Bright Spot

Tucked into a busy little neighborhood in Awassa and down a wide dirt road, there is a little house with a great big kitchen.  I spend my Monday morning there with a few dozen women from all walks of life.  Over the last few months, I have taken on teaching cooking classes at Selam’s vocational training program for women.

It’s one of the highlights of my week.  These women are all different ages and from all over Ethiopia.  They’re in a scholarship program through Selam to learn how to cook and they do an incredible job.

Guests are welcome on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays for a delicious 5-course meal that the trainees prepare and serve. The crowd is a mix of expats and locals and both sets seem to enjoy the cuisine equally.

My dear friend, Roman, is the lead instructor there and she requested my help to teach dessert and bread baking classes.  Slowly my course load has evolved into appetizers, soups, and main dishes too, but I’m not complaining.  I love spending the day with these women as they laugh at my Amharic skills and I teach the basics of how to measure and whisk and sift and knead. I love the challenge of trying to come up with recipes that use only local ingredients and are doable without a lot of modern kitchen utensils that most of us are accustomed to.  So far everything we’ve tried has turned out…for the most part.  Next week we’re doing a whole Mexican meal.  It should be interesting! I say a little prayer as I convert all the recipes to metric. My Amharic and my math skills are certainly being stretched!

We start with devotions early in the morning and work solidly until noon.  Ben and Elaine usually join for lunch and critique our work. Elaine spends the morning at home with LemLem.  She’s in heaven when she gets to Selam- so many eager arms to hold her and friends to play with!

So that’s a bright spot in my week.  Getting to love these women and watch them grow. This program opens the door to countless job opportunities once they graduate from the progam.  It’s really a life changing opportunity for them, and I love watching them transform into confident chefs.

Tis the season

This past weekend, in the absence of all things Christmas, I decided to host a Ladies Christmas tea.

It was so much fun celebrating with people from all over the world…Ethiopia, India, America, Canada, Sweden…and I’m probably forgetting a few.  It was fun to hear how each culture celebrates this holiday.  We all feel especially far from home at this time of year.

Ben helped me whip up some Christmas goodies to share.  Not so easy to do out here in the middle of a sugar shortage.  But that’s a whole ‘nother story.

It was a special time with some special people.

While we were having our little tea party, Ben and Elaine were doing their own thing…which looked a lot like this:

She’s is definitely a daddy’s girl.  And his identical twin.  I’m finally starting to see what everyone has said since the day she was born.

This week the Hawassa gang also got together to make Christmas cookies.  We went over to our friend, Gitte’s home to make all kinds of Danish treats that I can’t even try to spell or pronounce.  (I was going to make up fancy names, but then I realized my Danish cousins, Erin and Niels, would totally call my bluff.)  They were little vanilla buttery ring things and gingersnap-esque things.  Know what I’m talking about Erin?  So delicious.

 And, if we weren’t getting a Christmas cookie overload already, I decided to make and decorate gingerbread men with some of the kids we know.  Their mom, one of my good friends, has been under the weather and stuck in bed for quite a few weeks and I thought the kids could use the distraction.  And let’s be honest, gingerbread men are just fun.  A big thanks to my friends Rachel and Charlotte for actually doing most of the work:)

And that’s a little bit of what the pre-Christmas activities have looked like around here.  Ben and I have been kind of down this season.  Just missing home I guess.  Kind of ready for it to be over with and for the new year to start.  How’s that for a very un-Christmasy attitude.

And on that note…Merry Christmas!  I hope it’s a cold, snowy, white one, surrounded by all the people you love…oh man that sounds nice.

Kitchen Fears

I love food.  Those who know me- even just a little bit- know that.  After my last post both my mom and sister commented about when we moved out of our house in Kenya and I was devastated when I came into the kitchen and saw that our fridge was gone (I was two, give me a break).  I was happiest when I had food in both hands and I would hum from my perch in the kitchen while food was being prepared.  Yes, there’s no denying it, I love and have always loved food.

pure joy

Even more than I like eating, I love cooking.  There are few recipes that I won’t at least attempt.  Thankfully I have a husband who shares my love affair.  (And yes, we’re scared our kids will be very, very large.)  There are only a few things that I shy away from.  First it was yeast.  But I conquered that fear after we were married and living in Charleston.  It was such a rush when I pulled out that first loaf of crusty italian bread.  I was hooked.  It had risen.  It had risen indeed.

Ok, so bread is really not that hard- it was all in my head, but dairy….dairy is a whole different ball game.  My “you live in Africa and make everything from scratch” cookbooks have whole chapters on making cheese, sour cream, yogurt, ricotta, cottage cheese and any other dairy product you can think of.  I skip those pages.  We add enough milk powder to our water to make it white for our cereal, but that’s where my dairy maiden-ness stops.  Unfortunately the little spaghetti squash inside of me (that’s how big Baby T is apparently) has me craving creamy greek yogurt and a cheese (ok, the cheese craving is probably a pre-existing condition).

So last night after we got back from Addis I pulled out the cookbooks and read every dairy chapter.  I started with cottage cheese.  I don’t know why, I think I just wanted to feel powerful.  It seemed impressive to me.  No one makes cottage cheese.  Well it turns out it’s pretty simple to make, and it turned out- I think.  Cottage cheese is not really an attractive thing to look at.  It’ll be good in something, lasagna maybe?  Then I moved on to make some greek yogurt with some yogurt I bought in Addis.  It was thick and creamy, but still tasted a little too cow-y  and didn’t quite hit the spot.  So this morning I tackled my first batch of homemade yogurt.  All the missionary ladies I know out here make it like it’s nothing.  It’s part of their weekly routine and it always turns out.  No big deal.  But to me it was a big deal.  I had flashbacks of making jam and the fear of killing Ben and all our house guests with botulism.  Well it would be worse with dairy, right?  Leaving milk in a warm place for hours just seemed wrong.  But that’s what you do, and apparently it works- or so they say.

So right now my yogurt is “yog-ing” in a ghetto-rigged diy yogurt-maker on the kitchen counter.  I’m a little nervous to open it up this afternoon and see what has happened.  I don’t do well with bad smells or clumpy dairy products.  Fingers crossed that it’s neither of the two.  We shall see.

**Update:  Success!  The yogurt is indeed thick and creamy and delicious.  I can’t believe I didn’t try this earlier.  Not so scary after all.

Sushi

If I had to pick one thing that I really miss out here and can’t get -it’s sushi.  Now there are a lot of things I miss, friends, family, being clean, gummy bears, to name a few- but most of them can be fixed temporarily with a skype call home or a care package- not sushi.  No, I suspect sushi doesn’t cross the atlantic in a checked bag well at all.

Living in a landlocked country with incredibly terrible electricity/ refrigeration makes the thought of buying seafood or ordering it at a restaurant less than inciting.  Ben and I had never made it before, but desperate times call for desperate measures.  We were feeling inspired after leaving Langano this weekend and rolled up a batch for dinner last night.

If I closed my eyes and tried really hard, it almost felt like we were back at our favorite little sushi joint in Chapel Hill…almost.  We may have to perfect the art, but for a minute we felt a little closer to home.

Keeping me company in the kitchen was this little mischievous couple…

Ellie managed to walk up the flight of stairs into the kitchen just to hang out (how she pulled herself up those stairs, I do not know)  That is only one of the many daring stunts she has performed, including climbing the fence and stampeding all our new flowers. Arg.  How does one discipline a 100+ year old turtle?

Is there such a thing as turtle sushi?

Pop-Tarts

What does one do on a quiet Monday night in Ethiopia, you ask? Well makes Pop-Tarts of course.

Ben came across a recipe for homemade Pop-Tarts and we decided to give it a whirl this evening. Let’s be honest, neither of us are Pop-Tart connoisseurs, but the thought of making those little over-processed, preservative packed, sugary pockets was enticing…like making a twinkie or an oreo. Those things don’t ever come out of an oven- they simply pop out of a plastic wrapper.
So we went to work (and it is hard work!) and ended up with incredibly delicious nutella, cherry, and cinnamon sugar Pop-Tarts.

In process

Success!

If you dare to, here is the recipe…or you could run to the grocery store pick up two boxes, eat one and send one to us:)


Bastille Day in Ethiopia

On July 14th we celebrated Bastille day with a crepe extravaganza courtesy of Mademoiselle Jennifer fresh out of a French study abroad program. Jennifer and Laura cooked up a delicious meal for us. They are becoming quite the talented chefs. We’re introducing Laura to a whole new world of food :)

Hard at work

Ben and Mac working hard as well

goobers