Without intending, we had nutritious meals

by Bisrat Ghebreigziabher

When I was young, some vegetables and crops were the most affordable nutritopis food sources in Eritrea, and most of the people were able to have them as a main course. While some of the vegetables and crops could grow in our yard, we would get most of them at a market. For example, cabbage, corn, buttery green, and tomatoes could grow in our yard, while barley, potatoes, carrots, beans, onion, pumpkin, and lentils we would buy them from a market.

Vegetable stew with ingera was almost our daily meal (lunch and dinner). We ate it two times a day as meals--most of the time throughout the week. We put different kind of vegetable in the stew such as cabbage, carrot, potatoes, and green beans. However, our common meal was Eritrean buttery green stew. In the region where I grew up, buttery green was easy to grow in many neighborhood yards, and preparation is simple. We would boil a bunch of buttery green in salted water for about 30 to 45 minutes, and drain it. Separately we would cook onions, garlic, tomatoes and spices for about 5 minutes and add the cooked drained greens. Stir and serve with ingera.

We also had healthy breakfasts and snacks that promoted carbohydrate with an important part of a healthful diet. My mother used to make us kicha, which is a whole barley bread which is thin and baked on a big clay stove for about an hour. Once my mother baked kicha, it would last us for the next four or five days for every breakfast and snack. A cup of tea with slices of kicha was the most common breakfast. Sometimes my mother would toast some sliced kicha for 3-5 minutes on a charcoal stove as an alternative (if the bread is four or five days old). It taststed great!

Now, when I think about my childhood diet, I am amazed that with out intending, we had some very nutritious food in our diet. Neither my mother nor my father had a concept of nutritious food, but we had a healthy diet, and it was affordable and fresh. We had vegetable stew with ingera, which promotes vitamins and minerals, and we also had barley bread which is rich in soluble and insoluble fiber. Not because we knew it was beneficial to our health, but it was the only food sources we could afford.

[Editor's Note: All cultures develop food ways that, without knowing all the properties of the foods used, still promote health and provide essential nutrients. These foods become staples in the diet because generations of people stayed healthy eating such foods. Bisrat's story is excellent proof of this. ---Judy Learn]

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