Most everyone loves to travel. It’s exciting to see new places and experience the different customs, entertainment and foods of other cultures. Many people may not get the chance to travel because of time constraints or other obligations, but they are still able to sample other cultures through food.
Imagine a trip to an ancient country, shrouded in mystery, a country that most Americans don’t know too much about today. It is a country of lush mountain highlands and arid lowlands with a rich cultural and religious history that maintains many of its customs to this day.
The country is Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee, home to some of the best Olympic runners in the world and the place believed by many to be the final resting place of the Ark of the Covenant.
Observing the Julian calendar, Ethiopia boasts 13 months of sunshine. The rainy season may come, but the sun still shines in an unmistakable sense of hospitality and sharing from its people.
Ethiopian food is uncomplicated and healthy, but no single adjective can adequately describe how absolutely delicious it is. Most dishes begin with a bread, as in many cultures, but not in loaf form. Injera is the staple of the Ethiopian diet. It is a light, slightly spongy, pancake-like bread that is placed first on the plate to hold whatever comes after.
Imagine the scent of any exotic spice you have ever experienced. Now imagine dozens of them, filling the air and mixing together in perfect harmony. You may pick out a stray scent of cumin, garlic, onion, curry, ginger or peppers, but you may never be able to place them all.
The dish may be chicken or lamb or beef or lentils, split peas or other vegetables, simmered into a savory stew served over fresh injera. More fresh injera is customarily served on the side, cut into small rolls. The injera is torn off in small pieces and used to grab bite sized portions of the food, no utensils needed.
There is very little fat involved in cooking, meats are thoroughly trimmed and cleaned and the ingredients are all fresh and natural, making Ethiopian food some of the most healthful in the world. Dried spice combinations unique to Ethiopian cooking lend a rich, piquant taste to many dishes. All in all, it is food that is exotic, healthy and extremely satisfying. Topped off with a cup of strong, hot Ethiopian coffee, it is a wonderful way to feed the body and experience something of another world at the same time. Fasika, feast.