After what seems an eternity, the folks at Bahir Zaf are waking up to wanting to write. Well, if you call these virtual literary doodles writing, then yes, the desire is there. The last few months have been testing as I came to realize that creativity is subject to certain non virtual conditions. Work, finance and other real life bullshit presses on thoughts that may be worth sharing. Chinket, (worry), accompanies dirket (dryness). Here’s to Bahir Zaf, an entity that just MUST be!
During a recent conversation with an older parent, I found out His Imperial Majesty did in fact acknowledge December 25 as ferenji Christmas. He would have cookies sent to the various schools in Addis Ababa on that day. I would love to hear this from others who remember those days.
The celebration of Orthodox Christmas is different of course, in the sense that people did not used to exchange gifts on that day but typically eat a variety of yummy dishes after a vegan fast. Yes, doro wot, kitfo, yebeg alicha, tire siga. Yummy. Not before attending service at the church.
Amharic is a great language methinks. Here is a word to remember: souk bederete. The direct translation of these words are “store on my chest” and refers to the people in Ethiopia who walk around trying to sell you chewing gum, fried dough or mobile cards more recently. A better way to think of it the souk bederete is as a mobile store.
Well, these days, there are phone apps that allow you to process payments for goods you may sell on the road…the more things change, the more they are just the same right?
One time, I met this person who asked why one would not name their child teff. It would make a great name wouldn’t it?
Teff. Aaaah teff.
This incredible little grain is big and powerful in nutrient content. It happens to also be a gluten free grain and has taken on a big role in gluten free cuisine in the new world. For this Ethiopian and countless other folks, teff is just home. On a recent visit to Ethiopia, a woman said to us that if she missed a day of eating her enjera, she would feel like something was wrong. We understood what she meant. We, in the diaspora, feel forlorn in our separation from it.
In the countryside, fields of teff move to the whims of the wind. The DNA knows those motions oh so well.
Teff, we love it.
What you will need:
• 3 cups raw pumpkin, peeled and cubed in small pieces
• 1 medium onion, chopped
• 3 tomatoes, pureed
• 1/4 cup olive oil or any oil of your choice.
• 1-2 tablespoons berbere
After cubing the pumpkin and chopping the onions, puree the onions.
Fry the onions well and add the berbere once they cook. Pour the tomato puree as you mix the onions and berbere together. Add the cubed pumpkin and let it cook at medium raw. In about 20 minutes or so, make sure to check the mixture isn’t sticking to the bottom of your pan. When ready, the pumpkin will be soft.
Get the enjera ready.
Have you engraved in your mind images of mothers, sisters and girls wearing that beautiful white dress with the colorful edges? This dignified wear, simple and clean looking outfit is usually hand women in a shemane’s home before it proceeds on to seamstresses and the like.
The weaver is called the shemane and many families in the past went to a particular shemane for clothing. Here is some information about the creation of textiles in Ethiopia:
Culturally, Ethiopians have it arranged so that weaving is carried out by men and men alone. Spinning the cotton is done by the ladies.
Looms are built by hand and are usually mobile. The Shemane takes it around when needed.
Ethiopian cotton is spun raw and is organic.
Sometimes, just sometimes, if you dig your nose into the fabric, you might just get a whiff of smoke, a “eucalyptusy” type scent.
Bahir Zaf is the Amharic word for the eucalyptus tree. A direct translation of the word in English would be “tree of the sea”. I often have wondered how it came to be. The Eucalyptus tree has a story similar to that of an immigrant. Ethiopians grew up around these trees whose origins are from Australia. Legend has it that Emperor Menelik, in the year 1895 or so, approved the tree for plantation due to the deforestation that was taking place around the hills of Addis Ababa. Many have argued against this decision and many have praised it. Either way, there are not too many Ethiopians alive today who have not known this tree.