My fondest memories of Ethiopia have centred around food. It’s a country that loves its food. Everything is slow cooked, and the idea of quick service restaurants hasn’t found much traction. Ceremony is important, whether it’s in how the coffee is made, or in how the food is served. Eating together out of one big plate with your hands, sans cutlery or bowls, has significance. The act of eating morphs into one of sharing, even if you split the bill. Given the strict taboos about food and sharing in India (househelps/drivers served in different utensils), the absence of such distinction gave me great pleasure. I ate with farmers and friends, chauffeurs and children, strangers and seniors.
The food is healthy. Teff, the crop most grown in Ethiopia, is used to make injera, the dosa-like bread most eaten in the country. It is naturally gluten-free, and rich in iron – especially black teff injera. Meats,vegetables, and shiro – a thick chickpea dal – are all prepared with little oil. I had access to a swimming pool for 10 days while travelling, and every time I ate injera I felt like superman in the pool. Maybe the iron-rich diet coupled with high altitude suitable for physical training has something to do with why Ethiopia has produced such world-class endurance athletes as Haile Gebreselassie, Abebe Bikila, the Dibaba sisters, etc.
Lastly, and this is important, people enjoy their food. Most locals I ate with had an appetite to match mine – that’s saying something! Eating was a time not just to nutritionally fill-up, but also to talk, laugh, and listen. Everyone is a food critic, some passionately so. I felt at home in a country where food and eating were more than just that.
- Bozena shiro in Adama
- Chikina tibs in Shashemene
- Kaai-injera (black injera) and Ambo (natural sparkling mineral water) everywhere
- Fresh fried fish by and from the lakes of Hawassa
- Avocados & chili with bread and authentic sedama coffee for a breakfast of champions at Wondo Genet
- Moussaka, Greek salad and spanakopita at Santorini, Addis Ababa
- Better Italian food (owing to the war, maybe?) than anywhere in India