Connecting to Ethiopia through a family meal

Ethiopian dinner

My family enjoys their first Ethiopian meal.

One of my favorite things about international travel is the food. Trying new things, learning what other cultures consider a delicacy or comfort food. I make a point of tasting regional specialties, even if they seem unusual. My squeamish husband is still shivering over my eating black pudding in an Irish B&B, and he’s questioning whether to take me to Scotland because he knows I’ll have to try haggis at least once.

This Friday, I travel to Ethiopia with the ONE Campaign. As ONEMoms, we’ll be visiting farms, hospitals, schools and homes, and, in the process, will be sharing what we learn about the strides being made in health care, education, and the reduction of poverty and hunger. I’ve been trying to place the “bigness” of the ONEMoms trip into context both for myself and my kids…but I’m falling short. There’s really no way to imagine what an experience like this will be like; all I can do is to go into it with an open mind and a willingness to listen.

But at least I can share a bit of Ethiopia with my kids before I leave home: we can eat Ethiopian food.

There are several Ethiopian restaurants near my home. I got myself ready to do a marketing job on the kids (new foods are a hard sell), but they surprised me by their enthusiasm and willingness. They know how important this trip is to me, and how much I want to involve them.

We ate dinner at Enat Kitchen, a small eatery in North Portland. Our waitress was lovely. She patiently described the items on the menu (I hadn’t been to an Ethiopian restaurant since college). We ended up with a selection of beef, lentil and vegetable dishes, all served together on a large platter covered with sour, spongy injera bread.

The food was delicious. I was proud to watch my kids rise above their pickiness so we could share this meal together. I learned that enat is the Amharic word for mother. Rael tried Ethiopian beer. We had fun eating with our hands. It was a great evening together.

The memory of our meal came back to me when I was on a policy briefing call with ONE a few days later. On that call, I learned that 40% of Ethiopian children suffer the effects of malnourishment. The meal I enjoyed with my family, within easy reach for a few dollars and a short drive, was out of reach for many families in Ethiopia. When I travel there with ONEMoms, I’ll be learning about programs and meeting people who are working to solve that problem, directly improving the lives of Ethiopian families.

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As we finished our meal at Enat Kitchen, our waitress came to clear our dishes. When I told her I’d be visiting Ethiopia, her eyes lit up then grew wistful. Only eight days you’ll be there? she asked. That’s not enough!  She asked if there were any questions she could answer about Ethiopia. The “bigness” of it all hit me again and I didn’t know what to ask. She smiled, and assured me it will be a wonderful. And I was grateful for this simple connection between Portland and Ethiopia; between my family and families I will be meeting soon.

From October 6-13, 2012, the ONEMoms will post daily dispatches from Ethiopia.Visit the ONEMoms website to read posts from all the bloggers, follow the #ONEMoms hashtag on Twitter and Instagram, and like the ONEMoms Facebook page.

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Asha Dornfest is the co-author of Minimalist Parenting: Enjoy Modern Family Life More By Doing Less and the publisher of Parent Hacks, a site crammed with tips for making family life easier.

 

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