I Don’t Like Beets, But That’s Okay

Ethiopia

Ethiopian coffee ceremony. Photo by CJ Latham.

Beets. Not going to lie, I can’t stand them. Not sure if I was emotionally scarred early in life with a bad experience, if it’s simply a visual thing, or maybe a texture thing or if it’s just that I never developed a taste for them. I just don’t like them. You can put yams, pumpkin, squash and a couple other things in the same category. Despite my moderately intense disdain of these crimson coloured tubers, a meal with them as a side doesn’t bother me too much, that is unless the juice migrates over and discolours my potatoes. So gross.

Last week we met a few friends at Ras Kassa, our awesome little Ethiopian restaurant here in the valley. It’s probably one of my favourite places to eat because from the very second you walk in, you are greeted with spectacularly beautiful Ethiopian art, décor and most noticeably, the most delightful and genuinely warm welcome from the owners. It’s truly like time travel to a place far, far away. So awesome.

Choosing something from the menu is hard. EVERYTHING looks amazing but there are certain options that have beets as a side. No biggie since I’m cleverly adept at working my way around them. So after several minutes of narrowing down our individual selections, we placed our order and continued our conversations.

Before I go any further with my original thought, at one point we were all talking about ethnic food and were discussing likes and dislikes. That was a fun little conversation for sure, and hilarious. At one point, CJ said he mostly liked food like what we were having because of the richness of flavours, interesting spices, the feeling of being somewhere special and being able to share it with friends. I liked that, a lot actually. Meals should always be about sharing time with friends and having an “experience” rather than just eating food.

Okay, back to my thought.

So, when our food came out, it was served on this single humongous and extravagantly arranged platter. Despite each of us making our own individual orders, it was all served on one plate. So awesome. And one of the most fun things about this place is you eat with your hands. You simply tear off a bit of a crepe looking thing, scoop up your food of choice off the massive platter and stuff it in your yap. If you happened to be all prim and proper and require doilies and dessert forks, you’d be in etiquette hell. Fortunately I require little in the way of etiquette and think the only requirement for enjoying food is that it makes you smile.

Well, once that beautiful platter was placed on the little table between us, it took me about a nano-second to spot those glaring clumps of crimson, one on each side of the platter.  No worries though, they weren’t close enough to my section of food for any juice to make its way over. However, it was close to the lentils that I wanted so I’d have to exercise extreme caution when getting into those.

Long story short, we ate, we laughed, we got extremely messy with the food, we talked of travels (our little group was very well traveled), we talked about life and basically had one of the most memorable meals I can remember. To top things off, we all agreed we’d go for the “Coffee Ceremony” we’d noticed when looking at the menu! That in itself was the perfect way to end the evening. How good was the coffee? Well, coffee was first discovered in Ethiopia so I’m going to say the taste was borne from a long, reputable history.

Bottom line is that despite those beets on the platter, they certainly didn’t detract from having a very special evening with some very special friends.

I know this is probably silly, but that meal and those beets actually had me thinking about a lot of stuff. For example, I’m doing a road trip over on the West Slope this weekend to do a little mountain biking with some friends. The trails we’ll be riding are crazy fun and sometimes challenging overall but admittedly there are some super technical parts I simply can’t ride with my current skill set. Those sections total about 100 meters of a 25-kilometer ride. I’ll probably try to ride them, but if it doesn’t go off, no big deal. Those 100 meters certainly won’t take away from the experience of being out riding in the desert, hanging with some of my closest friends and of course sitting around the campfire late into the night philosophising and drinking a fun new beer or two.

Same goes with my style of travel. Yeah, sometimes it’s uncomfortable and hard to be alone in a faraway place when you don’t speak the language (not very well anyhow) and struggle a little. Those times should never define the entire trip and the richness of exploring a beautiful new culture, food and land.

Beets. Nope, don’t like ‘em, but that’s okay.

Climb high, ski hard, pedal far, paddle long, live big.

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