After three days of meetings, all I wanted was a sumptuous lunch. The chefs had done their best to make the ambience as Ethiopian as possible. The room was filled with aromas of incense, while Ethiopian music played softly in the background.
An Ethiopian lady was serving coffee in the traditional manner of roasting and grinding coffee beans to make black coffee in a traditional pot that sits on a charcoal stove.
At the buffet table, Ethiopian cuisine was in full display. There was injera, a baked round flat bread made from teff flour, served with raw minced meat (kitfo), cooked minced meat and spiced grains.
“It is a special dish that we serve for our guests on order, try it,” said Chef Solomon when I asked him about the difference between the red and brown meat served in different large bowls.
The red meat was raw while the brown meat was cooked. Chef Solomon explained that some guests cannot eat the raw meat, so they always have some cooked meat served with the kitfo.
I could not bring myself to try it.
My Ethiopian colleagues enjoyed the delectable raw meat, a cuisine they said was only served on special occasions or for guests. They wrapped the meat in injera and ate, even as the coffee aroma got stronger.
But I wondered about the health impacts of eating raw meat.
“Most times people eat meat from well-known abattoirs that are frequently checked by the health ministry,” said Mekonnen Teshome, my acquaintance.
The idea of raw meat boggled my mind, but it turns out that Ethiopian fighting against colonialism had to eat raw meat so as not to give away their hideout to enemies. Then eating raw meat became a symbol of bravery by fighters while defending their territorial integrity.