the amhara…

…(of ethiopia) have/had a weird relationship with food. [*insert famine joke here*]

the following passages are from “Socialization and social control in Ethiopia” written by a guy who spent a total of fourteen years in ethiopia starting in 1965 up to, i think, the 1990s. he’s talking here about traditional, countryside amhara. there have been changes (as a result of things like modernization, urbanization, war, famine, etc.) to a lot of this in modern times.

pgs. 40-1:

“Restraint is (or was in the not so distant past) as strictly enforced or enjoined with respect to food and drink as to premarital sex. As a warning example, people are reminded that Adam and Eve were ‘defeated’ by food when they ate of the forbidden fruit. As the devil tempted Christ to convert stones into bread, so he comes also today, tempting people to eat to excess (‘much’). Heavy eating and drinking is ‘sinful’. Children are taught that they should eat and drink in moderation, and not enjoy their food ‘too much’. Food ought not to be ‘too’ attractive or appetizing, because food builds up the body (‘the flesh’ – with its biblical connotation as the seat of sin and lust, etc.) but damages or destroys the soul. Love of food and drink is ‘bad’. Frugality is valued. However hungry they are, children are taught to leave some food on the plate — it is ill-mannered to eat all one’s food, either because the leftovers are fed to servants and other poor people, or — in some households — it is left (symbolically) for a protecting house-spirit called away.

“Those who keep all the fasts prescribed or recommended by the Ethiopian Orthodox church will fast most days of the year**; but even those who honour only the ‘compulsory’ fasts*** will observe quite a great number of fasting days each year. Fasting food can be healthy — most of the vegetables the Amhara eat they consume during fasting seasons — although it is (purposely) prepared rather unattractively during these times….**** The church recommends (but does not insist) that fasting should start at the age of seven.

“** Fasting consists of abstaining from animal products and sex, and to eat nothing till the afternoon. One is expected to combine this with more intensive praying and church attendance.
“*** Many non-religious people also observe these fasts as an expression of Ethiopian or Amhara ‘nationalism’. It is as much a cultural as a religious act or phenomenon to many people.
“**** There is for example no butter or animal fat/oil in the food, and no milk is used in bread, etc.”

is all this fasting and hyper-respect for food some reaction to centuries of famines? don’t eat too much ’cause you don’t want to waste too much food?

you’d think not eating enough/properly wouldn’t be too good for you — and the author thinks it hasn’t been good for the amhara:

pg. 57:

“The ‘delay’ of marriage and child-bearing is, ironically, coinciding with earlier maturing. Food has by the traditional Amhara not been highly regarded as a ‘good’ (however tasty their food is) — it has rather been seen as a necessity, and it has been widely considered as an inducement to worldliness and sin. Nutrition has (perhaps partly therefore) been poor (which does not mean that Amhara women are poor cooks — quite the contrary). In spite of much fertile land, food production is at a low level, and many eat too little or survive on an unhealthy diet (however tasty it may be). This may explain why Amhara rarely develop good body proportions and why ‘ageing’ sets in early. Poor diets have also had noticeably detrimental effects on the mental and intellectual development of many.”

here’s some more curious food-related behaviors:

pg. 93:

“When a boy or a man and a girl or a woman marry, they eat together and continue to do so throughout life. But the children do not eat with the parents till they are (nearly) ready for marriage, although in towns it is now becoming usual that the whole family eat together, and slowly this is becoming customary also in the countryside. The typical situation used, however, to be (and partly still is) that the children took turns to hold a burning torch or light for the parents to see by when they ate at night, while they (the children) kept their eyes on the wall: they were not allowed to watch their parents eating.** Otherwise, during daytime or when not holding a light for their parents, they were not present when adults were eating, although they could occasionally be called and fed mouthfuls from the hands of their parents or other adults. After the parents had eaten — and also taken the best and most nourishing parts of the food — the children would eat the leftovers after them (and servants or poor people would be given the leftovers after them). Some children normally ate (and some still eat) their food with the servants. Meals were usually taken in silence: it was counted as irreverent to talk (let alone chatter or ‘keep the conversation going’) during a meal.

“** In earlier times, rulers and high nobles would never be observed eating. Even at banquets they would be screened off from the common view while eating.”

pg. 95:

“At around 12 or 13 years of age, boys in the countryside wander about more widely than before, and they start to eat what they can find in nature: fruits, roots, tubers, plants of various kinds growing wild, and they may be so sated with this that they start skipping meals at home. They are ‘in the field’ in this way both for play and as shepherds.”

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damascus courtyard house

from a foreign policy photo essay:

“Above, Damascenes relax in this pristine example of an Ottoman courtyard-style home around the turn of the 20th century. Although it was likely built much later, the building’s architecture hearkens back to a more glorious medieval Islamic era. The black and white horizontal stripes on the far wall are typical of the 14th-century Mamluk period, and the rear mosaics inside the domed alcove are intended to mimic the Abbasid palatial style of the eighth and ninth centuries.

“In the modern era, courtyard homes are gradually disappearing from Damascus — a result of rapid population growth crowding out available land and declining economic prospects.”

previously: there’s no place like home

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most dangerous profession

anthropologist? graphic artist (see update below!):

PNG tribesman attacks New Zealander with arrows

“A tribesman in the remote jungles of Papua New Guinea shot and badly wounded a young New Zealander with arrows and also attacked his terrified French girlfriend, an aid group said Wednesday.

“The pair were bathing in a river in the Nomad area of Papua New Guinea’s Western Province when the young man, an anthropologist who was working in the area, went to retrieve his towel and was hit by the arrows.

“‘There was an arrow in his ribs and one in his stomach,’ Delene Evans, the general manager of Australian Doctors International, whose volunteer medics helped save the man, told AFP.

“‘The attacker also hit him on the head with a rock….’

“They were treated by Sydney couple doctor Josette Docherty and her medic partner Allan Mason, who donated a unit of his own blood to the deathly pale victim, who had lost 1.5 litres of blood.

“In her report on the incident, Docherty said the three-hour emergency surgery revealed that one of the arrows had pierced through the man’s stomach and stopped just short of the aorta….

“Papua New Guinea faces extreme development challenges and some tribes hold to the traditional way of life, including the use of bows, arrows and spears.”

update 07/01: oh, wow. so, it seems like the guy who got shot with the arrows was not an anthropologist (he’s a graphic artist) — the anthropologist is his girlfriend who is doing her ph.d. research in png. a report in the u.k.’s daily mail says one of the local guys took a fancy to the (french) ph.d. student, even wanting to marry her, and so he tried to rape her. when her kiwi boyfriend stepped in to rescue her, the png guy shot him twice with arrows.

what a story for the grandkids! (~_^)

(note: comments do not require an email. look out behind you!)

“a girl and her room”

via mefi, here’s a collection of photos of a bunch of flakey teenage girls (that’s redundant, i know) in their bedrooms. i dunno. you might enjoy looking at them (if you’re a guy), but wow — i don’t have ANYthing in common with ANY of them!

except for this girl. i found the one geek-girl for you. see what she’s reading? (~_^) (that she’s actually reading something sets her apart from all the other girls right there!)

see also @onestdv – Girls are Weird: Buying Stuff Edition

previously: pashtun guys dancing with swords

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the lady of andalusia

the dama de baza (google translation), fourth century b.c., likely a version of tanit | astarte, fertility goddess …

… and she’s still being worshipped in andalusia today …

“The principal characteristic of the local popular form of Catholicism is devotion to the Virgin Mary; Andalusia is sometimes known as la tierra de María Santísima (‘the land of Most Holy Mary’).” [wikipedia]

(~_^)

previously: lovesick in south dakota

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