A starch paired with another starch is an already dubious inclination, but spaghetti laced with a berbere-fortified tomato sauce and served on injera is even more so. The two carbs, one splayed flat with the other piled in a nest on top, appear to be unnatural companions on a plate. Yet the occurrence of this pairing in Ethiopian restaurants and homes qualifies this as a dish worth considering. And that consideration leads to a conversation about colonialism.
Italy’s colonial interest in East Africa spread from present-day Eritrea, down the coast of the Red Sea to Somalia and inland to Ethiopia. From the late-19th century to the 1940s, these territories were seized, ruled or occupied. Italy’s monarchy, then its fascist regime, carried out massacres and the subjugation and segregation of people whose land they sought to make their own. If spaghetti appeared in this corner of the world before, this bloody period is one that guaranteed its stay.