by Dereje Amera
Published on: Aug 15, 2005
Type: Opinions

The history of Ethiopia, known to many as Abyssinia, is rich, ancient, and still in part unknown. It is in the Afar region of Ethiopia where scientists discovered the remains of “Lucy” or Dinkenesh, meaning “thou art wonderful,” as she is known to the Ethiopians.

“Lucy” lived more than three million years ago, and her bones now rest in the Ethiopian National Museum. The country's rich history is woven with legends of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba; the Ark of the Covenant that is said to rest in Axum; the great Axumite kingdom and the birth of Christianity; the rise of Islam; and the story of King Lalibela, who is believed to have constructed eleven rock-hewn churches, still standing today and considered the eighth wonder of the world. Ethiopia is the only African nation that was not colonized by European colonial forces.

As one of the ancient independent nations of the planet, the country possessed unique heritages, with which centuries and generations are graced; its contribution to world civilization and advancement is gloriously praised by famous historians in the world. It is a nation blessed with beautiful people, who are courteous, hospitable and respectful. This unique capacity can be easily seen with the unique type of life style that the people have, whose nutrition and way of life is so peculiar. Amongst the specialty of Ethiopia, Teff is one of the best and widely loved grain, whose flour is used to bake injera—a very delicate and precious bread one can hardly find anywhere in the whole world, except in Ethiopia.

Food is a specified kind of nourishment, which defines the culture and social make up of any given society. It determines people’s value making system for the resources surrounding them, indicating clues regarding the effective and efficient managerial capability enshrined within them. One can tell from the type of food one eats, one’s mental capability and way of perceiving realities. The type of food we eat is a result of human consciousness, to which people agreed and decided to experience something that satisfies their desire and fulfills their expectations. What we eat affects what we think, and our brain function too.

From stuffing to cranberries to red wine to hot chocolate, and even that last sip of coffee, there are many traditional dishes that boost blood flow to your most oxygen-hungry organs. These foods can preserve and even enhance mood, memory and other mental functions. According to current research findings: the mere display of food — smelling and tasting favorite foods without actually eating them — causes increases in metabolism throughout the brain. Increases of metabolism in the right orbitofrontal cortex, a brain region that controls drive and pleasure, also correlate strongly with self-reports of desire for food and hunger.

Combining Injera with other Ethiopian spicy wots, and presenting them on a table, delivers such splendid feelings in the bone and nerve of human frame, which energizes and galvanizes one’s whole being, augmenting one’s appetite, and obliging any one to pray and ask God to live longer on the planet earth. In such a case, one may be forced not only to kiss, but also thank the earth for producing such a product to humanity.

It is believed that Ethiopia is considered the site of origin of Teff. Teff was domesticated in Ethiopia around 4000–1000 BC. Teff is a tiny, round, khaki-colored grain closely resembling millet. Its scientific name is Eragrostis, Teff. Teff is adapted to environments ranging from drought stress to water logged soil conditions. Maximum Teff production occurs at altitudes of 1800–2100 m, growing season rainfall of 450–550 mm, with a temperature range of 10–27°C. Teff is day length sensitive and flowers best during 12 hours of daylight.

It is believed that the Teff is named after an Amhraic word "Teffa" which means "lost" to show that it is something difficult to trace. Teff is used to make injera, a flat sour-like fermented pancake that is used with "wot," a stew made with spices, meats and pulses, such as lentils, beans and split peas, a short fermentation process allows the yeast to generate more vitamins.

It has three major types namely: white, red and brown [sergegna].

Teff is well known by Ethiopians for its superior nutritional quality. It contains 11% protein, 80% complex carbohydrate and 3% fat. It is an excellent source of essential amino acids, especially lysine, the amino acid that is most often deficient in grain foods. Teff contains more lysine than barley, millet, and wheat and slightly less than rice or oats. It is also an excellent source of fiber and iron, and has many times the amount of calcium, potassium and other essential minerals found in an equal amount of other grains.

Teff is very helpful in the prevention of Diabetes. Teff is the high fiber content of the grain. This is particularly important in dealing with diabetes and assisting with blood sugar control. A research conducted in Israel regarding the risk and prevalence of diabetes specifically among Ethiopian immigrants in Israel shows that the prevalence rates of diabetes in newly arrived immigrants and in immigrants who had been residing in Israel for 2.5 - 4 years.

The study showed that new immigrants form Ethiopia, in 1984-1985 and 1991, had diabetes prevalence rates as low as 0.4% and 0% respectively. The rate was found to be 8.9% among Ethiopians who had been residing in Israel for 2.5 - 4 years. It was only after being exposed to a Western diet and lifestyle that the diabetes rate in this population increased. We can infer from the Israeli study that when the traditional Ethiopian diet is replaced by Western foods, the rate of diabetes among the immigrant population will increase.

Teff has great mysteries to tell the world, and in fact, should other research works be conducted, I believe that it would be found to help prevent other bodilyy complications and problems. For those of us who are born to be with it, it is a special bestowal that we are privileged, and we invite others to join and partake the blessings we are already enjoying.

May all of us walk in beauty, harmony and serenity!

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