In a town that didn't have a single Ethiopian restaurant eight years ago, one might feel like a champion of the cuisine for simply having eaten at both Abay and Tana. But Pitt journalism teacher (and frequent City Paper contributor) Harry Kloman estimates that he has eaten at nearly 40 Ethiopian restaurants nationwide since his first bite more than 10 years ago. And now he's written the book on the subject.
Mesob Across America: Ethiopian Food in the U.S.A. is more than just paeans to Kloman's favorite injera (the spongy bread that is the cuisine's staple) and t'ej (Ethiopian honey wine). In the 300-page tome, he explores Ethiopian (and especially Ethiopian-American) culture, explains the most popular dishes, relates the stories of restaurateurs and, at one point, discusses factorials vis a vis the possible combinations of dishes in a vegetarian platter.
Kloman's first experience with Ethiopian food was in Ann Arbor, Mich., in 2000. Soon after, he found himself chowing on injera in New York City, and his passion for the food took off from there. ("It's a 'passion,'" he insists. "An 'obsession' is dangerous.")
In 2007, he began laying out plans for the book, which he self-published last fall through iUniverse. He visited and called scores more restaurants than he was able to actually eat at. He says his book is the first he knows of devoted entirely to the cuisine.