Yesterday was a holy day in Bali, and thusly I was mostly stranded at home. I don’t own my own motor bike yet, and no driver would come to pick me up on what is one of the most holy days of the year in Bali. Although, their most major holidays are actually twice a year. I don’t have any idea how anybody keeps track of the infinite religious rites that are required to be performed. The offerings at my house were even more elaborate today, and there were many chances to see the gamelan orchestras parading through the streets in all of their best holiday whites….
Stranded as I was, I decided to take a walk to explore my neighborhood. There is no sidewalk, so you have to walk in the road or in the ditch/creek (which I would not do, for some that is the water they wash their dishes and children in, and who am I to put my feet in it?). I wanted to check out the numerous warungs (street cafes) and mini markets selling strange food stuffs, fruits, clove cigarettes, baskets, batik, hindu statues, and other random goodies. As I passed the cafes spilling out with young men on holiday there were lots of yells (jeers?) of “Hello!” and “Wussup” followed by raging laughter. I have read a “hello” is another nickname for the “bule” (foreigners). However, it would be impossible to know if you were being made fun of because the Balinese are always laughing and joking anyways. The world may never know. What I do know, is that Bali is full of the gnarliest little feral dogs. Today several of them followed me a ways viciously barking and testing my faith. The warnings were true, they are all bark. Phew.
There has been a ton of interesting and great food so far. Staples in the Bali kitchen are fruits of all manner, fresh turmeric and ginger roots, tiny bright red shallots, tiny little garlic heads, key limes, spicy sambal chili sauce, and of course tons of rice (white, black, green, red, brown). Every single meal in Bali consists of 80-90-% rice (almost always white, except that the black rice is used in desserts). There are rice fields everywhere, and I will post the pictures of them when I can, they are quite beautiful for farms (althought I imagine they are akin to the repetition of our midwestern cornfields to the Balinese). Turmeric is really more heavily used here than I am used to, which is great, because it is such an amazing tonic for health and digestion and blood. Last night I drank fresh turmeric juice with wild Bali honey and lemon. The fresh coconut oil here is a revelation, and Borneo jungle honey is incredible. It is jet black and tastes deep, dark, and minty, like a good digestif liqeur. Tempeh is also in many of the meals, fried crispy in small pieces, often in a sweet sauce. They sell fresh tempeh at stores and markets, often wrapped only in banana leaf. It is very fresh and obviously trumps the American stuff (it is native to Indonesia). And forget about olive oil, it is either not found, or so cost prohibitive for a mediocre bottle that you could find a better local ingredient. This is a bit of a challenge for me, relying so heavily on fresh Mediterranean ingredients to make my menus in the past.
Hopefully I will soon have some food and market pictures. I am still waiting to really get into my kitchen as they are putting the finishing touches on it right now. So far I have met with the other chef and the cooks and worked on menu design and sourcing, which is going to be all new to me! The supermarket might as well be planet mars. That is all for now, more soon. N