Next Week in the Times: What’s the Deal with Naan?

Sort of a strangely innocent story in Sunday’s New York Times, where Danielle Pergament writes about dining in Ethiopia. The big revelation of the story is injera, the pancake/utensil that is the staff of life in the Horn of Africa, and totally familiar to anyone who’s ever set foot in an Eritrean or Ethiopian restaurant.

I remember trying injera for the first time in the mid-’90s at a great mom-and-pop Eritrean place in Wisconsin. I had it a bazillion times in Boston and New York, and even though I’m now living in relatively small-town Minneapolis, there’s still no shortage of the stuff.

But Pergament writes about injera as though it had descended from the sky in a silvery picnic basket wreathed by moon-lilies:

And at the heart of every Ethiopian meal is injera. Basically a pancake — or more accurately, a really, really big pancake — injera is made from tef, a sour-wheat-like grain that is mixed with cool water and a pinch of yeast. But unlike a pancake, it isn’t flipped over, so the topside remains spongy, the better to sop up the vegetables and meat in the saucelike wat (sometimes spelled wot or wett) that is ladled on top. In a country where utensils are scarce, injera is not only your dinner plate, it’s also your knife, fork, spoon and sometimes napkin.

This would be a little like traveling to Tijuana and writing:

And at the heart of every Mexican meal is a tortilla. Basically a pancake, tortillas are made from wheat or corn. But unlike a pancake, this form of bread isn’t spongy, isn’t covered in syrup, and isn’t made into McGriddles. In a country where utensils are scarce, tortillas are not only your dinner plate, they’re also your knife, fork, spoon, spork, lobster fork, ice cream spoon, and sometimes bib.

At any rate, two cheers for writing about African food. There’s always more room for that.

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