Welcome to The Plantbased Jetsetter’s first guest post, courtesy of Hannah Rollings (www.drifterhannah.com).
The subject matter is a country whose cuisine is very dear to my heart – Ethiopia!
Las Vegas, my home for now, has some amazing Ethiopian restaurants that I patronize; their ‘vegetarian platters’ just so happen to be vegan, so I consume a good amount of Ethiopian food on the regular.
Thanks so much to Hannah for her insight on Ethiopia and their amazing food!
Ethiopia is a dream for vegans. Not something commonly known. But why?
A large proportion of the population is Ethiopian Orthodox Christian, an ancient form of Christianity, and quite a strict one at that. An enormous 250 days/year are spent fasting. This mostly comprises of the days leading up to big religious celebrations, like Easter. But these devout people also fast every Wednesday and Friday.
OK, so this isn’t fasting in the absolute sense of the word. When Orthodox Christians say they’re fasting, what they really mean is that they’re not eating or drinking any animal products – meat and dairy. So they’re essentially vegans for over two thirds of the year.
When you have to forego these products for so long, of course you’re going to come up with some super tasty alternatives. In the place of meat and dairy, Ethiopians eat rich chickpea and lentil stews, mopped up by their staple and somewhat sour (gluten-free) ‘pancake’, made of the endemic grain called teff.
I’m sure many of you have tried Ethiopian food. In fact, it’s become quite hipster recently. Beware if you’re gluten-intolerant and trying this outside of Ethiopia because most establishments mix teff with wheat.
The Ethiopian government limits the export of teff in order to regulate the price. The locals eat this three times a day. It’s their staple and lifeblood. It would be a tragedy if the increased popularity of Ethiopian food increased the demand and export of teff, in turn increasing the price on the market and effectively pricing out the locals. Farmers would then prefer to sell for export, rather than the lower price on the local market. This has happened with quinoa and so the Ethiopian government is adamant that this will not happen with teff, and rightly so!
So if you’re vegan and/or lactose/gluten intolerant, and you find yourself in an Ethiopian restaurant, make sure that you order yourself a fasting shiro (chickpea based stew without butter) and a meser wot (lentil based stew), maybe also a tomato salad to accompany. It’ll come atop of injera and it will be delicious. Enjoy!