After a jam packed day of constant culture shock we finally made our way to the kitchen for the Balinese traditional cooking class from Tinggly! Get yourself ready to have a mouth on fire! Brings me back to ATL's Varsity shouts of, "Whad'ya have!?!" Three, four, five or six chilies?
We arrived in the outdoor kitchen exhausted from all of the learning and drenched with sweat from our trek up the rice terraces in the day's humidity. Our stomachs were ready too, as Made had been teasing us throughout the entire morning by picking ingredients along the way and letting us smell the delicious aromas. We were excited to get our cooking on!
As we walked up to the kitchen, Made's nephew was fishing in the family's pond!
We heard a "Woop, woop!" He caught a fish! We were all yelling with excitement. Made turned to us, "Do you want it fried or grilled?" I was confused, "Oh, no! He caught it! He should have it!" Again, completely different cultures. I was thinking he did all the work, the fish was his prize. Made brought me back to her culture of community. "No, it's for everyone! We'll all have it!"
The menu for the class was soup, coconut salad, corn fritters, pork steamed in banana leaves, chicken on lemon grass skewers, banana fritters, sweet potato rice and now a side of fish!
Amazingly, all of the ingredients were pulled from the family's garden and compound, except the salt, pepper and coriander. Incredible!
Made explained that we must know the two most important aspects to Balinese cooking. One, you must have fresh ingredients. Two, you, "Chop, chop, chop," all the spices together in one big mix and then use bits of the mix for each part of the meal. A little in the soup, a little with the pork, some with the chicken, etc.
The big question finally arrived. "How many chilies?" I gulped and my eyes got big again. Adam has been force feeding himself the local spicy food for every meal to get acclimated. I, on the other hand, cheer him on and have been taking my time preferring the "local" French bakery over the spicy Balinese food sometimes (okay a lot of times). So, we settled on three hot chilies instead of the normal six Made usually makes for her family. I know, I know, I'm the weakest link. I'm getting there!
Once the food was complete, Made created fifteen separate offerings of flowers, rice and other bits of all of the food we had prepared as a way to give thanks and bless the meal.
She set the offerings all over the food preparation area near every resource that helped make the meal. One was placed on the stove, one near their natural spring, another near the pond, one in the tree where the lime came from, one near the bathroom, another at the kitchen entrance, and one in the area where we were eating. With each offering, she placed both the flowers and the rice down, lit an incense and flicked holy water on the offering for the blessings.
It was amazing to watch this tradition! We have learned that about 30% of a woman's daily time is dedicated to preparing all of the blessings and offerings. That is a lot of time focusing on giving thanks!
It was now time to eat! We were so full from taste testing along the way, but we couldn't help but stuff ourselves to continue consuming the goodness.
To truly get the local eating experience, just find a seat on any flat surface and dig in with your hands mixing everything with the rice! Yum!
With our bellies full, we relaxed, were treated with tea and coffee and had the treat of meeting Made’s mother-in-law and adorable kiddos!
Adam and I looked at my watch and then at each other. It was only 2 pm! We were worn out and exhausted. We had only spent six, short hours with Made and her family, but we tried to keep up and soak up the intricacies of Balinese culture. I felt so heavy like I had been totally immersed into a whole new way of living in every aspect!
The car ride home was silent as we both looked out our respective windows watching the kites fly over the rice paddies. We were lost in our own reflections. We wanted to remember each moment of this amazing day forever! One thing we both knew, we were addicted to learning more about this beautiful Balinese culture. We think we could settle here for a while!