Reports from Ethiopia—Part Six

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Since November 2016, Emily McIntyre has been living in Ethiopia with her husband and five-year-old daughter, Eire. As part of their work with Catalyst Coffee Consulting, the McIntyres have been traveling around the country to partner with producers, mills, and processing/export professionals. Their efforts are focused on education, deepening relationships, and moving toward truly progressive Ethiopian coffee. Read more of her reports here.

[L]iving away from home for any period of time, you miss the food. For me, that’s pepperoni pizza from East Glisan, salads from Mount Tabor Bread, Korean BBQ, and our own homely rituals: Michael’s french toast, complete with Domaine de Canton, thick slabby bacon, and homemade carnitas.

Yeah, I miss all that, and yeah, we daydream about soft serve ice cream and modern espresso, but let me tell you about Ethiopian food.

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Photos: Emily McIntyre.

The best is served at home with your friends, usually cooked in a cramped kitchen, and served in remarkable grace given the typical setting: a television playing the latest Ethiopian soap opera, children scrambling around and over each other, and frankincense smoldering in the corner for the inevitable buna ceremony. Laid out on trays are rolls of injera—a slightly sour, rubbery-textured bread made from fermented teff that really, really grows on you—and bubbling pots of shiro wolfram (my favorite, a kind of thickened savory stew made from lentils and spices), doro wat (chicken stew that’s been simmering for hours into a kind of sweet, paprika-heavy paste), and Michael’s favorite, chickina tebs (think Mexican fajitas plus chili oil). Fluffy white bread usually accompanies. Maybe a fresh juice from mango and papaya, blended in the corner. We sit, often crowded together shoulder to shoulder, and we exchange happy noises and compliment the lady of the house—it’s always the women who cook for guests.

And then, while the children practice being cats (universal language right there!) the adults sit with a glass of Ethiopian wine or beer, and chat about everything and nothing until it’s time for buna, or coffee, to come around.

For me, the longing for my home never goes away. However, it does get covered up with good, down-home cooking; as cliche as it sounds, when love is the main ingredient, food does the heart more than good.

More posts from Emily:

Week One
Week Two
Week Three
Week Four
Week Five

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