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February 5, 2014

A Fasting Feast

June 26, 2013

Religion has a very noticeable presence in Ethiopia. Every morning on the minibus as we pass through Meskel (a cross) square, most people mutter a few words and make the sign of the cross. Every Wednesday and Friday are religious fasting days, and there are also long periods of fasting throughout the year. We are currently in the middle of an 18-day religious fast.  Fasting to an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian means absolutely no animal products, including milk, eggs, and butter, and no foods containing these ingredients. Essentially, the whole city goes vegan!

Of course, living in a major city with many different religions and levels of religiousness, not everybody fasts. The cafeteria at my office and most restaurants offer both fasting and non-fasting options during these periods. Two of my co-workers are fasting and three are not. You also aren't supposed to eat until 3pm during a fast, but in the working world noon is acceptable.

The purpose of the fast is to make the body weak, so that you can pray for strength and forgiveness.

For me, it has been more of a feast than a fast - there are lots more lentils and veggies available during the fasting times! The night before the current fast began, I had a traditional Ethiopian feast at a restaurant called Yod Abyssinia. The cuisine is authentic and dinner includes a traditional dance show. I went with Michelle and another Addis newbie, and we shared a huge platter with both fasting and non-fasting items:
Fasting and non-fasting platter at Yod Abyssinia.

The birthday girl at Yod Abyssinia.

I can't tell what most things are and am pretty sure I accidentally ate some strange animal parts. Entertainment came in the form of live music from these harp-meets-guitars:

Some beautiful voices:

And dance performances native to the various regions of Ethiopia:

Here are videos of two traditional dances:

And then some audience members made their way onto the stage:

Traditional meals in Ethiopia end with fresh roasted coffee, baskets of popcorn, and burning incense. These three things are collectively called a "coffee ceremony."

It was a really fun experience and the entire evening cost less than $10.

On the other end of the food spectrum this week, I helped my housemate prepare a lasagna dinner party. She made the lasagna:

Housemate Lisa's lasagna.

While I made chocolate chip cookies and white chocolate chunk brownies.

The crowd told me they were the best baked goods they'd had since leaving the U.S. 5+ years ago, so they were definitely better than they appear!  :P

The host of the dinner party is a hotel owner in Addis and collects imported wine:

It was quite a change of pace from Yod Abyssinia, but also a great time!

This weekend I'm flying east to the city of Harar with a couple of friends from work. Looking forward to sharing the stories from my first trip out of the city!

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