Betty Shiferaw, TsehaiNY.com: Growing up in America with an Ethiopian cultural background can be intense at times in the sense of not understanding either the American ways of living or the Ethiopian. As a proud Ethiopian or Habesha, as we like to call ourselves, I must say we love to eat. Similar to the stereotypical Italian families, Habeshas find it rude not to offer or receive a well nourished meal.
Speaking from experience, I’m going to focus on my family. My family loves to eat, particularly red meat, and have a good time. Put any of us in a box and it’s a party. We know how to have a good time in the worst situations because thankfully, we all have the basic understanding that life is truly what you make of it. One thing that my family members don’t understand is how in the world I don’t eat red meat.
I’m blessed to say my grandparents, whom I owe everything to, raised me. I never knew how to speak English until learning the language in school. I couldn’t appreciate this any more than I do now because in the long run, this has been a major benefit in so many ways. Recently, I made my first trip back to Ethiopia and the timing was perfect. If I would’ve gone any younger, I wouldn’t have fully understood, nor grasped, many things as I do now.
As a child I used to follow my grandfather’s every step. To me there was and still is no one greater. Just being away from him to go to school would put a damper in my mood. I felt as though he was untouchable. Honestly I believed that neither King Kong nor Superman could even touch him. Now that I have your attention as the reader, let’s get to the main topic, which indeed does have to do with my grandfather but mainly about my decision not to eat red meat.
One day at the age of 7, I went on a little so called adventure with my grandfather and uncle. A childhood friend came along with us for the ride and as young as we were, we had no idea where we were going or what was going on. I later realized we were at a slaughter house for animals. Ethiopians take pleasure in preparing fresh cooked meals, nothing processed. In essence I’m sure it’s somewhat better for you but at age 7, it was a bit disturbing.
There was playground for children to play on which my companion and I were taking full advantage of when suddenly the urge to be adventurous kicked in. I told my buddy, Carlos, to come with me so we can look for my grandpa. I still don’t understand why I couldn’t just continue to be the good little girl I was pretending to be, playing in the jungle gym.
Moving on with this traumatizing experience, I must inform you that we were actually on a farm so you can only imagine how big the general area we were in was. To say the least I did find my grandpa, simply not at the right time. Of course I caught him in the act of brutally mutilating this poor creature just to have an unprocessed meal for the family. Okay maybe my choice of words is a bit harsh and a tad bit dramatic but given my age, I think the expressions I am using now are an understatement.
To make a long story short to this day I have not touched a piece of red meat. My visual experience, well over 10 years ago, has yet to be erased from my memory- leaving me still traumatized as an adult.
I’ve never tasted a steak although I am always told by many, if not all, “You don’t know what you’re missing out on!” My response has always been, “Well if I haven’t had it, I wouldn’t be missing out on much then, would I?”
As always leaving you in suspense,