CoffeeThe Coffee Ceremony is the traditional conclusion to Ethiopian hospitality. At the end of a meal, the host roasts coffee beans over a small charcoal fire that is surrounded by flowers, ferns and grasses that evoke nature. The aroma of the roasted beans is conspicuously inhaled and enjoyed by the guests, and then the beans are ground and brewed in a small terracotta coffee pot. The coffee is served in tiny cups with lots of sugar. If the guests consume three cups of coffee each, then special blessings are bestowed. Freshly popped popcorn is often served with the coffee. Visitors to HFCE are often treated to this ritual.
Ethiopia is historically renowned for famine, yet food is plentiful and delicious to those who can afford it.
Injera, sour pancake-type bread made with teff, an indigenous grain, forms the centrepiece of many Ethiopian meals. In fact, injera is much more than bread for the meal; it is also used as the tablecloth, crockery and cutlery. The injera is laid over the table (like a tablecloth), and portions of stew are piled on top of the bread in order to soak up the juices. Mouthfuls are torn off, used to scoop up the main dish, rolled into a cigar shape and eaten.
The national dish of Ethiopia is a spicy stew called wat. It can be made with beef, chicken, lamb or goat. During religious fasts wat is made with pulses such as chickpeas and lentils. Doro (chicken) wat is further enhanced with boiled eggs and niter kebbeh, a clarified butter mixed with spices. A milder stew served in Ethiopia is alecha. It is made with many of the same ingredients as wat but with green ginger. Other dishes that you can expect to find on the injera include lab, an acidic white curd cheese similar to Greek fetta flavoured with herbs, and kitfo, a version of steak tartare that is served as the dessert. Generally the meal is finished when not only all the stews are eaten, but when the tablecloth (the injera) has been finished too.
The sweetener in the Ethiopian diet is honey, collected by ancient beekeeping techniques. Honeycomb is wrapped in injera and served as a treat. Tej, a honey-based wine, may also be served at the beginning of the meal as an aperitif. Coffee, Ethiopia’s prime export, is served at the end of the meal, and is also sweetened with honey or sugar. HFCE children generally survive on a very basic diet that varies little. Meat and eggs are a delicacy that they may only experience 3-4 times per year.
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