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Ethiopia’s Bizarre Love Affair with Raw Meat

In most places around the world, people are taught that eating raw meat is bad for them due to the high risk of contacting parasites and harmful bacteria, but in Ethiopia raw meat is a popular delicacy.

Walking through the streets of Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia, it’s not uncommon to see groups of people gathered around restaurant tables feasting on chunks of raw beef or goat meat. Although particularly popular on holidays or various celebrations, like weddings, a lot of people consume raw meat virtually every day. They will tell you that raw meat is a hearty meal that energizes them and refreshes their bodies, as for the risks associated with eating uncooked meat, which include exposure to tapeworms and dangerous bacteria like salmonella and E-coli, most just choose to ignore them.

Photo: Zichrini/Pixabay

“I do not buy that nonsense,” one raw meat lover told Vpro Metropolis correspondent Yidnek Lemma. “For the last 20 years I have been eating raw meat and I never got sick. My body loves it!”

“I think that is false information,” another raw meat enthusiast said about the dangers associated with eating uncooked meat. “Recently my grandmother died when she was 114-years-old and my mother when she was 92. They ate raw meat until the end of their days. ”

Dr. Mesafint Abebe, who runs a private clinic in Addis Ababa, told Turkish news agency Anadolu that most raw meat fans tend to overemphasize the nutritional benefits of meat, while ignoring or flat-out denying the risks associated with their eating habit. Many of the patients diagnosed with health issues caused by consuming uncooked meat usually return to his clinic complaining of the same ailments.

No one knows exactly how eating raw meat has come to be so popular in the African country, but the most widely-accepted explanation can be traced back to one of the many wars between the Christian Gurage and the Muslims, centuries ago. Gurage fighters hiding in the mountains would often get exposed by cooking their meat, as the smoke and smell of the meat would attract their enemies, who then slaughtered them in their sleep. Once they became aware of this, the Gurage started consuming the meat raw.

 

However, the wars have been over for a long time, yet Ethiopians continue to consume raw meat. It has become a sort of national dish consumed by all ethnic groups and followers of all faiths, leading some scholars to describe it as a “transcendental national dish”.

The most popular raw meat dishes served in Ethiopia are “tere siga”, literally “raw meat”, long strips of meat from which small bites are sliced with a knife and dipped in various sauces, like Mitmita – a powdered hot chili mixed with spices – or Awaze, a kind of chili paste, and “kifto”, finely chopped beef mixed with spiced Ethiopian butter and served with Awaze or fresh crumbled cheese.

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