We would like to introduce Alem, our House mother, Head of Housekeeping and Chef of PROJECT-E’s Hospitality Institute. She is part of the backbone of the operational staff and joined PROJECT-E from our partner organisation Selam Children Village after 25 years of service there. We are very happy to have her with us in the team and continually grateful for her ever cheery demeanour, she is a great role model for our students. We caught up with Alem to ask how she will be celebrating Fasika this month.
Fasika is the Ethiopian equivalent of Easter and marks the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It also celebrates the end of the 56-day fasting period and is considered as one of the most important festivals in Ethiopia. During this this time, Orthodox Christians abstain from meat, dairy and other animal products opting instead for vegetarian meals based on for example lentils. Because of the different calendar calculation in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Fasika is dated between one and two weeks after the Western Easter feast. This year, Fasika falls on Sunday, 1st May 2016 and is considered as a day of reunion for families and feasting. Good Friday kicks off the festive period as a day of preparation for breaking the fast. Worshippers attend religious services until at 03:00 on Sunday, families return home to break their fast. A number of festive dishes and drinks are closely associated with this calendar event as well as the ritual of slaughtering a chicken or lamb. Traditionally, the native fermented honey drink known as ‘Tej’ is drunk as well.
1. Alem, what do you like most about Fasika?
” I love the opportunity to host a large group of friends, neighbours and family. As most Ethiopians do not work on Fasika, it is a good opportunity to catch up with relatives and friends at home over the festive period. ”
2. What do you cook for Fasika at home?
” I prepare a traditional Ethiopian dish called Doro wat [chicken stew] as one of the main dishes. I also prepare Key Wat [Beef Stew], which involves the male of the household helping to slaughter the animal. Buying an animal for killing is quite expensive for one family so a few families come together to split the costs and share the meat. ”
3. How long does it take to prepare for Fasika?
” Normally, I start two weeks before Fasika by preparing Tella, a traditional Ethiopian beer that I make from barley. I make it at home and leave it to ferment before serving it to my guests after the festive meal is finished. ”
When Alem isn’t preparing for Fasika, she is busy in the Hospitality Institute cooking for all of the staff and students. Lunch time is not just a refuelling stop but an appreciation of Alem’s culinary mastery. Her cooking lures the staff out of their offices for a brief period to share each other’s company in the midday sun. Finally, it offers the students an opportunity to try out their newly acquired serving skills on the staff members while they enjoy their injera with a range of delicious sauces.