Bahir Zaf

For his last meal in Ethiopia before heading home, DonQui decides to try out Bahir Zaf. Run by the Tree Alliance  it is a training establishment for disadvantaged youngsters aimed at giving them the skills they need to succeed in the restaurant business. DonQui likes the idea — it is similar to the concept at the Old Boma hotel where he stayed in Tanzania a while back.

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Tucked away on a back street it takes the taxi driver some time to find the place and it does not appear to be in the most salubrious of surroundings. Once inside the gate, DonQui finds himself in a pleasant green oasis. The small restaurant has a few tables in the garden with others on a verandah overlooking it. As it is the rainy season, DonQui opts for the verandah.

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The atmosphere is laid back and casual and the clientele are mostly expats — many of them earnest looking NGOs of the non-carnivorous sort. Fortunately for them there is a wide selection of vegetarian options on offer — known as ‘fasting’ dishes in Ethiopia.

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The menu offers quite an eclectic choice. Despite the fact that it clearly identifies the food as ‘tapas’ some commentators on Trip Advisor have complained that the dishes are ‘ridiculously small’. Smaller dishes suit DonQui perfectly and so he orders two: the ‘fasting’ platter with anebabero injera, along with the lamb and red wine stew, a side of vegetable rice pilaf and a Habesha beer to wash it down.

Unlike the usual flatbread mentioned in DonQui’s previous blog, the anebabero is a sort of cake-like triple layered injera which comes in wedges. It has the same familiar slightly sour taste from the fermented teff flour.

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By his standards the dishes are pretty large for tapas — more like a descent sized regular courses. The food is good, the tastes interesting and DonQui does not feel bloated afterwards.

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He even has room for a desert — choosing apples poached in tej (Ethiopian honey wine) with home made ice cream. This is somewhat disappointing as the apples are a bit tasteless and the poaching juice rather watery with only of a hint of sweet wine.

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The ice cream was excellent, however, as was the coffee.

It may not be fine dining, but the food, the atmosphere and the super friendly staff, make Bahir Zaf a great place for a leisurely lunch. DonQui imagines it would be even better on a bright sunny day. Trust him for coming in the rainy season!

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DonQui enjoys himself so much that he does not see his human companion heading out to the taxi which will take them to the airport. Fortunately one of the friendly servers saves DonQui from being left behind!

The January Blues

January is generally regarded as the most depressing month of the year. DonQui, however, rarely has too much trouble with it, probably because he never bothers to set any New Year’s resolutions which might curtail his enjoyment of life. Indeed he is writing this now in a pub with a nice pint beside him after just having devoured a rather good beef burger and fries.

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Today’s papers brought the news of David Bowie’s death alongside the usual depressing stuff from the Middle East and the evil antics of religious nut-cases world wide. If this is not bad enough DonQui comes across an article describing a new movement designed by puritanical spoil-sports to ensure we expunge even more fun from our lives.

Alongside the ghastly proposition of dry January (staying off booze rather than stopping the rain)  comes the even worse idea of veganuary. This latest moralising fad proposes that we should become vegans for the month of January allegedly to improve our health and save a few cute cuddly animals.

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Now DonQui’s view of a proper vegetarian option is similar to that of a good French restaurant — choose fish or poultry as an alternative to meat. He has known a few vegetarians in his life and he may have seen a vegan or two passing along in the street looking gaunt, joyless and as if they were in need of a proper meal to give them a bit of colour. Hitler was a vegetarian while Churchill freely enjoyed many vices— meat, alcohol and tobacco amongst them.  DonQui is in no doubt of which  man he looks up to.

There have been days when DonQui has not eaten any meat but this was because a nice mushroom risotto might have taken his fancy rather than a conscious desire to avoid animal products on moral or health grounds.

If the puritans had their way, not only would we all be more miserable but the livestock would be too — or they might not  exist at all.

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The cute piglet in the veganuary advert would not go to market if the moralists gain the ascendancy. He would be killed and incinerated as the farmer could not afford to keep him alive just to decorate the countryside. This is what happens to hundreds of thousands of male calves each year in the UK since for some reason Brits are squeamish about eating veal and the animal rights brigade destroyed the export industry. With no market the male calves are simply destroyed and thrown away.

Although DonQui may be a simple creature he struggles to see how this could be considered a moral outcome or a good for our planet’s dwindling resources.

So as he consumes a second pint DonQui resolves to continue to drink alcohol, eat meat and generally to enjoy all that life has to offer.

The January blues be damned!