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Ethiopia : Eat, Pray, Love (Part 1)

- Give Up Coffee For Beautiful Breasts
- Losing Weight In A Week With Honey
- Treatments For Vaginal Itching During Pregnancy

Elizabeth Gilbert could have saved herself a lot of Travelling if she’s gone to Ethiopia. In fact, it is a country with its own calendar (it’s 2004 there) and clock, which means she could have added time travel to her list of Experiences

Eat

Description: At Kuriftu resort & Spa at Debre Zeit

At Kuriftu resort & Spa at Debre Zeit

The biggest eye-opener and irony about Ethiopia, that perennial synonym for famine and big-eyed, big-bellied babies, is that you see none of that. At Kuriftu resort & Spa at Debre Zeit, 45 minutes outside Addis Ababa, I spotted mango, avo, citrus, banana and papaya trees in the begetable garden – and I could tell that they were not in need of much coaxing. At mealtimes, these fruits made up just a small portion of the buffet and it was at breakfast that I met my new favourite drink: avo juice. It’s all avo with none of that hothouse blandness; this is a country where much of the food is by default organic and free-range. Along with the usual suspects, the array of juices served with breakfast included the equally interesting but more difficult to describe hibiscus juice.

Description: Ethiopians love injera. Injera is eaten with almost every meal

Ethiopians love injera. Injera is eaten with almost every meal

The basic of every meal is injera, the huge, soft traditional flatbread. The recipe calls for teff, a grain that grows only in Ethiopia; three days’ patience while it ferments and an open wood fire in a clay oven. The result is type-sized ‘pancakes’ that are torn in strips with your right hand as you eat, and used as a spoon, fork and mopping-up tool. (Because teff is not available in south Africa, the injera served at Ethiopia restaurants here does not have the same yeasty, sour taste and the colour is paler and less grey.)

Wot, a stew that comes in varying degrees of hotness and is made with meat, is typically eaten with the injera. At every meal we had a choice – chicken, beef, lamb or goat – and the only risk factor was guessing how hot your wot would be. Even the innocent-sounding chicken stew (doro wot) harbours hot peppers among its key ingredients. Lentils, peas, chickpeas and peanuts are also used in many dishes, usually with meat, except on fast days when gommen, a kale-like plant, make up the basis of the alicha, a milder version of wot.

Outside the upmarket lodges, cafes serving street food and St. George (the refreshing local beer) abound. In Addis Ababa one out of every five or six shops is painted in St. George’s trademark bright yellow and serves Ethiopian snacks and meals. Being aficr, visitors are cautioned to avoid these or risk contracting the Ethiopian version of delhi belly. (That said, I picked up my dose after a hamburger in the Sheraton Hotel.) In the rowdy, noisy and busy Addis, a table on the stoep of one of these cafes is the perfect vantage point for watching the world – and its donkeys and goats – go by, St. George in hand, of course.

Description: Sambusas, The triangular parcels were filled with fried beef, green peppers, jalapenos, and onions.

Sambusas, The triangular parcels were filled with fried beef, green peppers, jalapenos, and onions.

But it’s not all St. George and spicy ethiopian cuisine. Thanks to the Italians who tried – and failed – to colonise the country (it’s one of only two African countries that has never been colonised), Addis has pizza and pasta restaurants aplenty. The Piazza neigh-bourhood is where you’ll find many of them as well as what appears to be a new wave of trendy shops. The neighbourhood is also known for Ristorante Castelli, an upmarket Italian foodie spot on Mahatma Gandhi Street, that was opened in 1948 by Francesco Castelli, an Italian soldier, and has changed little in the intervening 70 or so years. We had cold tapas-like entrées followed by various pasta dishes, all of them delicious and all served with Ethiopian friendliness.

Food is cheap too: a meal with a drink in a pretty decent restaurant can cost 30 Birr (R14) and although a bottle of good old Two Oceans Sauvignon Blanc can set you back 250 Birr (R117), Ethiopian Airlines serves the beautiful Barton & Buestier Châteauneuf-du-Pape in its business class. (Because Addis is a magnet for government get-togethers and NGOs, the wine lists at good restaurants are world-class.) Even so, I bought my best meal in Ethiopia from a girl at the market in Addis: three lentil samoosas at 1.50 Birr (70c) a piece.

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