Week 5-6 in Deneba, Ethiopia- 10/31/14
If any of you know me, you know that I am truly a carnivore. However, living in a third world country has changed my appetite just a bit. The eating of meat is a very different experience here. It tends to be tough, gristly, and Ethiopians eat a variety of animal parts not frequently eaten in America.
Last Sunday, I was invited to our school for a ceremony to honor students and then celebrate with teachers afterward. I attended the school meeting Sunday morning, followed by the preparation of our lunch. As I entered the compound where all the female teachers were working diligently on our lunch, I noticed they were chopping to bits some type of meat. I was told that it was called Dulet, the intestinal meat. I’m guessing it to be goat but I’m still not entirely sure. I watched as the the women worked hard to chop this meat into tinier and tinier pieces. I realized the front yard showed evidence of the slaughter of these particular animals. I headed to the back of the compound where more women worked to wash and prepare coffee and other items for the celebration.
Once all of the food was finished, the male teachers carried all the dishes over to the school just across the street. I sat with some of my good friends, all of the teachers of my school were in attendance. I got in line to receive my food. A giant plate of injera covered with dulet and bones with bits of meat and fat on them. There were no other dishes, only meat. I struggled to take a few bites but the texture and smell really wasn’t doing anything for me. I quickly realized I wasn’t going to be able to partake in this particular meal. Ethiopians believe it to be extremely rude not to clean your plate. It is even more so to leave meat, the delicacy. Meat is expensive and takes time to prepare. I was given a bit of a guilt trip by those around me as everyone else devoured their meal. I was told many times, “bee bee,”
which means “eat, eat!”
I tried to explain that I just wasn’t used to this type of food. I hoped this would work since Ethiopians constantly ask me if I have adapted to Ethiopian cuisine. They are usually referring to the spice which doesn’t bother me at all. However, I couldn’t think of anything else to say. I was unintentionally insulting all the women who had worked so hard to prepare this meal. After the meal was finish, I was told that there would be a similar celebration Monday evening. A chance for them to gather and finish off the leftovers!
I did attend the program on Monday but was instead served shiro(ground up chickpeas, the main Ethiopian dish), potatoes, cabbage, and beats on my injera while everyone else finished off the meat. I actually love all of these Ethiopian dishes and was able to clean my plate!
For the most part I am a vegetarian in Ethiopia. My main proteins are eggs, lentils, and peanut butter. I’m not sure if I will continue to refrain from meat when I return to the US or if I will make my first meal back a juicy double cheeseburger!
Until next time…peace!