The Ambassadors love attending events with the World Affairs Council of Houston, and that enjoyment doubles when food is involved.
Last week the World Affairs Council hosted a traditional Ethiopian Dinner at Lucy Ethiopian Restaurant and Lounge. The event was designed as a literal taste of things to come for guests traveling with the World Affairs Council to Ethiopia, part of their regular and marvelous travel series to various parts of the world to promote understanding and better relations.
On hand to assist with the event was WAC’s Executive Director, Maryanne Maldonado…
…the Director of Programming, Sandija Bayot…
…and even the Honorary General Consul of Ethiopia, Gezahgen Kebede.
The ambience was also part of the picture: we were greeted at the restaurant not only by the people, but also by the smells of incense burning and delicious food.
After sitting down, the servers brought us appetizers. A favorite of the ambassadors was the sambusa, a fried pastry filled with onions, green peppers, and lentils with sweet chili sauce. There was also honey wine, which we did not imbibe, but did look on with wonder…
Dinner was served buffet style and included an array of Ethiopian favorites such as injera, a sponge bread used to pick up the food. Injera is the national food of Ethiopia, but for those outside the country, its texture requires some adjustments. It has a spongy texture and a very slightly bitter taste. It is relatively expensive to prepare, and it can function as a plate, eating utensil, and as a food.
In this instance, we used it as a utensil to eat doro watt, chicken cooked in a hot barbeque sauce, and several stew-like foods. We even extended ourselves to the point of eating several versions of raw beef!
After dinner, there was a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony (bunna maflat). In Ethiopia, this is primarily a social ritual, in which a female person is the roaster, hand-roasting beans in an open skillet…
then grinding the beans, and serving—all while burning incense.
As the room filled with the aroma of fresh coffee, we were excited to try it! , Befitting the coffee ceremony as a social function, people began socializing…
And that included us; we were able to sit and talk with Honorary Consul General of Ethiopia, Gezahgen Kebede.
We discussed SHSU with him, told him of our experiences in LEAP, and learned much about the culture of Ethiopia.
Our favorite nugget of information related to the discovery of coffee in Ethiopia, more than a millennium ago.
Indeed, we research this origin myth and found that, according to folklore, Kaldi, a 9th century Ethiopian shepherd from Kaffa, noticed his goats behaving oddly energetically. As it turned out, he also noticed that they had been eating from small shrubs with bright berries. Curious, he too tasted the plant, and experienced a similar energizing sensation. He brought the plant back to the monastery, but he was met with disdain, and his fellow villagers threw the plants into the fire, dismissing the story. But as the fire consumed the plants, a pleasing aroma resulted, and the villagers rethought Kaldi’s story and, eventually, embraced the plant and all its possibilities. Kaffa was renamed “coffee,” and the rest was history.
Following these rich lessons with Honorary Consul Kebede, we made our way back to Huntsville wide-awake from the delicious coffee.