As I grabbed hold of my first, slightly strange piece of injera, delicately tearing it from the roll, and curiously dipping it into the communal plate of colorful treasures, I had no idea of the implications that it would bring in the future as an ever increasing craving (need to know more about injera or what Ethiopian food is, click here).
It was a case of love at first taste. The different textures of the injera and the spicy concocted blends of spiced sauces, released upon my taste buds, exploding with a jolt of unforgettable flavor. I will forever remember that moment, and to this day, that same taste gives me inspiration.
Growing up in Nairobi, Kenya, I was introduced to the wonders of the cuisine from the Northerly neighboring country of Ethiopia. The day that changed my life came in middle school when I was around thirteen years of age. Some of my parents colleagues had arranged a meal for a few families at a low key, unnamed, Ethiopian restaurant, out of an Ethiopian families home. At this particular restaurant, one had to make a reservation three days in advance and the family would then open their home to serve and ultimately satisfy the allotted amount of guests. Three days in advance, the family was able to pool their resources and purchase the necessary and freshest ingredients to artfully cook the feast.
Outstanding, is an understatement of what that first Ethiopian meal was. I remember the injera, the doro wot, the tibs,… After the meal we were introduced to a traditional coffee ceremony where the beans were roasted in front of us as we in took some of the pungent fumes prior to drinking the coffee. Fully expanding in my stomach, the meal left me happy, satisfied, and full to the brim.
The flavors were so intensely delicious that a few days after partaking I could still smell them in my pours. This has then become somewhat of a personal test, a meter, a system of grading, the longer the smells linger from the pours, the better the food.
Since that first day, I have had many encounters with the wonderful Ethiopian flavors. When visiting friends in new cities, I make it a priority to look up Ethiopian eateries in the area (check out the map!). Besides the food, the presentation and the socializing that revolve around a large plate of Ethiopian food are unbeatable. Everyone having to dip their hands into the communal platter creates an experience of family, home style, and social eating.
I am not embarrassed to say, some days I eat Ethiopian a couple times. The flavors never get old and with every bite they in fact get even tastier. Every Ethiopian meal is an experience and replenishes the urge to have it again.
Indeed, I felt privileged to have partaken that first day. It truly opened my eyes to the wonderful food Ethiopia had to offer. I am still waiting and anticipating the time when I will step foot in the cradle of injeria, Ethiopia, and partake of the delights the country has to offer.