Traditionally, this is a dish associated with celebrations, and specifically weddings, but what is crucial to draw attention to is the fact that it both features at a wedding and is what leads to one. In Ethiopian culture, this dish is often seen as a way for women to prove their “womanliness”. By indicating that they are able to cook this dish, a woman shows a potential partner and more specifically their family that they are marriageable. Alongside the emphasis placed on the ability to cook the traditional Ethiopian stew, there are still other elements of this process which are overtly gendered. As noted by Van Der Wolfe, the importance is in the detail. In this instance, it is the men who have to job of killing the chicken, before it is processed by the women of a community/ family. It is these differing roles, which I argue clearly highlight the patriarchal culture which undertones most of the region because of the power associated with the men’s role or killing the chicken.
The preparation of the dish is both easy but complicated simultaneously owing to the intricacies that center around the preparation. It is crucial to note here as stated in many recipes, that the dish takes up to a day to make. I argue that this accurately reflects gendered roles within the community owing to the restriction that such a preparation would place on women’s mobility outside of the home. Evidently, during special occasions their ability to interact in the more “public” sphere is severely restricted because their focus has to be on the cooking of this important dish. What the above clearly suggests is that this very popular dish formulates distinct relations with regards to identity and the politics of food as there is clearly a gendered aspect to who, how and why it is cooked due to its use as an offering to potential in-laws and the time that it takes to make.
In taking all of the above into account, there is clearly a major culture behind the production and eating of this dish, but what is also essential to note is the fact the ingredients are also surrounded by cultural and religious aspects. It is crucial to note, as highlighted by the CIA fact book that 43.5% of Ethiopians are Ethiopian Orthodox, and 33.9% are Muslim. What this suggests is that there will clearly be a culture of fasting within the country, and also feasting owing to the practices of these religions specifically Ramadan and Lent (with Ethiopian Orthodox being a branch of Christianity). As noted by Selesche et. al what this has meant is that meat is only consumed during certain days of the year so as to not “sin”. I argue that this religious practice does increase the ability for a family or community to continue a fairly equitable purchase of food throughout the year as this high cost Food is rarely purchased, which increases the ability to afford other foods. Ethiopia, is not a severely poor country with a GDP of $80.87 billion in 2017 thus I argue that the limited consumption of meat, while having the potential to increase food security is more reflective of strict orthodox practices this is because despite the reasonable GDP throughout the rest of the year the consumption of meat is severely restricted especially in orthodox regions of the country therefore the main ingredient shows that it is a dish of luxury and celebration.
Often when serving this dish for its very traditional purpose of proving one’s ability to make a good wife, it is served alongside coffee, or Buna. The coffee ceremony surrounding this is one also practiced by the woman of the family as noted by Seeman and holds great ritualistic significance within communities Evidently from this, this dish not only offers a good example of what one can expect to eat at celebrations but also reflecting the marriage culture and women’s roles within traditional communities in Ethiopia.
The Recipe I have provided is one of the more traditional in the sense of the preparation but there are of course other options now with very reduced preparation and cooking times.
- Juice of one lemon
- two teaspoons salt
- one chicken (about 3 pounds), cleaned and cut into serving-size pieces — some cooked remove skin and score or pierce the meat with a knife to facilitate marinating
- two (or more) onions, finely chopped
- four tablespoons niter kebbeh (or butter)
- four cloves garlic, finely chopped or minced
- one piece fresh ginger root — cleaned, scraped, and chopped (about a teaspoon)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground fenugreek
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon berberé — or — 1 – 2 tablespoons of a combination of cayenne pepper and paprika (if berberé and niter kebbeh are not used)
- 1 small tomato, chopped or a few tablespoons tomato paste or tomato sauce (optional)
- 1 cup chicken stock, water, or dry red wine
- hard-boiled eggs (1 per person), pierced with a toothpick or the tine of a long fork.
- In a glass bowl, combine the lemon juice (some cooks use lime juice), half the salt, and chicken pieces. Let chicken marinate for 30 minutes to an hour.
- Cook the onions over medium heat for a few minutes in a dry (no oil) pot large enough to eventually hold all of the ingredients. Stir constantly to prevent them from browning or burning; reduce heat or remove the pot from the heat if necessary. (Some cooks add the niter kebbeh at the start, but dry-cooking the onions for a few minutes gives the dish a distinctive flavor).
- Add the niter kebbeh or butter to the onions, along with the garlic, ginger, fenugreek, cardamom, nutmeg, remaining salt, berberé (or cayenne pepper and paprika), and tomato. Stir and simmer for a few minutes. The onions should be soft, tender, and translucent, but not browned.
- Add the chicken stock, water, or dry red wine. Bring the mixture to a low boil while stirring gently. Cook for a few minutes, then reduce heat.
- Add the chicken pieces, making sure to cover them with the sauce. Cover and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes — or until the chicken is done — turning the chicken a few times.
- After the chicken has been cooking for 20 minutes, gently add the hard-boiled eggs and ladle sauce over them.
- Serve hot. The only traditional way to serve Doro wat is with a spongy flat bread called injera