I’m a carnivore!

African sunset

Whenever my wife asked what I’d like for my first meal when we arrived back in Australia, my answer was invariably pork chops and ice cream. Not on the same plate, of course, but, in the early days,  we didn’t get either in Ethiopia. As far as ice cream was concerned, after some years, there was one place, as you turned right at Mojo (about 80 km) to go to Shashemane, where an Italian guy sold gelati from a caravan. Years later there was a spot on the right side of the road as you drove out of Addis, where you could get several different kinds of ice cream; now there are places all over Addis and it is also available in most major towns.

Pork chops were off the list because neither Orthodox Christians nor Muslims eat pork. You couldn’t even get bacon. Because of the growing Chinese influence there are now a few places in Addis where you can buy pork, but it is still not a common meat and to many an absolute ‘no-no’,

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You could buy beef which was hanging outside the butcher shops. The butchered halves hung there for all to see. The animals were killed early in the morning and it was good to get there early before there were too many flies. You could point to the piece of meat you wanted and they cut it off. You needed to cook it well, preferably in a pressure cooker. It seemed as if most animals were killed after a long life of pulling a plough!

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Chickens (doro) were bought live. They were highly prized as meat. They were in the local custom killed in, to me, a rather gruesome way by sawing through the neck. We, as you probably know, kill them by placing their necks in a convenient place and with a swift swing of an axe chop off their heads, before hanging them up to drain out their blood. Again by local custom the bird is cut into eleven pieces and made into a very spicy meal. The favoured person is usually handed a piece called, when translated, the horse-rider, the meat on the breast bone.

chickens to market

If you wanted sheep meat you went to the market and bought a sheep. You could never buy lamb or mutton or hogget at a shop. You took the sheep home and killed it and prepared the meat there. African sheep don’t look like ours in Australia. They look like goats, but whereas goats ears and tails go up, those on sheep hang down. Goat meat also can be bought on the hoof, in the same way.

Being brought up in the south of Australia, in our childhood and youth, when not eating rabbit, we ate sheep, usually labelled lamb. On the farm they were aged by their teeth, in the shop by the butcher’s choice.

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One weekend we decided we’d like some sheep meat. So the teenagers who were living with us  A house full of teenagers.  and I went to the local market on the Saturday afternoon and after a lot of haggling bought one. As a white person we financially suffered racism. Everything was a bit dearer for us. So I sent the boys out to suss out the best prices. I fooled myself if I thought this would work as I was well known in the town, as was the fact that the boys lived with us!  I personally had no intention of killing it. Ato (Mr) Kassa, our gardener could do that on Monday, I knew that he’d be happy to do that for a share in the meat as a gift.

roadside market
This is a roadside market in Addis. Ours was held once a week as a major event in a square a hectare or so in size and people came from all the neighbouring towns.

Here I ran into an unexpected hurdle. Sheep are not kept outside in countryside Ethiopia, they sleep in the house, I think for fear of thieves or hyenas. At any rate, in the evening we tied it up in the garden but it didn’t like that at all. It baa-baa-ed to the point of driving us near to insanity. We had to end up clearing a space in the inside laundry, and inviting him in. After that peace reigned until…..

Monday when he was dealt with by Kassa. He was a very tasty and the much enjoyed centre of a number of meals.

Interestingly, the intestine is a favoured piece of the kill and locals make it into nice spicy dish. Kassa and his family enjoyed it as part of his gift. On the whole I don’t like tripe.

Dominic Cartier

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