Ethiopia is a diverse country, with rich cultural traditions, and its own unique way of doing many things. It is independent, being the only country in Africa to have successfully resisted colonial control. The Nile, a source of transportation and irrigation for centuries, runs through Ethiopia as does the Great Rift Valley. Although there are roughly 100 languages spoken throughout the country the official language is Amharic, which has more than 200 characters! The country uses a 13 month calendar placing it behind most countries by 7.5 years. Ethiopia is one of the first places where Christianity spread outside of Palestine and it is the first place where Islam was practiced outside of the Arabian Peninsula when Muhammad's followers fled persecution by crossing the Red Sea.
Most Ethiopian food is somewhat saucy and is eaten with the hands using a bread called injera. As in many cultures, the left hand is considered dirty and the inculturated traveler will avoid using the left hand. Injera is a spongy, flat bread made from teff flour. Teff is a unique grass which grows predominantly in Ethiopia and Eritrea, and is highly potent; one pound of teff can produce one ton of grain in twelve weeks. Injera has a mild flavor and and its spongy texture helps soak up flavors from the sauce.
Many ethnic restaurants serve only "party" foods that one would serve to a guest of honor or eat in celebration of a rite of passage. Did you think that Middle Easterners eat mixed grill every day or that handmade dumplings are just a Friday night meal in China?
Lucy's serves a number of Ethiopian household staples that are no less fantastic than its party food.
A common style of food in Ethiopia is Wot, which is stew of various kinds. Shimbera Assa Wot (Chickpea Soup) is a hearty stew that makes for a great vegetarian option. In spite of the peppers on top, this Wot is not spicy. (pictured left top)
No need to ponder the chronological origin of the chicken an egg, because they both come at the same time in Yedoro Wat (Chicken and Egg stew) kin to Filipino Adobo or Mexican Mole. (pictured left bottom)
If you want to know whats what with wot, check out the video below by Wilbur Sargunaraj. You can also see how intense Amharic is.
If you like coffee, hug an Ethiopian. Coffee was originally discovered in the southwestern province of Kaffa. At Lucy's, they roast green (fresh) coffee in a pan which is the traditional roasting method. You can hear the beans "snap" as the moisture evaporates. It is served with burning incense, which is used to keep the evil eye away.
The greatest thing about Ethiopia is the people, and Lucy's is no exception. Suzani is a gracious and hospitable host. I have been to Lucy's before blogging at Terabeza, and on both occasions she has greeted our group and talked with us at some point over the course of the meal. If you visit Lucy's, a chat with Suzani is a must, and it will probably be the highlight of your meal.