Growing up in Addis, in a long ago time when injera was still made at home, the best part of injera day was at the end, when kids got to practice pouring the remaining batter in a swift controlled flow, starting from the outer edge of the mitad and spiralling to the center. That was the idea, anyway. But when the lid was lifted, the result (called engocha) was often amoeba-shaped, gaping with holes, thick as a pancake and mostly eyeless — reflective of a shaky, unpracticed child’s hand.
It’s been donkey years since I laid hands on a tassa of lit, but if the outcome of my actual pancakes is anything to go by, I’m sure the results would be much the same.
In fact, it’s been so long that I’ve recently been informed that I’m remembering it all wrong. Not only is engocha made at the beginning of injera day, it is also made by the practised hand of the cook. There’s nothing lumpy or misshapen about it, it’s just a perfectly decent piece of injera, made kid-size (so, maybe 6-inch?) as a treat for the kids. There you go. Knowledge gets dropped on the way from rural to urban, and then somehow it gets scooped up again and pieced back together on the way from urban to diaspora. Thank goodness for the elders.
Teff and injera are so much a part of the fabric of my background that, initially, I was totally freaked out by the opportunity to write a feature article for Selamta about teff and injera culture. I spent many a sleepless night envisioning all the ways I was going to totally engocha it up (this was when I thought engocha was deformed-but-edible injera) and bring shame on everyone involved.
In the end, though, I think it turned out good enough to serve. Warm and fluffy. So grab a glass of water and judge for yourself. My article begins on page 31 (below) or can be read on Selamta magazine’s website by visiting this link.
And if you have any fond memories of injera day, please share! (kategna anyone? anebabero ring a bell?)