Ethiopia is one of the ancient countries in the world. It boasts more than 3,000 years of magnificent history and civilization. The Nations, Nationalities and Peoples of the country have their own peculiar cultural practices, customs and values. There are unique traditional dishes in every ethnic group. The people of Tigray are among the nationalities that have distinctive food types.
Tihilo is noted as a favorite dish of many Tigreans. It is relished by all irrespective of age, sex and living standard. It is almost a staple diet in the eastern zone of Tigray. However, introduced to citizens in other parts of the country as well as to foreigners by people who migrated from the zone, Tihilo is becoming popular by other Ethiopians and foreigners as well.
Meaza Asgedom lives in Addis Ababa. She has a restaurant that serves Tihilo in a place commonly known as 22. She said that Tigreans, from all walks of life, adore eating Tihilo. Not only people from Tigray, other Ethiopians too cherish this traditional mouthwatering dish. According to her, Tihilo is carefully prepared by women from barley flour.
‘‘First a woman needs to pound a barley grain. Then she has to put the barley flour in a bowl and pours water into the bowl. She stirs the mixture until the water is equally dispersed. Next, she kneads or rolls the dough until it becomes stiffer,’’
Meaza explains ‘‘after finishing making Tihilo, she lays out the small balls around a wooden bowl. Then, she puts the balls on large plate known as Sefie. Then people will dip the Tihilo into a meat sauce made of yogurt, pepper (berbere) and meat (zigni). Each dinner has a two-pronged wooden fork locally known as shinitar. S/he picks the balls and the meat using the Shintar,’’ she noted.
Most of the time, Tihilo is eaten during public and religious festivities and wedding ceremonies. When it comes to beverage, local drinks Mies and Sewa are popular that everyone would eagerly drink them after eating Tihilo.
‘‘One can’t separate Mies from Tihilo. When one eats Tihilo, one will drink Mies. Mies is made of honey and other local ingredients like Gesho. As it could cause intoxication, it is advisable to take a limited amount,’’ Meaza said. She adds that sewa is another traditional drink that could be prepared from barley and gesho.
Kibrom Tesfay has made his thesis on the preparation and importance of Tihilo. He said that the traditional food is highly popular among people from all walks of life.
‘‘Tihilo is the most popular and delicious food in Agame district, eastern Tigray. Since it is organic, it does not create any health effects despite whatever amount one consumes. Though it is a common dish for many livelihoods in the area, in a special way, for guests, it could be served during Mesqel festivity,’’ he said.
Besides, many athletes prefer to eat barely foods. They believe that it lends them strength.
‘‘When I made a research, I had approached elderly people in the age range 90-103. I asked them the mystery behind their long age. They replied that they regularly eat Tihilo and barely related foods,’’ he insists. ‘‘Sportsmen dine on beso and Tihilo after training. It gives them strength and health.”
Celebrated athletes confirm that barely products have played huge role in their long distance international competition achievements.
Back to Kibrom, he insists that there is a difference in physical strength among those who eat injera made of teff and Tihilo. The former are stronger than the latter.
To sum up, Ethiopia is a mosaic of ethnic groups which have several cultures, languages and beliefs. Traditional dishes like Tihilo are among the unique dishes Ethiopia parades and that need promotion and continuity. They should be transferred to the next generation without distorting their traditional values and ingredients.
The Ethiopian Herald Sunday Edition 11 August 2019
BY TSEGAY HAGOS