As I have already mentioned in an earlier post, the signs that can be seen in the Baskeet area along the roads are either written in Amharic or they are symbolic. In today’s post, I’d like to take a closer look at the symbolic signs that serve as advertisements for food and drinks. During my last fieldtrip when I was walking around for my recordings, I paid more attention to food and drink advertisements than I had done during previous stays in Baskeet. Here is an overview of the objects that are hung up next to the front door or, if the house is not easily seen from the road, on a pole close to the next road or path.
1. A plastic plate advertises a simple lunch, usually of injera with shuro sauce (i.e. a sauce made from pea flour and berbere). Alternatively, a large metal plate (Amharic tri) can be used – but unlike plastic plates, the large metal plates can be used for advertising any type of lunch (including meat dishes).
2. The plastic cup on the above picture advertises locally made dark beer, known in Baskeet as amari parsa (‘Amhara beer’). (1) It is served to guests in the type of plastic cup seen above or in large glasses.
3. If you see a filter turned upside down and put on a pole, then you know that locally made Baskeet beer (parsa) is available close-by. The filter symbolises that the final step in the beer production has been completed.
The thick, beige-coloured beer known in Baskeet as parsa (2) or, to distinguish it from other beer types, as Dookki parsa (‘Dookka beer’) is served in split calabashes:
4. A small tea glass, a glass bottle, or a small porcelain coffee cup on a pole announces self-distilled brandy, known as arak’i in Baskeet.(3) A porcelain coffee cup is also the vessel in which brandy is usually served.
5. A thermos flask announces tea. Tea is often served with self-made wholemeal bread (round and thick) or with a deep-fried ball-shaped pastry called k’ork’or in Amharic (4). If you wonder why people would hang a valuable thermos flask on a pole by the roadside, be assured that people use only broken flasks as advertisements. The “quality” of the Chinese flasks available in Ethiopia ensures that there is usually no shortage of broken flasks!
6. A piece of cloth hanging in the open front door announces mead (Baskeet: c’ajja) (5). The symbol refers to the filter process of the mead for which a piece of cloth or a mosquito net can be used.
7. Finally, enset leaves hung to a pole or next to the door advertise khat (Catha edulis), a plant whose leaves are chewed as a stimulant all over Ethiopia (and beyond), especially in towns. Enset leaves are used as packaging for the khat twigs.
With these symbols in mind you should be well prepared to find food and drinks in Baskeet!
I know that enset leaves are used as symbols for khat all over Ethiopia, but does anyone know whether the food and drink symbols seen in Baskeet are also commonly used elsewhere in Ethiopia?