Monster Porridge and the Cloud-Watching Cook

Bali’s climate creates luxurious, grandiloquent clouds, guaranteed to entice the most hardened sidewalk gazer to cast her eyes upward. Today is a cloud-watching day. A day for dreaming, imagining, writing…and cooking?

Cloud-watching days, for me, outnumber cooking days 2000 to 1. It’s rare that I stick my fingers in that soup since both Ketut and Wayan, after a few polite attempts in the past, have declined to eat anything I make. They’ve kindly offered to share with me whatever they prepare for themselves. Both are accomplished kitchen magicians and I bow with gratitude to their superior talents and gobble up whatever appears in front of me.

But for breakfast I’m on my own. It’s my choice. I like to go softly into morning and a steaming plate of spicy omelette appearing at some ungodly hour before my palette has connected with my brain is just wrong.

So I make it myself, and for an otherwise creative person, my breakfast isn’t. I’ve eaten a quarter of a papaya with Bali kopi every morning for the past four years. Somehow I manage to open the fruit, extract seeds, peel and cut into bite-sized chunks with perfect results every time.

But besides clouds, the vast selection of exotic imported foods in the local supermarkets also fascinates me. Spice traders seeking cinnamon and chocolate, passed through Bali and brought with them strange and wonderful things from their own lands. The world has shrunk considerably since then and odd bits of it wind up on the grocery shelves. It’s a favorite pastime of mine to stroll and observe, not only the regional wonders but also the latest foreign arrivals, avoiding the meat case at all costs. Raw flesh and random body parts, waxy yellow chicken feet interspersed with bug-eyed, gelatinous sea creatures guarantees night frights later on.

This time, though, I was on a mission: I craved granola. That taste treat isn’t native to Bali but I found it and the price tag made me wince. It was the equivalent of $10 U.S. for a tiny bag that might stretch to 1 1/2 servings. The raisins, dates, cashews, and almonds, scattered among plump grains roasted to a mouth-watering golden, stared at me through the cellophane bag. My entire grocery bill for a month comes to about that. Granted my shopping list doesn’t include the nuts and berries in the little package. It features produce from area farms, fresh, mostly green, and when Wayan and Ketut have worked their spells, yummy!

P1110401I turned to walk away and the word Monster caught my eye. What was a monster doing in the cereal aisle? Moving to inspect, I found an uncooked, five grain product sans the extra goodies, made in Australia and offered for a respectable price.

I flipped the bag over and scanned the cooking instructions. They seemed manageable: add 2 cups water and boil 5 minutes. The list of proteins, fats, blah blah blah was acceptable, and unlike similar porridges, this one contained a bare .3 grams of sugar. Sold!

P1110403I couldn’t wait to make my first batch. Memories of cold Minnesota mornings, sitting down to a bowl of hot oatmeal mixed with sauteed bananas, apples, and cinnamon topped with a dollop of yogurt made me drool. There was fresh Cheese Works yogurt in my fridge and I imagined the taste of hot cereal with the creamy cool of dairy and drooled some more.

This story has a happy ending. I didn’t burn it. It turned out well. But it had not one iota of flavor. Zip. None. The plain yogurt added an essence of sour milk. My taste buds registered a complaint. Not happy. They had imagined something quite different.

The next morning my eyes landed on a container of mango juice, no sugar added, in the ice box. Hmmm. What if…? So I did. I substituted one cup mango juice for one of the two cups of water, mixed in the tasteless grains and boiled. The steam rising from the pan hung in the humid air, fruity and rich.

P1110408

I dished up a healthy portion and took a bite: the moment of truth. It was textured and sweet on the tongue. A faint lacing of mango cut the tang of yogurt but still left a surprised wake-up tartness. Perfect! About that time Ketut walked in.

“Wat you make?” he asked and eyed the dish suspiciously.

“Porridge from Australia with yogurt! Here, try!”

To my astonishment he accepted a spoon full. The moment the yogurt touched his tongue his eyes popped wide, a grimace unlike anything that has crossed his placid countenance previously, warped his face. With a strangled gurgle he mumbled something Balinese that sounded like, “OH MY GOD YOU’VE POISONED ME!” and dashed out.

My reputation is secure. And after all, I don’t want anyone getting the mistaken idea that I can cook.  I much prefer watching clouds.

 

 

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8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. sageblessings
    Apr 18, 2016 @ 09:01:18

    WONDERFUL!!! Clouds, cereal solution, knowing what you love and giving up the rest.

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  2. judybaliJudy
    Apr 18, 2016 @ 10:08:22

    Ha ha Ketut is such a clown! I’m sure the porridge is delicious.

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  3. Lottie Nevin
    Apr 18, 2016 @ 12:01:14

    Oh those Bali clouds are sensational! and the wonderful shapes they make as they fluff and puff around the island.

    Now, this is just an idea but I’d love you to give it a go! I’ve got Pete on a health kick right now. Its taken me almost 7 years but finally I’ve got him to agree to eating oats at breakfast instead of his usual fayre of bacon and eggs. I’ve tried making him traditional cooked porridge but it wasn’t met with much enthusiasm so I tried this Bircher Muesli recipe instead and he loves it!!!!! It’s super simple and the joy is that there are no saucepans to wash up. It’s all made in one bowl.

    Half a cup of rolled oats
    apple juice
    grated apple
    yoghurt
    raisins/sultanas/or any dried fruit of choice (optional)

    Tip oats in to bowl, cover with apple juice, grate half an apple and mix in. add yoghurt (i use Greek for Pete but low-fat for me) – add a few raisins/nuts/sultanas and leave covered overnight in fridge

    In the morning add cinnamon, honey if you wish to sweeten it and any berries or fresh fruit you have lurking around. The oats are soft and creamy and its utterly delish! You can make it in the morning but its not so creamy and has a rougher texture. I used to buy my oats in Hardy’s in Sanur 🙂

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    • writingforselfdiscovery
      Apr 19, 2016 @ 03:53:39

      This sounds brilliant! I’m putting it together right now. I think my Monster will work, and I have papaya, raisins, and yogurt. The yogurt’s pretty runny and the papaya is juicy so maybe it will be okay without the apple juice this time? Substitutes are my downfall. I once tried to whip skim milk, certain that if I just beat at it long enough it would turn to whipped cream dammit!

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  4. Diane Struble
    Apr 18, 2016 @ 22:32:53

    I like oatmeal with raisins and walnuts. No yogurt. I am allergic to it and it makes me very ill. I actually like the taste, but it does not like me. It is oK if your Balinese friends pass on it.

    Your pictures are just wonderful as usual. You truly have an eye for framing these gorgeous skyscapes.

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    • writingforselfdiscovery
      Apr 19, 2016 @ 03:56:27

      That’s such a nice compliment, Di, but truth is, many days I could point and click at any corner of the Bali heavens and have a stunning cloud photo! I’m about as good at photography as I am at cooking, but there are more happy accidents with my camera than there are in my kitchen!

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