Little Ethiopia in Philly
by Abuhena Hares
Re-PLACE-ing Philadelphia is building an expanded archive of cultural memory that includes multiple histories, re-place-ing the established with new narratives and understandings. Notes consider place via the street, sound, food, trees, and other portals.
In partnership with educator Joshua Block, students from Philadelphia's Science Leadership Academy are creating and publishing their Philadelphia Field Notes. Hikma Salhe's field note reflects on Ethiopian food and how it brings people together in Philadelphia.
Philly is a melting pot. It blends together diversity, love and respect, all of which make up a traditional Ethiopian meal. As a child I didn’t grow up eating hoagies and drinking hugs, neither did we eat at the dinner table. My mother, father, and I would sit ourselves on the floor next to our couch and eat off of one huge plate. Ethiopian style. Sitting and eating at an Ethiopian restaurant requires you to engage with everything around you. Eating from the same plate as your friend is intimate, it requires you to acknowledge their presence and their interaction with their food. Lunch turns into more than a quick snack with a few friends, it becomes a way to connect. A way to establish a stronger relationships with those who matter most to you.
This past weekend, I took a few of my friends to a local Ethiopian restaurant called Kaffa. Located on 44th and Chestnut, this place is a hotspot for college kids, other Ethiopians, and people looking to try something new. The soft Ethiopian jazz playing in the background was perfect as we looked over the menu. While I was trying to find something I hadn’t eaten for dinner, my friend Mia tapped me on my shoulder and pointed at a word on the menu. I then spent the next ten minutes trying to teach her how to pronounce the word “Tibs.” Our table would erupt into laughter every time someone said it incorrectly. And that’s how we spent our night; laughing, chatting, and connecting.
When I think of Philly, I think of my mother in the kitchen making fresh injera. I think of the small stores that sell international spices, I think of convenience. To me, Philly doesn’t have a standard smell or food because of the huge ethnic diversity apparent in the city. There isn’t any one thing that can describe Philly, it can only be seen as Philly. The home to countless Ethiopian restaurants, Halal food trucks, and corner stores.