'Eating the Fat' and 'Drinking the Sweet' on Sigd
The 29th day of Cheshvan (November 6th, this year), exactly 50 days after Yom Kippur, marks the Ethiopian Jewish holy day of Sigd, a celebration of the Ethiopian fall harvest and a day where Jews in Ethiopia historically reaffirmed their belief in the Torah and expressed their yearning to return to Israel. The holiday is marked by fasting for the first part of the day. After reading, “Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet,” from Nehemiah, Ethiopian Jews broke their fast with communal meals and misvaot, or blessed bread, Gil Marks explains in the “Encyclopedia of Jewish Food.”
The celebration, which was added to the official Israeli calendar in 2008, came with mass migration of Jews from Ethiopian, which began in the 1980s. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the completion of Operation Moses, which brought 8,000 Ethiopian to Israel in a massive airlift. Their prayer for return to Jerusalem having been fulfilled, the somber notes of the holiday have in part been melded with rejoicing.
Today, Ethiopian Jews in Israel make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to pray on Sigd and celebrate their return to Israel. There is dancing. And of course there is eating. Among the traditional Ethiopian Jewish dishes prepared for Sigd is a bread called Dabo (pronounced Dah-boh). Historically, it was made by wrapping the dough in the leaves of the Klabo Tree, covered coals and buried and cooked overnight. Today it is made in the oven. It is delicious with Ethiopian cheese.
2 teaspoons dry yeast
2 ½ cups lukewarm water
3 cups hard unbleached white flour
1 tablespoon salt
¼ tsp ground cardamom
½ teaspoon ground fenugreek
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon ground coriander
2-3 cups hard whole wheat flour
Olive oil for glazing (optional)
1) Dissolve yeast in the warm water
2) Stir in the white flour and mix well for 2 minutes
3) Mix in salt and spices
4) Stir in the whole wheat flour until you can no longer mix in any more
5) Remove dough from bowl and knead for 8-10 minutes
6) Put dough in oiled bowl, cover in plastic wrap and let rise until doubled approximately 2 hours
7) Gently punch down dough and let it rest for 10 minutes
8) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, if you have a pizza stone warm it in the oven
9) Separate the dough into two pieces
10) Pat each piece into a round flat disk
11) Let it rest for 30 minutes
12) Put in the oven for approximately 25 minutes, if you would like a darker color then you can remove the bread from the oven at the 20 minute mark and paint on a thin coat of olive oil
Ethiopian Cheese Spread
Adapted from “Olive Trees and Honey” by Gil Marks.
1 pound farmers cheese or labne (made from cow’s milk)
2 - 4 tablespoons plain yogurt (greek is best- lowfat is fine)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 - 3 teaspoons lemon zest
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients and stir to blend. The mixture should be moist but thick enough to maintain its shape.
Rabbi Ruth Abusch-Magder holds a doctorate with a specialty in Jewish food history. She is the rabbi-in-residence for Be’chol Lashon.