As a former vegetarian, I can’t tell you how excited I am about not eating meat.
Or rather, I can tell you.
, there’s a whole culture that revolves around eating.
Holidays mean a lot of eating. A whole sheep is bought (depending on income, sometimes two with a maybe a goat thrown in there). Also on an everyday level, as part of being a good host (which Ethiopians are incredibly good at), food is piled and piled on your plate. Third helpings even. And if you refuse, they implore you with sad eyes and “please”. I’ve developed necessary tricks when visiting the boyfriend’s father to avoid being stuffed to the point of bursting. There’s a phrase “eneu bela” which is (I think) essentially “we eat” but is said as an invitation to eat. When it happens to me, I often feel uncomfortable. I was at the immigration office extending my visa and one of the employees was eating and he invited me to have some of his lunch. That’s just really odd by Canadian standards. I get the feeling it’s rude to refuse and it’s also rude not to invite people to eat your food (guilty as charged).
There’s also “gursha” which is essentially feeding someone a mouthful of food by hand. It’s supposed to be affectionate but again can make me uncomfortable. (oh us Canadians! we’re so uptight!)
Ethiopians are big on meat. Raw meat is savoured, which can testify to this fact. So for me, instituted fasting means I don’t have to eat meat, but more importantly, I don’t have to refuse meat offered to me in any of the above situations. Saying no to meat seemed offensive but now it’s a whole array of veggietables I can choose from and I don’t even have to stress that meat will be presented to me in any form. So yes, I’m excited. Just last weekend, we had lunch at the boyfriend’s father’s house. Because it was the last few days before fasting began, all there was to eat were meat dishes. The father in law offered a bowl of said meat. I could see vertebrae. I could see gleaming fat. Then I saw a jaw bone complete with the browning teeth. Face meat…that’s where I draw the line.