of course, we talked about Lucy.