Eating Ethiopian Food

Injera with Ethiopian stew

Most Ethiopian food is served alongside injera, the staple food of the country.  Injera is a flat, soft, and spongy bread. It can be made with different types of grains and therefore comes in a few different flavors and colors. Generally, it has a tangy, almost sour taste, but the flavor is not overpowering at all. Usually, a few different wots will be served with injera. The wot is the traditional dish of Ethiopia and are mixtures of vegetables, meats, spices and sauces. Usually, wots are spicy, but there is an extraordinary variety including non-spicy options. Wots are served on top of injera - the bread will be rolled out into a sheet with the wots placed directly on it; the injera acts simultaneously as a plate and a utensil.

Most traditional Ethiopian food is eaten with the hands; this is done by tearing off a piece of injera, using it to grab some food, and putting it directly in your mouth. 

1. Traditional meals are eaten from a communal plate, but you should not reach all the way across to the other side to grab food; eat what is close to you.

2. It is polite to eat with your right hand - the left is considered unclean and therefore you should avoid using it if you can.

3. There will always be a way to wash your hands before and after the meal. Sometimes a waiter will bring a basin and pitcher to the table.

4. When greeting people at a restaurant, often they will have already washed their hands, or they will already eating. In place of a handshake, they will offer you their wrist; lightly grasp their wrist but do not shake it. If your hands aren’t suitable for a handshake either, you can touch your wrist to theirs. 

5. The gursha is a gesture when a person will put food into your mouth. It is a gesture of respect and it is courteous to accept it.

 6. If you are invited into someone’s home: Take your shoes off if they remove theirs, greet everybody present individually (starting with oldest first), and allow any elders to begin eating before you do. 

7. Because of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, many Ethiopians fast two days a week; Wednesday and Friday, in addition to the two months of fasting before Easter (the Ethiopian Orthodox Church celebrates Easter later than other Christian sects). On these days, they do not eat or drink until 3pm and also refrain from eating animal products (except for fish). Some restaurants do not serve meat on these days of the week.

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