Salambo discovering Ethiopia
Once the New Year celebrations are over, business seems to start again in Addis. New art shows and music concerts are advertised, language classes begin, and so on. Nothing strange really, as for most families anywhere in the world, the New Year really starts in September with the “rentrée” or start of the new school year. This New Year in Ethiopia had a different tone as the country had just lost its leader of 21 years as well as the Patriarch of the Orthodox church (within a week of each other). People celebrated but with reserve.
I was invited to my first New Year dinner with an Ethiopian family, where we were served the traditional Ethiopian meal, consisting of many meat and vegetable dishes as well as the staple injera bread. As I mentioned before, injera is a type of flat bread made of teff, a cereal which grows mainly in Ethiopia. The teff flower is made into a dough which is left to raise for a couple of days using yeast. Once ready, it is not baked like wheat bread, but cooked on a concave pan like a pancake. In Ethiopia, the custom is to use injera to eat the other dishes in replacement of cutlery. For a typical new year meal, we had dolo wat, a whole chicken cooked for hours in a hot spicy sauce, to which boiled eggs are added at the end. It is a symbol of a rich meal. We were also served kitfo, another national dish made of raw minced beef marinated with chilli pepper, as well as lamb tibs, or fried cubes of spicy lamb served in a hot ceramic pot. With that, we drank tej, the honey wine or mead, usually home-made from fermented honey. Any respectable family in Ethiopia will know how to make tej and will do so for any celebration. It would almost be an offense not serve it to guests. So as good guests, we drank the tej we were served and tried the different dishes on offer. They were very good, but by the end of the evening I forgot that I had a European digestive system which struggled to cope with all the fermentation process from the injera and tej. I ended up fasting the whole of the next day to give my stomach a well-needed respite. I suppose I had a typical Ethiopian week of feasting and fasting ( I may have mentioned in a previous post that Ethiopian orthodox christians fast two to three days a week during which they eat no animal product whatsoever). My fasting was for biological reasons rather than religious ones….and I am not ready to have an Ethiopian meal that soon. I’ll limit my interest in Ethiopian culture to art and music rather than food for the time being!
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