"At the emperor’s 1930 coronation, The Associated Press report began with the meal: “Thousands of dusky-faced Abyssinians, returning to their homes in the African brush, boasted of feasting on raw meat with their emperor, Ras Tafari, newly crowned as Emperor Haile Selassie I, Lord King of Kings of Ethiopia.”
In a large banquet pavilion, the guests – some of whom had traveled for days to be there – “ate chunk after chunk of dripping red meat. Unlimited quantities of native wine were furnished as an indispensable part of the festival.” This must surely have been t’ej.
A year later, to mark the anniversary of his coronation, the emperor threw another “banquet of raw meat” for 10,000 people, and many newspapers covered it, albeit in shorter form.
Haile Selassie’s 16-year-old son, Asfa Wosen, visited London in 1932, and a detailed United Press story revealed his dining habits: “For breakfast, the entire party showed a distinct prejudice for porridge. Usually they had three helpings all around and then started on the bacon and eggs, which the prince relished and which he insisted on eating with a spoon.
And here’s a curious true story: Mrs. Della Hanson of Hutchinson, Minn., was a missionary in Ethiopia when the Italians invaded, but she didn’t leave the country. The emperor returned in 1941, and three years later, a UPI story says, “the gray-haired, middle-aged” lady soon became the emperor’s housekeeper, introducing him to “yank cooking” – and he liked it.
Among his favorites: strawberry tarts and lemon pie. She also introduced him to planked steaks, apple pie, cold cuts, angel food cake, and even a little ice cream. Mrs. Hanson supervised the palace’s five cooks, “introducing them to such strange dishes as potato salad.” The emperor must have liked her work, for 10 years later, the August 1954 issue of Good Housekeeping magazine featured her with a story. She returned to America in 1955 and settled down with her husband, Herbert, to co-author For God and Emperor, a book about their lives in Ethiopia.
Traditional imperial Ethiopian dinner
“The materials of a grand banquet are simple: a good supply of cakes made of teff wheat or dagousha meal, an abundance of raw meat, and after the eating is over, t’ej ad libitum.” The story then describes the “death struggle” of the cattle as it’s slaughtered for a feast, followed by the ritual (called qurt) of taking a long strip of raw meat and using a knife to cut yourself chunks to swallow, unless “attentive servants cram [you] with large morsels as fast as, or faster than, [you] can swallow them.”