The rainy season in Ethiopia known as "Kiremt" used to bring excitement to many of us growing up in Ethiopia. Primarily because schools were closed, it was time to rest and enjoy our time offs, but it was also a season for transformation. Before the New Year creeped up on us, this was the season where we ventured out to different regions in Ethiopia, or pockets of the city, visiting relatives or hanging out with friends and learning about life. For many children, this was an adventurous time, we played outside in the rain, and we chased and caught "ambetas", small seasonal locusts, who used to pay us a visit at this time. For adults, of course it was a hassle commuting to work with treacherous roads and constant rain. But despite it all, there was something in the air that made this season manageable. Maybe it was the anticipation for the New Year, the coming of age for many children, slightly matured from the previous year, ripened and getting ready for a new season. This anticipation is felt more with the Buhe celebration that occurs on August 19, 3 weeks before the New Year. Although, Buhe is a unique religious holiday celebrated by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, it's also honored and celebrated by many children across the country, mostly boys, singing "Hoya Hoye", going door to door to receive a special baked bread called "Mul-Mul". The Hoya-Hoye song is meant to praise the owner of the house and bless them with good wishes for the New Year to come. The children will then express their appreciation with different songs when they receive the special Mul-Mul Dabo especially baked for them. What makes this bread unique, besides its yummy taste, is the fact that it's individually sized for one person. Before the baking begins, the dough is wrapped in a thick green Koba leaf (a banana leaf, some households use Enset - the banana leaf alike) and is baked sandwiched between two Mitads (Clay gridles) with smoldering coals on top and bottom evenly baking the bread. As a result of this type of baking, this bread is moist and tender. It's also incredibly delicious with its distinct flavor, Tikur Azmud (Black Cumin seed) and Dimbilal (coriander seed) infused with the aroma of the Enset or Koba leaf.
On the eve of Buhe, the city's air is usually filled with a heavenly aroma of the fresh baked Mul-Muls and the smoke from the bone fires (Chibo) that were burning in every household. This is where families gather around the bone fire, singing and celebrating the rainy season while welcoming the New Year with great expectation.
Looking back, these were priceless moments, a time for refinement and change. Old habits washed away by the rain and a new emergence set to occur with a fresh season that started on New Year's Day. For that reason, it made the month of August and the Kiremt a very special season for many of us who grew up in Ethiopia.
Recipe for Mul-Mul Dabo*:
The dough is made from a whole grain wheat with barley flour, salt, water and ersho (wild yeast).
Some add Tikur Azmud (black cumin), Dimbilal (coriander seed) some households add oil. Mix all ingredients evenly and set the dough until it rises. Once leavened, wrap the dough top to bottom with the Koba or Enset leaf, fully covered, and topped with metal sheet. Bake in oven, 400 degrees for 40 to 60 minutes.
Sometimes there is no way of knowing if the bread is ready except by the smell of fresh baked bread and the crisp leaves.