As the holiday approaches, families are calculating the cost of making the worthiest of holiday dishes. For many, it is not a matter of mindlessly throwing all necessary ingredients into their shopping carts at their local supermarket. Instead, time and patience are required to balance quality and cost in different local markets, in search of making the tastiest and most economic of dishes. It is no less than an adventure, requiring deliberation and commitment, reports FASIKA TADESSE, FORTUNE STAFF WRITER.
This Easter shopping season saw 25-year-old identical twins, Selamawit and Samrawit Araya, differing in opinion over a rough leg of a rooster that they wanted to buy on the afternoon of Monday, April 14, 2014, at Shola Market.
Selamawit felt that the leg showed that the rooster was too old to cook easily, while Samrawit sided with the seller, Se’ada Zakkir, to successfully convince her otherwise, and the sisters bought the fowl for 120 Br.
The wisdom of their decision will be tested on Easter eve, when they see how much fuel it will take to cook the bird right. Pricewise, this holiday seems slightly better for shoppers.
Doro wot (chicken stew) is a must-eat dish on most holidays, and particularly on Easter. It is the first meal traditionally eaten immediately after the church service is over, which is any time after 3AM in the morning.
It could take as much as five kilos of onions, half a litre of oil and a good portion of butter, as well as garlic and other spices, to make one doro wot. Then there are the eggs, which must be at least enough for the number of people who will share the same dish. Couple this with the intensive washing of the dismembered parts of the chicken and the long hours of cooking that goes with it.
Shoppers started visiting the markets more than a week earlier. Most of them, Se’ada says, simply ask the prices and leave. Chicken prices were cheaper by up to 30 Br than they were during earlier holidays; and Merkato was 10 Br cheaper than Shola. But in Merkato, as in Shola, the traders were complaining of people just asking prices and showing little interest in purchasing.
Depending on size, chickens were selling for as little as 70 Br in Merkato and 80 Br in Shola, and as much as 120 Br and 130 Br, respectively, for larger ones. Christmas prices were as high as 150 Br to 160 Br.
Still, the last few days before the holiday could see prices going up.
“I remember buying a rooster of the same size as the one we just bought today for 145 Br for last year’s Easter,” Selamawit, who lives with her two brothers and her twin sister, recalls.
They continued going around inquiring about the prices of the other ingredients they would need for their stew.
The market has three varieties of onion. The most expensive, at about 25 Br a kilo, is the local variety, called yehabesha shinkurt. Yesudan shinkurt is significantly cheaper, but more expensive than the fat onion which holds a lot of water in it and is known as yeferenj shinkurt. You make your stew with yehabesha shinkurt, and your stew is more delicious and will not spoil very fast, say the women.
“I think it is better to check the price at Merkato tomorrow, and buy from there,” Samrawit advised her sister.
Merkato certainly was cheaper, as the asking price for yehabesha shinkurt was only 22 Br the same day they were at Shola. Atikilt Tera, in Piazza, was even cheaper at 20 Br a kilo, and just 13 Br for the yeferenj variety.
Last year’s Easter, which came in May, had yeferenj onion selling for just six Birr, only to jump to between nine and 14 Br for Christmas.
“Yehabesha shinkurt is said to give special flavor to doro wot, but the price is unaffordable,” grumbled Almaz Tadesse, who was at Atikilt Tera on the morning of Tuesday, April 15, 2014.
She bought four kilos of yeferenj shinkurt at the going price of 14 Br a kilo. She had immediately changed her mind when she learned the onion she wanted the most would cost her 20 Br a kilo. She would go to Merkato looking for chicken and butter.
With the smallest rooster at 80 Br and four kilos of yeferenj onion at a total of 56 Br, the cost to make their doro wot reaches 136 Br, with other ingredients yet to be added.
Merkato was also selling yehabesha and yeferenj eggs at a flat rate of 2.30 Br a piece. Shola charged 10 cents more for the yehabesha variety. Either way, prices have come down from 2.40 to 2.65 Br a year ago. If 10 eggs go into a stock pot, your stew could already be costing you about 160 Br – or 200 Br if you have bought a bigger chicken.
That stew could require half a litre of cooking oil, give or take some. Palm oil, with a price cap of 44 Br, was selling for as much as 48 Br a litre. Other varieties were selling for 75 Br, up from 65 Br a year ago.
Butter, like onion, comes in three grades. Fresh butter originating from Sheno, 78kms from Addis Abeba, in the North Shewa Zone of Oromia, was selling for 180 Br both at the Shola and Gojjam Berenda markets. The mekakelegna (medium) butter, which is not as fresh, was selling for 170 Br at both markets. The third grade, besal (ripe/stale) butter, was selling for 140 Br at Gojjam Berenda and 150 Br at Shola.
Garlic, too, was selling for 30 to 35 Br, depending on size.
When Selamawit and Samrawit left the Shola market they bought two kilos of butter for 360 Br and 10 eggs for 24 Br, in addition to the rooster they bought for 120 Br. However, the twins did not buy onions – they would go to Merkato to seek better prices.
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