Friday, October 07, 2005

The Mesob (taxi tale 2)

So then there was the cab to the Persian dentists. This was driven by a friendly chap from Eritrea. Washington, DC has a significant immigrant population from Ethiopia and Eritrea; among cab drivers, Ethiopians probably outnumber even the Pakistanis.

Catching my attention, dangling playfully from the taxi's rearview mirror, was a festively festooned little mysterious object. Closer inspection showed it to be a basket-like form: as if a play-basket or toy basket.

"Mesob" my driver said, and explained: "mesob" is the ubiquitous basket in which (in any of DC's myriad Ethiopian restaurants) the metal tray is placed, on which the injira (a uniquely spongy, wholegrain bread apparently requisite to every meal) is placed. Atop the injira is served the contents of the meal. Injira thus forms a kind of edible plate. Further blankets of injira are folded (almost napkin-like) at the ready. One eats with hand rather than utensils; but the injira (torn into handy pieces as one dines) is the medium for scooping: both utensil and bread at once.

At once I could recognize the beribboned trinket's familiar form -- although the presence of a lid atop the basket was less familiar. But imagination fetches forth the usefulness of this design. This particular toy mesob had, of course, a story.

"It's from my ex-girlfriend's wedding," the cabbie allowed. Such baskets are given out at weddings, filled with small candies. Clearly a token of blessings.

He elaborated: he'd been with the young woman for five years, but (as he related it) the girl's sister planted seeds of doubt about his behavioral adequacy. "The sister says, do this, do that. We've been five years together without any problems!

"'I have to listen to my sister,' says the girlfriend" -- and so, a parting of ways.

When was this? "Two years ago," he explains. "She got a[nother] boyfriend. She tried to make me jealous! -- brought the new boyfriend" to his hangout; he let it pass. Before long, he was attending her wedding (not to that particular man).

"The good thing," he remarked, "is you remind me of her. I'm with her now, in the spiritual power." Friendship, he suggested, reaches beyond the gain-and-loss play of human life; -- it's the most necessary support in life, he observed. He'd lost both his parents in the long civil war . . .

I snapped a few pictures of the Mesob, in the rainy morning. Will place one with this tale, when I've a chance to load it from my cellphone/camera. I was some minutes late to the Persian dentists. The cabdriver was familiar with the office. As it turned out (though this may've been coincidence), the Dental Assistant who x-rayed my teeth was an Eritrean woman. Besides Persian women-dentists, the office now seems to have a few Eritreans (or perhaps the other is Ethiopian; I cannot distinguish between Ethiopians & Eritreans, though they are readily distinct from other Africans, I find). My friend Adam, in LA, is soon to marry an Ethiopian. I'm hoping I can make it to the wedding.


Blogger The Wizard of Odd said...

hopefully, you will bring back a mesob.

Wont make comparisons to the hollowed out bread one is served clam chowder in, in any house of blues... escapes me. Dammit. Sigh.

Memory-- apart from free will-- is a killer.

Fri Oct 07, 05:29:00 PM PDT  
Blogger david raphael israel said...

yes -- but qualities of this food (injira) differ from any such hallowed-out EuroAmerican bread. It's so squishy, soft; really the word "bread"'s inappropriate to this; I merely failed to come up w/ a better one. Just now tried google; "spongy crepe-like" says one source. More spongy than a sponge, sez

Fri Oct 07, 05:56:00 PM PDT  

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