Marking time on food
In this time of social distancing, my friend Jo Bragg has set up a fundraiser and invited me to Create Gado Gado and Fight COVID 19.
Join us on Saturday 2nd May to create, decorate and digitally enter your own Indonesian Gado Gado, Crazy smoothie or other Indonesian favourite. Donate to Oxfam’s emergency appeal to enter and fight COVID 19. Why? To help protect our neighbours in Indonesia and elsewhere with needed hygiene equipment. Prizes will be given for best entries based on authenticity and creativity.
I have eaten many versions of gado gado, but the best of them was my first, in Bali in 1972. I remember it well. I don’t want to try to recreate that first experience—that would risk adulterating the memory.
I was staying in the village of Kuta, a short bémo ride south west from Denpasar. Foreign backpackers had started coming to Kuta and staying, as I did, in rooms added to some of the local family house compounds, or in one of the few small guest houses. You could eat excellent local food, and buy batik and ikat sarongs and other clothes necessary for visiting temples, and observe the people and the landscape. We backpackers brought money into the village, but our presence did not seem to disrupt the Balinese way of life—rice cultivation, fishing, animal raising, and the rich patterns of observance of temple obligations, all continued.
In 1991 I visited Kuta again (with my partner Margie this time) and found the place had changed. What I remembered from 1972 as a dirt foot path meandering through a grove of coconut trees had turned into a paved road clogged with buses and taxis and crowded with tacky bars and shops. I look at a google map of Kuta now, and I know I won’t be going back there…
Enough of that. Let me return to that gado gado of almost fifty years ago. I’ll need to bring in some Indonesian words to evoke the scene:
Warung—a kind of eating place, smaller and simpler than a restoran or rumah makan, and more than a roadside food cart. In my memory this particular warung had a wooden table with a couple of stools for diners to sit on, and space for the proprietor to prepare food, under the shade of a thatched roof. It was close to the beach, beside the road leading from the village to the seashore.
Wayan—a person’s name signifying that they are the first-born child in their family; also the name of the young woman in charge of the warung. Gado gado was the main item on her menu (or perhaps the only one, I don’t remember), and this is how she made it:
Sambal—the sauce. Wayan began by grinding fresh chillis (cabé rawit = bird pepper) and fried peanuts (kacang tanah) in a stone mortar that had the form of a flattish dish rather than the usual bowl shape. She mixed in some water to adjust the thickness of the sambal.
Lontong—pieces of cold cakes of compressed rice were the main ingredient of the dish by volume. These rice cakes had been made in advance, and were hanging under the thatched roof. Each cake was pillow-shaped, enclosed in a little basket of woven strips of coconut palm leaf. As Wayan made my gado gado her younger sister was making the next batch of these baskets, deftly twirling loops of leaf in one direction, then weaving another strip through them at right angles, then drawing the weave together to leave no gap a grain of rice could pass through, except for a small opening at one corner—uncooked rice was put through this opening, partly filling the container, then the package was pulled tight with a hanging loop protruding from the corner. When the packets were put into a pot of boiling water, the rice grains swelled into a solid mass within the palm leaf packet, ready for the next day’s gado gado.
Begging for tea cosies
The Queensland Maritime Museum Association emailed its members today, with this charming request:
We are requesting donations of spare Tea Cosies you have at home that are no longer wanted, for use in the member’s mess room at the museum. One of our last remaining Tea Cosies has recently disappeared. Sunday desk volunteer Cassandra Madden has, so far, kindly knitted two replacement ones. We are seeking donations to increase the number available for members to use, to allow for the apparent inevitable attrition over time. There is no need to dispose of stained cosies, if that is what is happening, they can simply be cleaned or washed. If you can help us out, then please let us know, or just bring along a spare Tea Cosy that you no longer use at home.»more»
Chelsea Physic Garden
Roger Dean, London photographer and partner of Penny, an old friend of my sister’s, compiled a list of places we should see while in London in September 2010. Chelsea Physic Garden was on the list, and Roger and Penny took us there for lavish cakes, tea, and a wander around.»more»
In Florence, home of wonderful hole-in-the-wall grocery shops.»more»
Licking the produce of the Oceanic gelati and coffee bar, Point Lookout, North Stradbroke Island.»more»
This is yet another website that consists of an ordered collection of related objects. Burners from discarded gas appliances are collected here, and sorted into piles: from stoves [subdivided into stovetop, broiler, hot plate], from heaters [space, hanger, hot water], and from commercial kitchen equipment. Lined up for inspection, these burners invite us to enjoy and compare their physiognomies.»more»
Another toaster museum
Here is another web collection of toasters to add to the one I pointed out last year.»more»
Whale on the menu
IKEDA, Osaka — Children at public elementary schools in Ikeda will be feed [sic] whale meat with their school lunches for the first time in 23 years, education officials said Saturday. [From the online Mainichi Daily News today.]
From other headlines I gather this is a newspaper with a specific range of interests. The twelve big stories today include a fatal knifing, a fatal car crash, torture of a schoolgirl, a captive teen sex slave, discovery of three skeletons, a child molesting cop, offensive actions by a business man towards a schoolgirl on an escalator, and (see above) whale meat.
The New Mexico Chile Pepper Institute can tell you all about growing and eating chilli peppers.»more»
The fine arts are five in number, namely: painting, sculpture, poetry, music, and architecture, the principal branch of the latter being pastry. [Antonin Carême (Marie-Antoine Carême) (1783-1833)].
Found among the pastry quotes on the Food Reference Website.
Zanzibar in Dublin
When I wondered yesterday what does a themed bar look like when it’s in Ireland?, I should have known the answer would be on the web: The theme is African/Middle Eastern and thankfully there’s not too much wood. Lots of marble effect, big paintings and drapes. A huge place with a very high ceiling, it can hold around 1,500 people. A most impressive pub. And as for the women…hey, hey, party on.»more»
Around here a lot of hotel bars are turning Irish. It seems you can pull in more drinkers by calling your bar Molly O'Somebody's Irish Pub and laying on draught Guinness and fake timber beams. This piece from Dublin makes me curious; what does a themed bar look like when it's in Ireland?:»more»
The mortar and pestle
Janet Fletcher has written in the San Francisco Chronicle praising the mortar. It’s a well written piece, with delightful photographs of a selection of mortars. According to SauteWednesday it won a 2002 James Beard Foundation journalism award:»more»
Recipe for boredom
See this piece by Laura Calder: Recipe for boredom: why must the modern cookbook be such a flavorless affair? She quotes from Elizabeth David, Sir Hugh Platt, George Augustus Sala and Hannah Wooley to show the literary delights of the recipe, now lost. Like Hannah Wooley’s recipe from The Compleat Gentlewoman, published in 1711:»more»
News to put you off your pudding
Last night’s closing dinner for the 20th century heritage conference was held at the newly opened National Wine Centre of Australia. This bold new building seemed a fitting venue.»more»
I enjoyed reading Dean Allen’s piece on how to eat porridge, which makes a case for porridge. I agree with him, except he didn’t do justice to stirring; to me porridge is better with some stirring by way of foreplay. It’s important for risotto too, for which I use a wooden spoon, but for porridge a spurtle is the right tool.»more»