The first time we tried injera, Phil and I were unimpressed. We’d just arrived in Ethiopia, and the national dish was not winning us over. The vegetable curries on offer were yummy, but the large sour pancake -with the texture of a sponge- did not appeal. We topped up our plates with rice and chips instead… British food that we were used to. 😛 But mere days after that first encounter with injura, we found ourselves with no choice but to eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner!
Over the year we lived in Ethiopia, we went from complete disdain to complete love for their food. As we were based in the middle of nowhere (the nearest ‘big town’ with shops was a day away), all meals needed to be grown and produced in the vicinity of our village. Happily, the weekly market provided us with a small selection of seasonal vegetables, but we needed more calories… so learnt to make injura. As it was a laborious and tricky job, taking a few days to produce, we really appreciated every mouthful of that spongy bread. And after twelve months of eating injura for every meal, we grew to love it. In fact, Phil’s favourite dish was ‘fir-fir’… shredded spiced injera served atop more injera! On our return we missed the music and the people and the language… but we particularly missed the food. A google search revealed Ethiopian restaurants a couple of hours away, so we vowed to become regular visitors. We needed to fulfil our cravings!
But then I got ill. And we kind of forgot Ethiopia. Most of our treasures and souvenirs were boxed up and stored in the garage. The Amharic phrases we could speak and read were soon blanks. The thousands of photos we took waited to be turned in to albums. And our dream of eating an Ethiopian feast again was put on the back-burner. The nearest restaurants were in London or Birmingham- no longer easy visits for someone with limited energy. Yes we forgot Ethiopia and how much we loved our time there, instead we concentrated on surviving my illness.
But recently we’ve remembered it again. Some long forgotten boxes of treasures were rediscovered in the garage, having been in storage these past seven years. Exciting. A traditional drum, Amharic books, a beautiful Masinko (lute), a horse hair whip, fragrant frankincense, handmade knives, a horn cup. We spent a wonderful couple of hours unpacking and remembering and finding them new homes in our house. It reminded us of our love for that African country. We started reminiscing about our adventures, browsing our books on the area, rereading the blog we wrote when we lived there, searching for our little town on goggle maps. Then the other night we spent an hour enjoying our homemade recipe book, which detailed all of the traditional dishes we’d learnt to cook during that fabulous year. And we craved the food again. Desperately. We decided then and there to prioritise seeking out injera.
So a fortnight ago, we enjoyed a wonderful yummy meal at the Blue Nile Restaurant in Birmingham. I’d been quite unwell in the week prior, so it was an ideal weekend activity: exciting and memorable, yet only needing limited energy. In a dodgy part of town and a little run down on the outside, I initially felt a little intimidated as a vulnerable disabled person. However as soon as we entered, we felt at home. It was so familiar. The memorabilia on the walls, the music on the speakers, the shoulder dancing on the TV. And the menu -wow- so many familiar dishes! We were overly-excited and wanted to order far too much food… the waitress had to encourage us to cut back! We shared an enormous ‘Beyanetu’- a selection of small meat and vegetable curries served atop injera. My favourite meal when we ate out in Ethiopia. You eat it by ripping up the injera and dipping it in to the different curries… no cutlery allowed! It was fabulous. Seven years since we’d last eaten that spongy sour bread, we certainly hadn’t lost the taste for it. And the memories flowed and flowed.
However, although it was wonderful to reminisce about such a key time in our life, it felt a little sad to think that we’d probably never be able to return now. We’d always planned to revisit our little town in the middle of nowhere as retirees. But now, in the future I’ll have a very low immune system due to the transplant medicines (if I get my call)… so that is unlikely to ever happen. As always, we thanked our lucky stars that we’d been able to experience it, that we’d had such an amazing adventure. We thanked our lucky stars that, although I had un-diagnosed Pulmonary Hypertension during this time, I’d not been seriously ill when away and living so far from medical help. One of the silver linings of having taken eight years to get a diagnosis, is that I was able to experience Ethiopia, I was able to travel the world for a year afterwards. Neither of these would have happened if I’d been given the name of my illness earlier. I will forever be grateful that PH didn’t stop me having the best times of my life. 🙂
The next day the treat continued… takeaway ‘fir-fir’ for breakfast (Spiced injera on injera- it is way way more yummy than it sounds!). I’m a little concerned that instead of satisfying our craving for Ethiopian food, we have increased it! 😛 Luckily, I bought injura for our freezer, to tide us over until our next visit to the Blue Nile. And I’ve been re-reading our Ethiopian recipe book, planning which delicious dishes to cook alongside it!