Encountering Ethiopian Ingera, the Utility Food

In early September, a delegation of diocesan leaders from across the United States visited Ethiopia and Tanzania to get a first-hand look at CRS work. The following is a reflection by Kathryn Buckley-Brawner,CRS diocesan director, Office of Peace & Justice, diocese of Springfield, MA.

While in Ethiopia, we had several encounters with ingera. Ingera is a very large pancake made from a native grain called teff (which, by the way, is glutten free).

Ingera has a slightly sour taste, a springy, spongy texture and is an acquired taste. Formed into a large pancake it covers the bottom of the platter on which portions of sautéed vegetables and spicy stew-like concoctions of meats and vegetables are placed.

Ethiopia ingera

Ethiopian bread, ingera with a sampling of spicy meat and vegetable stews. Photo by Kathryn Buckley-Brawner

Smaller pieces of the ingera are rolled up and placed around the platter. To eat, you break off a piece of the rolled ingera and use it to scoop up bite-size portions of the stews and vegetables and pop them into your mouth (ingera and all).

No forks, spoons and knives here – ingera is the food and the utensil. Caution: Please wash hands before eating and if you have very long fingernails (spoken from experience) be careful how you scoop or you may be picking your stew out of your nails!

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