I had truly hoped to enjoy at least one Traditional Ethiopian meal while we were in Addis.
But we didn't.
We were blessed to enjoy three.
All three in completely different places, served by different people, in the company of different friends. And all three were equally fantastic.
Part of the experience of this meal is just that: the experience. The culture and customs you inevitably enjoy while eating among Ethiopians, is one of a sense of family. Sharing, eating together, taking your time, talking. It's about togetherness.
I knew this before we went but friendship and love runs deeper in Africa than in North America. Ethiopia is no exception. I recall talking with friends who recently returned from many years of missionary work in Kenya. One thing their young boys (who had spent their young childhood growing up in a village there) found very difficult about the transition back to Canadian (BC, actually) was the lack of brotherhood-like friendships, among their peers.
And this theme runs deep. Men with their arms around each other. Women holding hands like sisters. It's a camaraderie I think we lack but that I'm not sure we could ever mimic because it dates back years...and our country...our 'culture'...it's in it's infancy compared to that of the African and Ethiopian (especially) culture.
When I think of our daughter's childhood...when I look ahead to her years of growing up in Canada, this is one of the concerns and great sadnesses I have: she won't have strong, deep bonds with friends the way she would in her country of birth. On the flip side, I feel blessed and excited (you know, the ear-to-ear-grin type of excitement) that she will live in proximity to two friends with whom she shared a room for the first many months of her life. What a unparalleled gift.
Our Ethiopian Meals.
The first took place at a traditional restaurant - and if you are in Addis, I would highly (!) recommend 2000 Habesha. The food, the atmosphere, the dancing. We went with new (Ethiopian) friends which made it all the more fun and enjoyable. We were able to communicate well (their english was great), they were able to order, but we were able to enjoy the customs and entertainment that is part and parcel with this experience. After the meal was over, we enjoyed dancing from all different regions in Ethiopia. All of it was indescribable.
Our second injera based meal took place at our daughter's orphanage. That in itself was an overwhelming day and to say the meal was the cherry on top would be an understatement. To be able to fellowship, to eat with people who have taken care of our daughter and who love her every day, was one we will never forget.
Our third meal took place at our friends' house. Together we enjoyed food very similar to that of the supper meal at 2000 Habesha. But it was home cooked. And it was also incredible.
The flavours that run throughout the different wats are so deep, rich, unlike anything here. I cannot wait to use all the spices I brought home...and get more when we return. (Have I mentioned how hard I am praying for that MOWA letter?!)
Quickly for those who haven't yet experienced an Ethiopian meal, it is a base of injera (a pancake like food) with different wats (stews: beef, chicken, potato, cabbage, egg, cheese...you name it). The different wats are all served on top of the (very large!) injera which is eaten with your hands (actually, your right hand). You scoop/soak up the different foods on top of the injera, using a piece of the injera you have torn off of your (individual) roll, or the large piece forming the base on the dish. In the restaurant we all shared and communed together. Truly, the experience was nearly inexplicable.
I could go on and on but out of concern for boring you...here are a few photos of a couple of our experiences. Forgive the quality: there were a few times I didn't think it appropriate to bring my rather large digital SLR. In hindsight it would have been fine (I know now, for next time), but this time I used our iPod.