Few people even knew Ethiopia existed until the early 1980s when a series of severe famines compounded by armed conflict and flawed government policies resulted in the loss of millions of lives. Live Aid, a 1985 fund-raising effort headed by Bob Geldof and one of the most widely-viewed television broadcasts in history, embedded into the developed world’s consciousness a distorted view of Ethiopia as a miserable, waterless land populated by victims of famine and wholly dependent upon international food aid.
Not so! Although the 1983-85 famine was one of the worst in modern Ethiopian history, it was an isolated event whose magnitude was compounded by socio- political conditions that no longer exist to any great degree. The reverberations of the famine in western popular culture, however, still overshadow the fact that much of modern Ethiopia is lush, fertile, and boasts a distinct cuisine that’s been unfairly overlooked. One of the highlights is Spris (sometimes written as “Sprice” and pronounced “spreece”), a nutritious multi-fruit smoothie packed with vitamins, anti-oxidants and essential fatty acids.
Spris is appealing on a number of levels: it’s nutritional, flavorful, and visually striking. The latter derives from the “construction” of the drink inside a large chilled glass or, even better, a massive frosty mug. The alcoholic kissin’ cousin to Spris is the Pousse Cafe, a notoriously difficult- to-make drink that’s the bane of bartenders everywhere. While a Pousse Cafe demands precise and careful coordination while pouring different-colored liqueurs over the back of a spoon, the thicker consistency of the fruit purees in a Spris imbues MUCH less anxiety in the preparer.