I was engulfed with reflections on what I have been through since Christmas. Nothing could come close to the spirit surrounding holidays here, as the feel of cuisine and praising the virtues of traditional foods in most family settings. It is as though nothing is unplanned to mark the day that commits to memory.

I usually have my afternoon coffee around the National Theatre hall lobby, boiled in a traditional pot, “Jebena”. Last week I heard my favourite local coffee shop had opened a branch at the heart of Senga Tera, on Ras Abebe Aregay St., coinciding with the route I used to take when I was in elementary and middle school. It was nostalgic walking on the same street I did as a kid, now turned into Addis Abeba’s “Wall Street”.

After a few strides, what started as a spicy day not even tampered with by that flat snack, as my lunch was light meal, had turned to get soured from the afternoon glare of one of the glassy skyscrapers.The egg sandwich I ordered was served as hot as it could be, yet not tasty or flavorful, with no whiff from the bread or the fried egg. Just flat. I thought a pinch of white pepper sprinkled over it could have made it taste much better.

I changed the direction of my walk immediately.

The coffee shop, decorated with the weekly papers, is the flavour I have been familiar with for decades. I also cheerfully accepted their offer of an extra bag for buying two packs of roasted coffee. Excited to enjoy the coffee, I decided to have a mid-afternoon snack as my lunch was a light meal. The egg sandwich I ordered was served as hot as it could be, yet not tasty or flavoured, with no whiff of the bread or the fried egg. Just flat.

I thought a pinch of white pepper sprinkled over it could have tasted much better.

It was then that the word spice struck my thoughts. From the tales of ancient times, how Arab traders used to spread precious Eastern spices in lakes guarded by winged animals. The other story of Cape of Good Hope, the stormy southern tip of South Africa, was reportedly named because it seemed to be on the way to India and all its riches. How and when the inexperienced explorer Vasco da Gama rounded it at the end of the 15th Century, reaching India and opening up a new trade route to the world that spawned a rich cargo of spices. He ended up with the Indian “fusion” of traditional Western cuisine with the aromatic and tasty flavours of the East.

Spices are applied as flavouring, medicinal, preservative, and colouring agents. Some of their extracts possess preservative and natural antioxidant properties, and others have antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral activities.

I then reminisce on the preparation of “Doro Wot”, which mainly hinges on poultry products and is highly common during holidays, from a highly structured recipe. The “stew” deserves a better observation as its refined taste demands knowledge of various spices and their application. Expensive, time taking in its preparation that is overwrought watchfully in a laborious hot and blistering ambience is a hallmark of what makes a stew. It is a highly sought-after flavour that is a reminiscence of the care, hard work, and perseverance that went into its preparation.

A pile of finely chopped onions, aromatics and tender slices of chicken, coated with Berbere of chilli peppers that came after a long way in the form of a powder with coriander, garlic, and ginger are among the flavour stipulations from its age-old recipe. A seasoned, clarified butter cuisine simmered with spices such as cumin, coriander, turmeric, and cardamom before straining. As it imparts this distinct, spicy aroma, the outcome is signified by crowning the stew with hard-boiled, preferably local eggs.

Served with Injera, the gourmet splendid, among other relatively less strenuous feasts, is shared among families, inspiring the long series of poems among the most beautiful and valued holiday songs.

Businesses and public service providers shall learn it is a holiday gourmet dished out to a loved one, addressing every complaint, if there is any, as the absence of the most plentiful spice may be missing – courtesy. It starts from an external look of a seemingly small compound, such as spice and applying knowledge-based service that results in customers’ satisfaction considering them as a family.

PUBLISHED ON Jan 21,2023 [ VOL 23 , NO 1186]

Tadesse Tsegaye (seetadnow@gmail.com), a polyglot with experience in multicultural-cum-institutional settings in resources management.

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