You’re Gonna Eat That?!


This is the title of my newest book which currently resides at the designers for formatting, placing the photos in the correct place and position, making sure everything is just right.  The subtitle is:  Adventures with Food, Family, and Friends.  It includes family and travel stories, adventures, poems, and recipes. Here are a couple of food photos which will be in the book with recipes.

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Every Sunday until publication, I will post an update as to progress.  My goal is to have it available for purchase for Christmas presents for those who love food adventures.

 

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I Watched Movers Box Up a Life


Saturday, February 18, 2017

I watched movers box up a life today, a life I thought left me thirty some years ago.  I was wrong.

When our daughter and I cleaned out the refrigerator, we found a large pot filled with egusi stew, remnants of the last meal he cooked. I took the footlong, hand carved, wooden spoon, scraped the dry bits clinging to the sides of the silver pot.  Scrubbing it clean, smells of memory flooded my nostrils–cayenne, bitter leaves. It took me ten minutes, ten memory laden minutes.  Even after scrubbed and dried, the pot’s cayenne smell filled my nostrils, the distinct smell of West African food.

I watched movers box up a life today, a life I thought left me thirty some years ago.  I was wrong.

Our daughter and I found papers and photos, items her father kept all these years, detailed memories of our life together.  I could barely look at them, throat constricting, tears welling in the eyes of this woman who never cries.  Our daughter, dismayed, told me to go outside.  I walked down the quiet street, brown leaves scattered from autumn, unraked, a strange street both urban and rural inside a city of nearly half a million residents.  Is this where he walked, attempting to improve his health?  Was I walking in his footsteps?

I watched movers box up a life today, a life I thought left me thirty some years ago.  I was wrong.

Ethiopian Journey–Addis Ababa


We spent a couple of days in Addis staying with my friend’s sister who lives there.  Addis traffic is incredible.  In a city with millions of people I saw only one traffic light and it was not working.  Most intersections are giant traffic circles and getting through them is a rather daunting task.  On the way to my friend’s brother’s house one day, we sat stuck for nearly one half hour–we could not get through the circle.  Finally, the passenger in the car to the right of us jumped out and stopped the traffic so we and his driver could get through.

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Additionally, it rained often, streets and buildings were under construction, and mud and potholes showed up everywhere.  This is a nice traffic circle.

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A nice day with little traffic.

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They were building a new rail line across the city hoping people would use the train instead of driving.

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This is a typical residential street in a newer part of the city.  A gate with a guard can be found at each end of the street.

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In other parts of the city, houses have walls around them and you back your vehicle out into a street like this, then go to the main street.

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Walls around houses are not bare.  Lush tropical vines and flowers cover many of them.

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Many of the fancier, famous hotels, like the Hilton here, contain fountains and gardens. My friend and I could not resist a photo in front of the pool and fountains.

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After wandering around the Hilton we drove to see the grounds of another famous hotel where foreign diplomats often stay.  The plants in the foreground are papyrus.

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These extensive gardens take a while to walk around.  Many of the plants and trees are labelled.  From here we could see the Addis skyline.

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We stayed in Addis a couple of days.  Before we left on a ten day road trip, my friend’s sister took us to a traditional restaurant.  I expected it to be filled mostly with tourists–was I ever wrong.

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In addition to traditional food, this restaurant features traditional dancing.  Many locals came to compete, to try to out-dance the professional dancers.

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The lady on the left, one of the professional dancers, and the lady on the right having a little competition.  The lady on the left is dressed in traditional dress.

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In the background locals try to out-dance the professionals.

 

My Ethiopian Adventure: The Great Rift Valley and Awash National Park


My friend’s parents live in Nazret or Adama, depending on which Ethiopian language you speak.  Nazret is the Amharic name and Adama is Oromo.  After relaxing a couple of days there, we headed toward Awash National Park for a day trip.  What a contrast to the previous part of our journey.  Intense green and cold totally gone.  What we saw here probably fits more with what most Americans picture when they hear the word Ethiopia.

On the way out of town into the country, we passed fields of various crops including this sugar cane field.

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We also saw fields cultivated for sowing teff.  Since I had seen teff fields previously in the green, high mountain country, I came to the conclusion that teff successfully grows in a wide variety of climates and altitudes.

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This is volcano country.  Although most are extinct and have not erupted in hundreds to thousands of years, at least one in sight of the highway has erupted within recent history.

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Throughout the trip we saw small villages of traditional round houses with thatched roofs, most with rock walls around them.  These walls provide protection from predators such as hyenas.  And then suddenly we were there, a place I so wanted to see, the Great Rift Valley, the place where the oldest totally intact hominid skeleton was found, Lucy.

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The Great Rift Valley goes for thousands of miles from farther south in Kenya up through the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.  I was very surprised to discover they grow grapes here in Ethiopia and produce wine.  We decided to try it; the merlot was good.  A series of unique lakes lay in the valley.  I would like to go back and visit all of them.  Some are filled with so many chemicals, you cannot drink the water and no fish live there. An example is Metehara Lake.  The fish are delicious, but the water cannot be safely drunk.  The most amazing thing about this lake is that it grows approximately four inches annually.  In the last few years, the road had to be relocated because of it.

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First glimpse of the lake.  Then we had a flat tire which delayed the trip a few hours because not only did Dino and his dad have to change the tire, but we had to stop in the town of Metehara to buy a new spare which entailed bargaining and more bargaining.  Dino’s mom hiked down the road to get rocks to keep the vehicle from rolling.  If I had realized what she was doing, I would have done it myself.  She is in her 70s.

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A little adventure occurred here.  First, while they were working on the tire, a man came along and offered to help.  His truck (this is a major highway between Adama and Djibouti) had broken down nearby.  Then an Afar teenager came along and looked around, saying nothing.  I realized he had a dagger in the back of his clothes when he walked off.  Finally, an Afar man, maybe in his late 40s or 50s came along.  The Afar are a nomadic people who have lived in East Africa for thousands of years.  The men are noted for their ferocity.  Their lifestyle has changed little; instead of spears, they now carry assault rifles slung across a shoulder.  They herd cattle, goats, and camels.  He walked around the vehicle and came up to me.  Neither of us knowing the others’ language, the tiny conversation consisted of gestures.  Dino suddenly told me to get in the car.  At first I ignored him.  A couple of minutes passed; he loudly repeated the order.  I got in the car, wondering why.  When I asked, he told me one never knows what the Afar are going to do and pointed out just how close the man had stood.  I never noticed; I have no personal space.

Tire changed, we drove toward the town close to the lake.

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Crossing thèse lava beds would be difficult.  As we dropped lower, we drove on the new road by the lake.  You can see the old road crossing the middle of the photo below.  It is nearly covered with water.

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We missed the entrance to the park, realized we had gone too far, turned around, and headed back.  The entrance to the lodge is more like what most people think of when they think of Africa.

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This was one of my favorite places:  it was warm, almost hot.  I saw lesser kudus several times, but they seemed so ordinary to the others that no one stopped so I could take a photo. The lodge was delightful and the shiro some of the best I had.  Loved it.  I even asked for the recipe. The resident ostriches, however, looked rather pathetic.

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Here the Awash River is full of crocodiles.  Our first glimpse was through binoculars from the lodge restaurant.

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Dino’s mom posed with me while we waited for lunch.  Then we hiked down to the river and the falls where we saw even more crocodiles.

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The falls are so large that I could take a photo of only a portion of them at the top where the hike down begins.

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The green between the two sections of the falls was totally covered with water a few weeks later when Dino’s brother travelled there with his family.

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I loved walking along the river banks, careful, however, because of the crocodiles.  They may look slow, but they can really move rapidly when they choose to do so.

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Crocodiles like basking in the sun.

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Along the highway, camels graze, boys herd large flocks of goats, and a totally different species of acacia appear.

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If you look at the background of the photo below, you can see long lines of corrals–for camels to export to Yemen and other areas where camels are eaten.  If you live in Amarillo, Texas, and order in advance, you can eat camel at the Somali restaurant on Amarillo Boulevard.

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Unlike most of Ethiopia where we had previously travelled, here we saw fences especially around villages.  They bring the livestock in for protection from not only hyenas but also lions.  Yes, lions live here.  I asked if they ever see them.  I was told, “No, but you sometimes hear them roar at night.”  They also told me that the lions like to go down to the sugar cane factory, but no one knows why.

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When I want an Ethiopia “fix”, I listen a audio/video of Awash Falls.

 

Talapia with Beets, Red Peppers, Swiss Chard and Bebere


This recipe makes good sized portions for two people.

2 talapia filets

1/2 red onion, coarsely chopped

1 red bell pepper chopped into bite sized pieces

1 medium sized beet, thinly sliced

2 handfuls Swiss chard–if large pieces, take a knife and separate the middle spine from the leaf part

Chop the spines and add to the onion

Olive oil

Cover the bottom of a large skillet with olive oil.  Add the onions, chopped Swiss chard spines, and beets–I cut the beet slices in half.  Saute until the onions are somewhat caramelized and the beets almost tender.  Add the peppers and 1-2 tablespoons bebere or to taste.  When the peppers are half done, add the filets.  Sprinkle extra bebere over the filets.  When they are almost tender, add the Swiss chard and sauté until the Swiss chard wilts.  Serve over rice.

Note:  I grow my own Swiss chard in a large pot in the house.  This enables be to have my own supply.  However, the leaves are tiny compared to the large leaves in the market, making it unnecessary to cut the green leafy part away from the center spine.  Bebere is an Ethiopian spice which is slightly hot; it has a wonderful, unique flavor. You can use whatever spices you prefer.

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My Ethiopian Adventure–on the Road to Lalibela, Part One


Although the Sunny Side Hotel’s rooms in Kombolcha seem elemental to say the least, the food there is some of the best I had in Ethiopia.  One of the reasons for this may be their extensive gardens which not only hold flowers, but vegetables and fruit trees.

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That’s a papaya in the middle.

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Dinner consisted of fresh talapia–Lake Tana is full of talapia and is a common item on menus, perfectly grilled, julienned vegetables sautéed in sunflower oil and seasoned with a sprig of rosemary.  The next morning we headed for Lalibela.  The first larger city through which we drove is Dese.  As in most Ethiopian cities, new construction could be seen everywhere.  They do not use steel for scaffolding.  They use eucalyptus as in this building.

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We continually climbed switched back roads.  Usually, terraced fields lay as far as we could see on the mountainsides.

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Not too far from Dese, we came to the smaller town of Hayk.  Hayk is the Amharic word for lake.  The town is named after this nearby lake.

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Seven species of acacia grow in Ethiopia.  These, higher in the mountains, appear considerably more lush than those farther south in semi arid places. You cannot swim in this lake because, like many bodies of water in Africa, the schistosomiasis parasite lives here.  There is a cure, but not very pleasant.  Huge fig trees and acacias provide a setting like one sees in movies.

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This monastery resides on a small peninsula that juts out into the lake.  The sign says no women allowed.  Foreign male visitors may enter for a fee–locals free. Lush fields surround the lake.

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Yes, that is cactus on the right–not exactly a place I expected to see cactus.  On the road out of the lake, we saw this girl walking and asked to take her photo.  She is carrying dried dung.  Houses are first framed in eucalyptus and then plastered with a mixture of dung and mud or just mud.  Sometimes they are left the natural dark brown color.  Some home owners prefer to paint them bright colors.

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This is a typical house in most areas left unpainted with a metal roof.  Everywhere people worked the fields the “old” way with a beautiful result.

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We passed villages and towns of all sizes.

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And always children as well as adults drove animals along the road.

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Eighty languages are spoken in Ethiopia.  Some, like Amharic and Oromo, are spoken my millions, others by only a particular small tribe. Everywhere we went people knew Amharic, an Afro-Asian, Semitic language (like Arabic and Hebrew) which originates in the ancient language of Geez, a language now only used as the sacred language of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.  English is taught in elementary school, which is compulsory through the eighth grade.  Because of too many students and too few schools and teachers, especially in rural areas, school is half a day.  One group goes in the morning and another in the afternoon.