An Ethiopian meal is a feast for the hands, a tactile experience in which a diner tears off a piece of injera flatbread and uses it to scoop up the stews and salads that cover a communal platter
By Tim Carman (The Washington Post) |
Ethiopia has one of the world’s most singular cuisines, one influenced by foreign ingredients but still wholly its own. It’s a fiery fare that doesn’t require utensils, unlike that of most around the world, and places great importance on bread at the table, a trait shared with France, Italy, Greece, Egypt, India and many other countries. And although meat dishes (even raw ones) play a starring role, so do vegetarian preparations.
Maybe you know some of this already? Maybe you don’t. The point is, America is a country without a border around its appetites: There are as many kinds of cuisines as there are people, and while each of us is probably familiar with the food of our own heritage, and perhaps a few others, as patrons in an increasingly global dining scene, we should strive to understand more. That’s why I’m here to help — with assistance from experts.
Eating with your hands
For those who were raised to use the proper utensil for every course, an Ethiopian restaurant can be an intimidating place. There is no silverware, and sometimes a proprietor may be resistant to cater to Westerners and their love of flatware. Harry Kloman, a journalism instructor at the University of Pittsburgh who writes extensively about Ethiopian cuisine, remembers when the owner of an Ethiopian restaurant in Milwaukee told him, “They have to ask me three times before I remember to bring it out.”
Utensils are not impossible to find in Ethiopian restaurants or in the home country. The raw beef dish known as tere sega, or kurt, is served with a steak knife, used to slice the slabs of cow round into manageable bites. Back in Ethiopia, the Gurage people of the south-central highlands often use long wooden spoons to eat their kitfo, Kloman notes.
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