Day 3: Seb is introduced to a Balinese cleaver. He likes it. He likes it a little too much.
The weather has been frantic, a constant humid heat that leaves you walking about wearing almost nothing at all. I don’t mind that at all, gives me a reason to wear a singlet without worrying about the douche stigma that gets attached. Yesterday it began to pour after our massage, and we walked and basked in the rain as it cooled our heated skin. This morning we were awoken by the same rain, but assaulting our roof and compound loudly. It sounded like a torrential snap of chaos, splashing our windows and doors. I instantly thought of all my clothing that’s left out to dry… But then just rolled over and continued to sleep deeply. I awoke two hours later and prepared to attack the day; where that weather went, I have no idea.
Fruit art consumption: check.
Bag full of cameras: check
Wallet with enough cigarette money for crooked cops: double check.
What we had in store for us today was a refreshing change, the grrrl and myself were told about a cooking class that is set in rural Ubud amongst the rice fields. This we couldn’t pass up, and we booked it. At 8:15 we were picked up by a friendly guy from our compound, mid 20’s thin Balinese, and taken to central Ubud to the markets… As part of the cooking class. There we then were introduced to a lovely woman of the same age, who then showed us around the insanity that is their markets (sorry about the vague descriptions of all the encounters, I’m terrible with names). She showed us the temple before the market itself; where offerings are given to gods either at the morning or afternoon (or both) of each day. In these offerings they have flowers, incense, food, occasional cigarettes and sometimes money. It’s meant to bring luck and cleanse those who sell goods, and even offer protection regardless. I guess I needed to know that to gain a better understanding of all the offerings at the floor of each shop, temple and icon.
The young woman dashed us around the markets, which was like an abandoned building that had colourful stalls of goods ranging from fruits to toys squatting within it all. I know that one of the tourists on the group was appalled by the state of it all, and said it was putrid. I disagreed with that and said dida to a woman selling me flowers. We were introduced to galangal, Salam leaves, various Terasi’s and various cooking implements. All the while whilst our guide was showing us all these stalls, she would gladly pose for photos along the way. One minute she’s smiling holding an offering to the gods, next she’s smiling holding up a cleaver the size of your face. After the tourist culture shock lesson of the markets (which I loved and honestly wanted to haggle over a kite if they had any) we then made our way to rural Ubud, to the rice fields.
Sustainability is a concept that modern cultures only really have engaged with ever since Al Gore gave a slide show, but the Balinese people have had this notion for generations already. The rice fields are a good example, they have forward thinking when it comes to the future food supplies. All of the rice field blocks are owned and run by a family, and they live and work next to other families and their rice fields. Each field has a shared irrigation lines, that are parallel to a larger water supply for other villages. They don’t fight over land, and thank the Dutch for the 1935 irrigation lesson, which kept the rice fields peaceful. They discovered that the rice plantations feed up to about 80% of the population of Bali, and as a result they passed laws and regulations regarding developmental growth within these areas. This is to further secure the future of their country in both a family nucleus and a prosperity measure.
We were taught this by Puspa, a chatty thin lovable Bali local, who’s the husband of Wayan; they both run Paon Bali Cooking Class (www.paon-bali.com). He taught us this in front of a flowing irrigation line pumped by spring water, standing next to lush rice frields. The scene was amazing, rice fields were flat and bursting with produce as far as the eye can see, tethered next to tropical forests overrun with much greenery. He invited us to his home and taught us the basics of a traditional Balinese home. I should say temple instead, as each house has a hierarchy and a certain cultural importance that needs to be followed. This place was colourful and beautiful, it was in a compound style with heaps of open space to basque in the sun, that plots well with manicured gardens and a fluttering coi pond. When you enter through their temple doors, to the east there is a guest celebratory area; where entertaining and religious ceremonies are conducted. To the north east is their religious temple. A place of worship to their gods that have given them so much. To the north there is a hut where the king and queen rest, and they are usually the oldest of the whole family. Whilst to the west is the quarters for the remainder of the family. At this family temple, they had only 4 people living there, whilst in other places they could have up to 50 people living in close quarters!
Puspa described to us all he could about the mindset of the Balinese, how they believe in peace, how they rather discuss instead of fighting and how a happy wife leads to a happy life. Everything rang true in my mind, and I felt that I had much to learn from all this. (Note: starting from tomorrow, I will stop beating Jess up. [I kid, I don’t beat her up. She beats me up. I then cry in the shower about it]).
We were then brought round to the back where the kitchen was. It was a perfectly crafted space with two dining areas, one woodfired kitchen and one gas kitchen (with many stoves to prepare on) overlooking a dense Bali jungle. This was where I was introduced to the Bali cleaver. It’s a sharp as fuck knife with a wooden handle that is oval in shape. It wasn’t too heavy, unlike the cheaper knives. The top of the knife is thick, as thick as 15 pages of paper stapled together whist the blade is sharp and incredibly thin. And with this knife we went and made such incredible meals like; Kuah Wong Sup Jamur (clear mushroom & vegetable soup), Jukut Urab (coconut and snake bean salad), Pepesan Be Pasih Pepes Ikan (steamed fish in banana leaves) just to name a few.
My fingers are intact but are dyed yellow from Turmeric. I’ve been given beer almost by mental thought from our driver (who plays a mean xylophone) and continue to laugh at antics that explode from a flaming kitchen.
Several interactions and Bintangs later, everyone was given a meal that is just beyond imagining. The tastes and smells are extraordinary, and the presentation just miraculous. I honestly didn’t want to leave as both Wayan and Puspa were so accommodating and friendly, that it felt like a home I’m willing to be adopted into.
Now, I’m just chilling out in a day bed digesting, whilst the grrl is asleep on a couch. This day draws to an end with not much more to be said and done. I can get used to that, I can definitely get used to it.
Terrima Kasi .
Day3: Seb’s scintillating affair with food. Music listened to: The XX, propagandhi and Gary Clark Jr. Sunscreen applied to rough sunburnt shoulders.