I was married after dinner on Monday night. The veil was cotton and gauzy, my wedding dress an embroidered velvet cloak. My groom–a nervous Chinese tourist–sweated next to me as dancers pounded the stage in front of us, and when the musical number drew to a close I was paraded around the room–on piggy-back no less–by my new husband’s best man. What can I say? At least the food was good.
Getting roped into a comedic mock-wedding at an Addis Ababa restaurant was one of many adventures I had in Ethiopia, a country I found myself exploring just 10 days after starting my new job. I saw Lammergeiers and endemic wolves. I careened around a city with lovely roads but no traffic lights (they really do matter). I drank coffee so strong it challenged my high tolerance for bitterness, honed by a love of 90% dark chocolate. And I ate many, many rolls of injera.
With the texture of a spongy crepe and the taste of strong sourdough, injera functions as staple food and utensil alike. Enormous platters of the fermented bread arrive topped with meats, vegetables and rich sauces, and when your injera rolls are done you proceed directly to the saturated remains that constitute your plate. Ethiopians possess a strong cultural identity–every driver listens to his cassette of wailing songs, every conversation is carried on in streams of Amharic, every restaurant serves injera. Addis Ababa is frenetic, a maze of concrete construction and “shortcut” alleys our taxi could barely squeeze through without running over someone’s pet (or dinner, if you happen to like lamb). But out in the countryside, where rare birds alight on telephone poles and the mountains break onto vistas of the fertile valleys below, it is easy to see what Ethiopians are proud of.
Ethiopian cuisine is a worthy source of pride too: evenings I ate my injera with relish, and breakfasts were just as much an occasion to anticipate. Enormous pitchers of freshly blended “mixed fruits juice” sat on the table, and once home I was determined to recreate the blend of tropical fruit, its sweetness cut with lime. You can add or subtract to my recipe as you wish, and though I always considered myself a frozen smoothie sort of person–I enjoy a good brain freeze on a summer day–I actually like having this at room temperature. It may take me awhile to master injera (tracking down teff flour alone can be a challenge) but now I can bring at least a bit of culinary Ethiopia into my kitchen at home.
Papaya Lime Smoothie with Watermelon
1/2 ripe papaya
5 large cubes watermelon
juice of 1 small lime
1/4 cup water
Add the fruit and lime juice to a blender and blend well, then add water bit by bit to thin to your desired consistency and enjoy!