“I mean, it’s not as bad as the Balkans, but that’s not saying much.”
~AFFotD’s World Food Critic
We’ve talked a few times in the past about the culinary practices of other countries that we find to be, in a word, depressing as shit. Okay, we used three words there, but two of them are superfluous because we dream of someday being paid to write by the word. But the point stands—as great as America is at cramming delicious foods into our stomachs at alarming rates, or finding cheap ways to maintain our impressive obesity goals, there are maybe even dozens of other countries that exist outside of here. We know, it’s shocking. There might even be like, 30 other countries in the world for all we know. And not all of them come blessed with a local cuisine that is worth being Americanized and turned into an award winning fusion restaurant in the States. So for every Italy, we have an Armenia. And we decided to start a series where we’d occasionally take the time to look at one of these lesser known national food styles and list off the dishes that are so sad they make us feel like holding a puppy until the world starts to make sense again.
Speaking of puppies…oh, no, thank God, this country doesn’t come anywhere close to eating puppies. But they still have some food options that are extreme bummers. Come with us on a boat or whatever to…
The World’s Saddest Cuisines: Djibouti
Djibouti is a small Islamic African country with a giggle-able name (heh, booty) that is located in the horn of Africa. When we say it’s small, we mean it’s small, with less than 9,000 square miles housing a population of 810,000 people. The official languages are French and Arabic, though many speak Somali and Afar, considering that the country is surrounded by Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia. Since it’s on the spice trail, and has a history dabbling with being a part of French colonialism, their food traditions contain a mix of Arabic, Somali, and French influence.
Now, there are some specific aspects to Djibouti culinary practices that are a bit foreign to us. Canjeero, the spongey flatbread you’ll recognize if you’ve ever gone to an Ethiopian restaurant, is a staple, and meals generally center around meat and fish, with fruits as a common and popular snack. They don’t drink, because they’re an Islamic nation, which honestly is the first sign that their food is going to make us sad. You can’t even get drunk to enjoy any of it. Oh also, it’s apparently still very common in Djibouti for meat to be purchased living so it can be taken home, loved for a day, and recklessly slaughtered. With lamb being particularly popular. You know, baby sheep. For you to kill and butcher, all by yourself. That’ll teach Timmy to grow up real fucking fast.
Here’s the real warning sign about Djibouti, however. You’ll notice that they neighbor Ethiopia, one of the best countries in the world for food. Ethiopian food is wonderful- heavily spiced and rich. You’ll also notice that they neighbor Somalia, which you might remember for its supporting role in Captain Phillips. So given these two options, can you guess what nation’s food traditions Djibouti decided to borrow heavily from?
That’s right. They opted to make pirate food. Anyway, here’s what was killed for dinner in Djibouti.
This isn’t even depressing (though that is something that goes through our head when sweetbreads, the parts of the animal that we prefer to throw away, are viewed as an essential dish) so much as it is enraging. Apparently, beer is the Somali word for liver, which has to lead to some of the most enragingly mistranslated menus of all time. But no, actually, this is still the opening scene of Up in food form, because this Somalian-based dish is primarily served for breakfast. Just, soupy-looking sautéed beef or goat liver as the first thing you eat to start your day. We’re sure there’s plenty of protein, but…come on guys.
Cabri (Baby Goat Meat)
Cabri is baby goat meat, which often will be served as a main dish in a heavy stew. This would again be a good time to point out how home butchering is pretty commonplace.
Foul (Boiled White Beans)
This has it right in the fucking name. “Foul.” This is a dish that has low self-esteem, and does nothing to self-validate itself. It’s made by boiling beans with some tomato and onion, with some oil tossed in for fun. It’s just soupy, mushy beans that probably tastes, at the very least, “fine” but also strikes you as the kind of dish that, if you served it two days in a row, would lead to your children suddenly realizing, “Wait…we’re poor, aren’t we, dad?” So to recap, so far it appears that the daily meal routine in Djibouti starts off with some liver, and then closes out with either bean mush or, if you found an animal to fucking murder on the spot, baby goat stew. Okay, we know that there are a lot of other food options available there that we’re not talking about, but just let us paint this little depressing picture before you go on Wikipedia and look up all the normal stuff you can get in the country, okay? God. Stop being such a buzz kill in our article making fun of another nation’s food by arbitrarily picking depressing-sounding dishes.
Good Taste Water
Okay, so this entry probably doesn’t belong here, because potable drinking water is actually a very important thing and if a country’s infrastructure can’t effectively provide its population with clean water, that’s an important issue to tackle. But we’re not going to talk about the water supply situation in Djibouti. We’re just making fun of the fact we found a website, National DISH in the World, that included among their list of Djibouti cuisine, “Good taste water.” Adding “I drank lots kind of African tap water. Djibouiti’s one is the worst (tap water is salty, alkaline flavor, magnesium flavor…what can I say on it!?). A company provide good good water. It is very important to Djibouti.” We just wanted a reason to include that wonderful jumble of Google translate fail. Anyway, yeah, apparently the tap water is pretty shitty there.
This isn’t a food thing, but it’s probably the most depressing item on the list. After a Djibouti meal, it’s common practice to perfume the house using either frankincense or other plain old incense sticks. They burn the incense for about ten minutes to keep the house fragrant for hours. Which is just a polite “leave some matches by your toilet” way to let you know that their food is most likely going to smell so fucking awful that you have to mask the odor in order to minimize your shame. That’s a really bad sign, you guys. Yeesh.
So yeah, on the whole, Djiboutian cuisine isn’t that depressing, compared to other countries. But we still feel it’s our duty to point out a small nation that decides to home-butcher their meat along with chopped liver and mushy beans that, at the end of the day, require the house be fucking aerated like a real estate agent trying to get rid of the “a hoarder used to live here” smell of an apartment. But hey, at least they’re not Latvian.