Return to Transcripts main page
Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown
Ethiopia. Aired 10-11p ET.
Aired November 06, 2015 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANTHONY BOURDAIN, PARTS UNKNOWN SHOW HOST: Where is home? Most of us are born with the answer. Others have to sift through the pieces.
BOURDAIN: Admit it. You hear the name Ethiopia, and you think starving children with distended bellies. You think dust and famine and despair so awful you frankly don't want to even think about it anymore.
But take a look. Addis Ababa, capital city of Ethiopia. A cool high altitude urban center that will both confirm and confound expectations.
Fueled largely by direct foreign investment and a returning Ethiopian diaspora eager to be part of the new growth, things are changing in Addis. It's one of the fastest growing economies in the world.
It's not the first time the place has gone through a growth spurt. In the 1950's, Emperor Haile Selassie known as the king of kings embarked on a similar program of massive public works.
This was supposed to be the legacy of Ethiopia. The future.
But the next time Ethiopia found itself in the headlines it was for this. And for many of us, that was the end of the story.
So, I'm looking forward to this week.
MARCUS SAMUELSSON, ETHIOPIAN CHEF: I can't wait to show you Ethiopia.
BOURDAIN: I've been waiting for you. I mean, I will tell you right now.
SAMUELSSON: Couldn't have picked a better time because we have old Ethiopia right here and we also have new Ethiopia right here. And that's like that's combo is going to be so cool.
Marcus Samuelsson. Maybe you know him from such shows as a lot of them or his many restaurants, his bestselling memoir, his status as America's most recognizable black chef.
But Marcus isn't African-American. He's Swedish-American or Ethiopian- Swedish-American. Or, look, it's complicated. What is true to say is that Marcus Samuelsson like his wife, Maya, was born here in Ethiopia. So, when is the last time you were in Ethiopia?
SAMUELSSON: Four years ago, and you can tell it's changed. It changed a lot.
BOURDAIN: I'm interested in seeing an African country that was never colonized. It was never taken by Europe.
SAMUELSSON: No, that sense of pride, you really hit the nail on the head. I mean, that sense of pride is also the sense of that everyone wants to come back.
BOURDAIN: How does it feel coming back? Is it weird at all? You feel like you're coming home?
[22:04:58] SAMUELSSON: It is weird, but end of the day, I always love it. I miss it. One foot of me is, like, just Ethiopian, but then the other foot is just so Swedish or American at this point, right?
BOURDAIN: You do not speak the language here, or any of the dialects.
BOURDAIN: You've since come back, you've reconnected with family.
BOURDAIN: But it must be weird to, I mean...
SAMUELSSON: It is.
BOURDAIN: To -- you need a translator.
SAMUELSSON: No, but do you -- I need a translator. My wife is now my translator in life and in culture and so many things, but I think when you're a black man, when you're an immigrant, when you're Ethiopian, when you're Swedish, I've been put into so many situations that I put myself into. So, I'm actually very comfortable into being uncomfortable.
BOURDAIN: In the 1970's, Ethiopia was hit with a tuberculosis epidemic. Marcus, his older sister, Fenti, and his mom were all stricken with the disease. With no possibility of medical attention in their village, facing the almost inevitable death of both her children, Marcus' mom set out on foot with her daughter at her side and 2-year-old Marcus on her back walking 75 miles to the Swedish hospital in Addis.
Against all odds, they made it. Marcus and Fenti recovered. Their mother did not. Marcus and his sister were adopted by Ann Marie and Leonard Samuelsson. And raised from that point on in Sweden.
Ethiopia, its language, its food, its cultures was largely a mystery. Marcus traveled and trained apprenticing in some of the great kitchens of Europe. He moved to New York. At the remarkably young age of 23 received three stars from The New York Times at his groundbreaking restaurant, Aquavit.
It's been a pretty stellar rise since then. And in 2010, he opened Red Rooster in Harlem.
SAMUELSSON: I always find it so paradox that I was born into very little food, but yet, sort of, I made my whole life about food. My sort of structure and pragmatism comes from being raised in Sweden. And my sort of vibrancy and warmth to cooking and feel-based food that I love comes definitely from here.
BOURDAIN: Weirdly enough, the single aspect of Ethiopian culture most Westerners do know little about is Ethiopian food. So, maybe you've had this.
Oh, wow. That looks good. That -- that is exciting. What is it?
MAYA HAILE SAMUELSSON: This is typical, vegetarian, make it really nice.
BOURDAIN: At Katanga restaurant they do it classic. Injera bread. That's Ethiopian 101.
SAMUELSSON: I mean, when you think about Ethiopian food, right, the foundation is really the injera bread.
BOURDAIN: It's not just food, it's an implement.
BOURDAIN: We're having beyaynetu, a selection of stews or wots they called around here. That's goma, sauteed greens, shio wot, which is a chickpea stew. And tiko goma, sauteed white cabbage. Many, if not most of the dishes, spiced with the magical mysterious flavoring of the gods. Berbere.
M. SAMUELSSON: Can I -- can I give you one that no way...
BOURDAIN: Very good.
M. SAMUELSSON: ... no way to do it, this is gursha. You have to.
BOURDAIN: This stuffing of food in your fellow diners' face is called gursha, and that's what you do to show your affection and respect. Try this at the waffle house sometime and prepare for awkwardness. Now, you were born here?
M. SAMUELSSON: I was born here.
BOURDAIN: Left what age?
M. SAMUELSSON: Thirteen. I grew up in Holland. And after that we all went to London, Germany, and I'm in New York now, so.
BOURDAIN: I don't want to say it's a rootless existence, but it's -- you know, where's home? SAMUELSSON: I think for us now, Harlem is really home, but when I've
been gone for two years, I'm like, I got to go back because the beat it's so different than what Sweden can offer me and definitely what New York can offer me.
BOURDAIN: The median age in Ethiopia is under 18. That means most people here don't remember live aid or any of that.
Coupled with a recent economic boom, this might be the first generation in decades to enjoy a future with real hope. Things are, indeed, happening. In this case, at a vacant bus stop.
[22:10:09] SAMUELSSON: They're dog town, man, they're the next generation dog town in Africa.
BOURDAIN: A few years back, a couple of Ethiopians who had been living abroad returned to Addis with some skateboards.
Today, there are a couple hundred skateboarders in Ethiopia and more on the sidelines waiting for their chance, waiting for a board, waiting for a pair of sneakers.
It's part of that because it's like skater boy culture came from white Southern California suburban, you can pretty much track all the skater culture back to one parking lot.
BOURDAIN: So, what's coming out of this parking lot? There are no skateboard shops in Ethiopia. None. They have to come all of them from abroad.
SAMUELSSON: Woo! Nice.
BOURDAIN: Little kid's good.
SAMUELSSON: Little kid is amazing.
BOURDAIN: For those lucky enough to have them, progression seems to be fast.
SAMUELSSON: This gives me hope. Honestly. This can be a really cool town. Not just a great town with big buildings, you know, but a cool town, too.
BOURDAIN: For skater boys and television hosts, alike, the thing to do in late-night Addis is something called turbo and tibs.
SAMUELSSON: I feel like a college party or something like that. It's perfect.
BOURDAIN: Turbo is a mutant concoction consisting of gin, beer, wine, and Sprite.
What's the first rule of drinking? Don't mix.
Abenezer Temesgen, Addisu Hailemichael, and Buzeo Julien founded Ethiopia Skate. The grassroots skating community that grew up in the parking lots around Addis. Sean Stromsoe is a founding member who's been documenting the group.
All right, man. My first -- my first turbo. Cheers.
SAMUELSSON: Like apple juice.
BOURDAIN: You're right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sweet.
BOURDAIN: It is like apple juice. Shekla tibs are chunks of beef or lamb fried in oil and served in a charcoal heated clay pot called a shekla.
SAMUELSSON: I like the fat tray. I love that. They don't -- they don't hide the fat.
BOURDAIN: Every tibs house has their own version, but here, at Massey grocery it's served with a spicy dipping sauce called mitmita, and, of course, injera bread.
Yes, that's good. That works.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gursha.
BOURDAIN: Thank you. How did this skating community form? I mean, did people watch what other people were doing around the world?
ABENEZER TEMESGEN, SKATER: Some of them, they go to the internet cafe and they just see videos. That's how I started.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Back in the days, no internet for me. I had to do it, like, the hard way, man.
BOURDAIN: I would tell you right now if I were Ethiopian, or if I even lived here, I would open a skate shop tomorrow. So, what's the best thing about Ethiopia right now?
SAMUELSSON: I think back in the day people want to get out from this country, just leave. But now they're like, they just want to work and their mind has changed. And everybody's working together. And working for the better. We're doing this for the next generation. Because the next generation is going to take this.
BOURDAIN: Did we drink all that turbo?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know.
BOURDAIN: We're terrible people, man. I can go to hell.
[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BOURDAIN: So time to catch a buzz.
M. SAMUELSSON: You guys need to be me bodyguard.
BOURDAIN: No problem. This place is awesome. This is a charming Ethiopian institution called a Tejbet. They serve one thing and only one thing, tej. An alcoholic beverage made from fermented barley and honey.
It's not very alcoholic. All right. You have to pretty hammer back a lot of this stuff to get a buzz.
BOURDAIN: So, basically the people around here who got a load on it, they've been working on this for a long time.
SAMUELSSON: All day. This is a working class. This is where the workers go.
BOURDAIN: It's a cheap buzz.
SAMUELSSON: It's a cheap buzz. Cheers. You just knock it back.
BOURDAIN: All right.
SAMUELSSON: It tastes good. Do you feel the funk? Oh, it is, right.
BOURDAIN: Yes, it's working, man.
SAMUELSSON: I've never seen a woman in a bar like this.
BOURDAIN: This is sort of a guy thing?
M. SAMUELSSON: It's my first time. Guys after work, or the farmer.
BOURDAIN: We're breaking major rules here.
M. SAMUELSSON: And you have all like the saint pictures there you're drinking.
SAMUELSSON: And there is lot of Jesus in the bars.
BOURDAIN: It's the last thing I want to see in the bars, the disapproving gaze of a saint.
In 1992, Addis emerged from the stifling 17-year grip of a hard line, old school, Maoist regime called the derg. Since then, the town has been enjoying something of a musical renaissance.
But the story of Ethiopian music all the way back to the beginning has been about finding ways to skirt authority, to mock it even. To say what you want to say one way or the other.
The Azmari are Ethiopia's original freestyle rappers. They've been around for centuries voicing criticism, dissatisfaction, dissent, even when others could not. So how old?
SAMUELSSON: Maya, how old is Azmari Bay? I would say, what, 2,000 years?
M. SAMUELSSON: Just like the first music that we had, right?
BOURDAIN: The trick is they've always used a system of lyrical double meanings referred to as wax, meaning the apparent meaning, and gold, which is the underlying or real meaning. Poking fun at the audience is fundamental to the form.
[22:20:00] (MUSIC PLAYING)
SAMUELSSON: Maya, you got to help him out. Maya, go, go, go. Disadvantages of being adopted son. She can move and I was like. That's what where the speech chilling out.
BOURDAIN: The Azmari influenced Ethiopian popular music, too. The use of lyrical double meanings carried through into Selassie's time. They called it swinging Addis.
A golden time between 1955 and 1974. Before those fun-hating commies came and ruined everything.
Post-World War II, Ethiopia was in the delirious thrall of American big band and swing groups like Glen Miller and against the backdrop of a traditional and official obsession with military marching bands, who had the means and the will and the environment to make musical magic.
And this man, Mahmoud Ahmed, has always been at the forefront.
BOURDAIN: When you look to the West, were there American musicians who spoke to you?
BOURDAIN: Combining elements of jazz, swing, R&B and distinctive Ethiopian scales and time signatures and an always killer horn section, well, listen for yourself.
[22:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BOURDAIN: Shela market in Addis Ababa. It's where you come for what you need. What are we here to buy, by the way? What's the plan?
SAMUELSSON: I want to make doro wot, really the king of chicken dishes in Ethiopia. All right. So, we're going to head down here, get some good butter. Smell the fermentation? The funk.
BOURDAIN: The funk. Kibe, an Ethiopian butter in various stages of fermentation depending on what you like. It is a primary ingredient in much of the cooking.
M. SAMUELSSON: So, there is between one that's really fermented and another one is a medium, so she says we should use the medium one.
M. SAMUELSSON: For chicken soup. And you use all the spices. It is the most important thing.
BOURDAIN: People from Gurage, Maya's tribal area, run the market, so she knows the language and how to negotiate.
I can smell a frightened chicken...
BOURDAIN: ... a mile off. Here we go. How many do we need?
SAMUELSSON: I just think we need three is fine.
BOURDAIN: My ma didn't told me get something for dinner, in this case, chicken. Fresh, please. See you, wouldn't want to be. Oh, that's fresh.
SAMUELSSON: I just love all the sounds. Like, it's like chicken there, music there.
M. BOURDAIN: How did he get the skin off?
SAMUELSSON: Maya, he just, one move. He did it.
M. SAMUELSSON: We used to use like a hot boil water...
M. SAMUELSSON: ... after killing it.
BOURDAIN: Right, dip them in.
M. SAMUELSSON: That's how I grew up.
[22:30:00] BOURDAIN: Morocco has ras el hanout, India, garam masala, Ethiopia has this, the brightly colored berbere.
The color is amazing and those guys who grind the stuff are covered with it, breathe it, all day long.
(OFF-MIKE) BOURDAIN: Still warm. Wow. That's sort of magic, man.
Marcus left Ethiopia at age 2, so finding and reconnecting with his family has not been easy. Tracking down a mom who died in similar circumstances on the right dates following a thread to a dusty village in the Oromo region, where Marcus found the man he has come to accept as his biological father.
He also found Tigis, Salem, Sabini, Ashu, and Daniel presumably his siblings by another mother. Together, Marcus and his sisters make doro wot, a classic chicken stew.
Marcus SAMUELSSON, ETHIOPIAN CHEF: You talk about old scale and I used it. If you go back to New York can be the chef I have to be, I really need this. Welcome to Sigai family. Sigai family. So, we start with the injera bread, right?
BOURDAIN: Besides the doro wot we have cabbage, beets, and collards. Root vegetables finished with the livers and giblets of the chicken.
SAMUELSSON: Actually it looks spicier than it is.
BOURDAIN: But very good. Though a continuing bone of contention with his father, Marcus and Maya has sponsored the girls moving them all to the city and getting them into school.
In the countryside, these girls faced the likelihood of forced marriage, even abduction and very little chance of the kind of future they might have now.
So how'd that go over with the family when you said I'm going to try to help you?
SAMUELSSON: I mean, my dad was, like, absolutely not, we need them on the farm.
SAMUELSSON: It couldn't have been done without Maya, that really not only translate but also understands the culture. Because I felt also bad coming in as the, quote, unquote, "American, saying OK, everyone should move to the city." Have to be gradually two by two by two.
SAMUELSSON: So, when I had to pick which two, I picked the girls because otherwise she would have been out of school by second grade if she would have followed the tradition of the country.
BOURDAIN: Second grade. That's it. What after that?
SAMUELSSON: You stay or you work at home. It's been very enriching and loving, you know, for us, and we have a purpose. You know, we know what our goal is. Our goal is to get them through school. You're looking at a chemist in a couple of months.
Whatever new Ethiopia you see, they're it. Farmers coming in, and going to school, and now have options.
[22:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BOURDAIN: Addis is one thing, a city experiencing a renaissance of sorts, an economic boom. Outside of the city, the farther away one gets, one is reminded that, in fact, Ethiopia remains one of the poorest countries in the world.
Marcus and Maya come from two completely different tribes, two completely different regions of Ethiopia with distinct languages and cultures all their own.
Maya comes from the Gurage region, a more fertile, green agricultural area than Marcus'. It's about three hours out from the city, and it's beautiful.
Maya, it should be noted, left home at a much later age. There's no question of identity. She's African. She's Guragen. She retains close ties to her family and her village.
MAYA HEINA SAMUELSSON, MARCUS SAMUELSSON'S WIFE: Welcome to Gurage.
BOURDAIN: Thank you. She was here just last year. It's been four years since they've seen Marcus. Maya's mother, Besinesh (ph) and de facto grandmother Alh (ph) welcome us.
When visitors come, everything starts with coffee. Traditionally, it's served here with a bit of salt, not sugar.
SAMUELSSON: Thank you.
BOURDAIN: That's good. Maya's story differs from Marcus' in a lot of ways. It was not disease or famine or poverty that drove her and her brother, Petros, to Europe and a new life. It was the brutal reality of politics.
[22:40:07] So, who was your father?
M. SAMUELSSON: My dad was my hero and everyone's hero, I don't mean everyone, but my brother could explain a little bit more.
PETROS, MAYA'S BROTHER: He was a local chief, and also a member of the Supreme or the highest court, you can say. During the Haile Selassie period, he was engaged in more innovative and experimental and mechanized farm. When during the Communist...
PETROS: ... period, you know, something unexpected happened.
BOURDAIN: In 1974, Emperor Haile Selassie was deposed in the very unpleasant General Mengistu and a hardline communist regime called the Derg, took over the country.
As in mountains in China, all agricultural property was taken over by the state and broken up into small parcels. PETROS: Everything what my father had, the land, the property, is
confiscated, and those who had the authority, they had the chance to work together, to cooperate, or they were enemies.
Anyone deemed an enemy of the state, and this could be a very dangerously loose definition, but usually and typically included the educated, the well-off, and anyone associated with the former government were hunted down, shunned, jailed, harassed and often straight-out killed.
Maya's dad was all those things. An educated landowner and part of the rural tribal administration from the Selassie time. Most people who had the means left the country.
PETROS: I know this guy who is appointed, you know, governor of the region. He has 60 people in the region here in three years' time.
M. SAMUELSSON: Nobody knows where he's coming.
M. SAMUELSSON: So, he'd just knock on our door and my mom, she gets every time he comes, he leaves her bullets. He tells her, this bullet next time is yours if you don't bring your husband.
So, my dad always came to visit us in nighttime so he never been really home around during the daytime.
BOURDAIN: So for most of that time your father had to live in hiding?
M. SAMUELSSON: Yes.
PETROS: Yes. And we all survived by the grace of God. We are blessed for this.
[22:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BOURDAIN: Morning in Maya's village. Marcus is a runner. Every day, wherever he is, he runs a few miles. Me, not so much. But with my cardio shockingly improved of late, I figured I'd give it a try.
Maya and Marcus' return not to mention the invasion of a big foreign television crew is reason or maybe excuse for a big party. And preparations have already begun.
Maya slips seamlessly from her other life as a high fashion model back into a more traditional role in village life, working along with an army of other women to prepare what looks like a massive feast. How do they -- how do the ladies feel about you cooking?
SAMUELSSON: This is...
BOURDAIN: Causing serious problems?
SAMUELSSON: No, you already crossed it because you're the first foreigner ever in that kitchen.
BOURDAIN: A lamb, of course, must be slaughtered. Actually in this case, two lambs because here as in much of Ethiopia, Muslims and Christians live side by side. One lamb gets the Halal treatment. One for the Christians.
BOURDAIN: It's a peculiar history of peaceful co-existence here of which Ethiopians are quite proud. The Christians came here during the time of the apostles from the very beginnings of Christianity as a religion.
BOURDAIN: And the belief is that Muhammad after being persecuted and driven from Mecca by the Koresh fled to Ethiopia where he found refuge.
SAMUELSSON: Dog is happy.
BOURDAIN: Oh, yes.
SAMUELSSON: Nice and blood in his face.
BOURDAIN: Oh, yes. That's awesome. The production continues. Women in the kitchen, except for Marcus, who looks most comfortable there, though his presence is a befuddlement to the others. Men taking care of the meat. Oh, bro food traditions, you're everywhere.
SAMUELSSON: You know, none of the people who have cooked today consider themselves cooks. So, all of them like.
[22:49:57] BOURDAIN: So, like, in rural communities where you kill a bigger couple animals, right, everybody in the village has sort of like chosen specialty, like Bob over there he does the crack of this field and over there is -- does the Buddha.
BOURDAIN: So, you have somebody there who's like good at scraping the fur off. Somebody else -- but everybody's got a function. You know, it goes right back to the first fire. I mean, I'll bring -- I'll bring the dip. You know?
M. SAMUELSSON: Normally, hold it like this then you put everything you want in here.
BOURDAIN: Got it.
M. SAMUELSSON: So, you can take some and then we're going to take it around.
BOURDAIN: Perfect. Goman and ayib are greens, like collards, with a big hit of burbere and ayib cheese. I like the cheese. It's like Ricotta. Lamb kefta, prepared Gurage's style, laboriously diced. Amazing.
M. SAMUELSSON: This is all, like, inner.
BOURDAIN: Yes. I got some of that. That's good. That's delicious.
BOURDAIN: This, I love, without reservation. Barbecue. Now we're talking. Man, what a meal. Pretty impressive. Then, whiskey, and music. And the party really starts going.
SAMUELSSON: Thank you for coming to Ethiopia.
[22:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BOURDAIN: In 2004, at the prompting of his sister, Marcus began an exhaustive search for his lost family. Who was he, after all? Where exactly did he come from? Who in his family had survived, was left? Where were they? He was told that his father was still alive. Living here in Aberagodana Southeast of Addis.
For adoptees looking to return, to reconnect, the journey is complicated. For Marcus each trip has always raised more questions than it's answered. This trip is no different.
SAMUELSSON: Every time, that last five-minute drive, right. It just -- it just makes me nervous. It makes me really, really excited and nervous at the same time, right? But it's just, take the American hat off and take the Swedish hat off, it's just a different grid.
BOURDAIN: It's not 110th Street.
SAMUELSSON: It is not. I come from a dusty place.
BOURDAIN: You're not kidding.
SAMUELSSON: They changed it.
M. SAMUELSSON: They changed it. They make it big.
BOURDAIN: I leave Marcus alone with his father. This is between them.
SAMUELSSON: Yes. Aberagodana. I like it. I like Aberagodana.
M. SAMUELSSON: He wanted to see you. He wanted to see how you guys look alike.
SAMUELSSON: I wasn't ready for this. Yes.
M. SAMUELSSON: There is a link. They look alike.
SAMUELSSON: Yes. Proof. Proof.
M. SAMUELSSON: Good idea. He has a better foot than you do.
SAMUELSSON: He does. I wasn't ready for this.
BOURDAIN: So, how's it feel to be back? I got to tell you, to be honest, seemed conflicted.
SAMUELSSON: Yes, there's a thousand thoughts going through my head. I always feel a little guilty that I got out.
BOURDAIN: If you'd stayed, what do you think you'd be doing right now?
SAMUELSSON: I would have been a farmer or dealt with some type of cattle.
BOURDAIN: I'm pretty sure you would have been a shit farmer, Marcus.
SAMUELSSON: I wouldn't.
BOURDAIN: I just can't see it. OK. You'd be the best dressed god damn farmer, that's for sure. Where's home for you, man? Where do you think, I know looking back on it all.
SAMUELSSON: Yes, that's an eternal question for me. You know, I feel at home in New York. I feel very much at home when I'm in Africa, but I also feel out of place. And coming to this very place, Aberagodana, it gives me a lot of humility. But I can't say it's home. I can't say it's home.
BOURDAIN: Happiest moment in Africa?
SAMUELSSON: Happiest moment is I think when we had Maya's village, to me, the whole village comes together. Music, food. Culture brings everybody together. That eating together, being together, it's by far the happiest to me.