Salambo discovering Ethiopia
We’ve hardly cooked since we moved here. As we’re still waiting for our container (which may take another month), we currently have to use very basic kitchen tools, which include two pots, a frying pan, and a rudimentary gas hob, so not conducive to cooking. On my second day here, I had to run out to buy an Italian Bialetti coffee pot, as, being quite a coffee addict, I couldn’t drink Nescafé for breakfast (I actually brought Italian ground coffee in my suitcase but I forgot about the pot!). We need to keep some of our daily habits, otherwise it all becomes too much.
It is actually very easy and cheap to eat out in Addis, almost cheaper than buying food at the supermarket, so that’s what we’ve been doing for lunch. Being new here, I probably don’t know yet where to buy food at a good price. I tend to buy fruit and vegetables on the street, in one of the many stalls along the road. I also found a farmers’ market locally, where individual farmers from Debre Zeit, a small town about 45 kms south of Addis, are selling their produce. They have formed a cooperative which organizes the marketing for them. The vegetables are nicely presented and of a relatively good quality. However, they do not last long mainly because farmers use very little pesticides, which are too expensive for them. We find all kinds of fruit and vegetables, including tomatoes, potatoes, courgettes peppers, fennel, aubergines, and even artichokes. The latter cannot be found everywhere as Ethiopians are not used to eating them. I only saw them outside the French Lycée, where a very entrepreneurial greengrocer, who knows that the French like them, is selling them. He doesn’t have a stall but wanders outside the school at pick-up time with his single bag of artichokes. Once sold, his business is done for the day! The ones I bought from him were very good.
Regarding restaurants, the choice is very wide. People in Addis like eating out, as it seems. We find many foreign restaurants such as French, Italian, Greek, Mexican, Indian or American, alongside more traditional Ethiopian ones. The meat in particular is excellent. So far, we’ve eaten meat only in restaurants, as I am bit reluctant to buy it in the street. I need to find out where the good butchers are. One thing at the time! Having said that, I have quickly become fussy about hygiene, especially when it comes to food. I now systematically wash fruit and veggies with a disinfectant, I don’t allow shoes inside the house and make every one in the family wash their hands several times a day. It is not for no reason. The other day, I bought a pack of six 2-litres water bottles, and when I opened the plastic wrapping around the bottles, I found mouse or rat droppings at the bottom. So I ended up disinfecting the bottles in disgust. There are water bottles we put on the table where we eat, so they have to be very clean. Walking in my street yesterday, I spotted a dog eating a rat; while in the middle of the road, I saw a plastic bag containing sheep intestines, a left over from the New Year party. The bag had burst and its content was left on the road for dogs to pick it up.
Local people seem just as careful about hygiene, and for that reason, I am confident about the cleanliness of restaurants. Of course, we do have our own selection, and tend to go to places which cater for an international crowd. After all, we are expats who have only just arrived here! We were advised to wait a bit before eating some of the traditional Ethiopian dishes, which use raw meat, as our system wouldn’t be able to digest it so soon. So, we usually have lunch in one of the foreign clubs, reminiscent of the many different Nationals who came to Addis in the 1930s and 1940s. Among them, are the Greek club, the Alliance française, now a French cultural centre and the Italian Juventus club, which looks straight out of the 1930s and is still a meeting place for the Italian community of Addis. They all have good restaurants with a very reasonable lunchtime menu. Those places are little oasis of green in the middle of the hustle and bustle, with spacious grounds and peaceful gardens, so it is rather pleasant to take a break there. The Alliance française in particular is quickly becoming my regular canteen. They organise live performances and art exhibitions and have a library, so it is a rather good place to hang out.