Ode: The Vegetarian Combo at The Nile Ethiopian Restaurant
What is it about messy food that just makes it taste better? Why do sticky fingers mean you had something delicious? And what is it about eating with your hands that makes a meal more intimate, more primal, more vital?
Whether it’s mashing a goopy hamburger into your mouth at 2am, sneaking a piece of cake and shoving it into your pie hole with all five fingers, or slathering a taco with hot sauce and devouring it before it falls apart, the act of feeding yourself without the intercession of a utensil can be so satisfying.
So an entire finger-fed communal meal, where every bite is different from the last, your digits getting progressively sauced up and starchy, can feel like a full-on indulgence. Without the interloper of a spoon or fork, your relationship with your food is engaged through all of your senses.
At The Nile in Aurora, sharing a giant platter of Ethiopian delights allows you to slow down and be intentional in your consumption. You tear off a piece of injera, pinch up some lentils or greens or a little of both, and use the spongy flatbread to convey it to your mouth. The combination of compositions and aromas transforms into tastes and textures.
Sure, you might supplement your order with spicy lamb tibs or buttery chicken wat, but what I love about the vegetarian combination is that it’s a full, satisfying meal on its own. With two variations of lentils, spiced chickpeas, fragrant greens, a mild potato and carrot mixture, and brightly hued carrots and cabbage, the colorful combo of comfort combines to complete contentment.
You’ll find pure satisfaction in making your way through the meal with each new fragment of injera, scooping up whatever mix of flavors and textures strikes your fancy at that moment (and keeping a strategic eye on what remains on the plate), immersed in a choose-your-own-adventure experience from start to finish.
And it’s toward the end of the meal when the real stickiness begins, as you tenderly tear away at the compromised bread that’s been sitting under the food the entire time, infused with the flavors of those fresh ingredients, sopping and fragile and barely holding together. A spoon would make it easier, but no matter — our opposable thumbs mean we’re fully capable of moving the mushy remains to our mouths before taking a sip of St George Amber, the brown bottle smudged with smushed lentil paste.
When it’s finally time to get the check, you have no choice but to slip away to the restroom to reluctantly wash the starch and spice off your fingers. But that’s okay, because there’s just enough injera and lentils for a small styrofoam clamshell, meaning you’ll be able to eat them with your hands for breakfast.