Balinese Feast and the Invisible Bee

I’ve been recuperating for two days. How do they do it? Chefs, cooks, women with large families? I spent one day cooking a Balinese meal for 13 and I am fortunate to be alive to tell about it.

Look at all those steaming pots! And the countertops are littered with other dishes all awaiting the finishing touches, a sauce here, a garnish there. I had a sneaking suspicion that there would be some strategic planning involved in an undertaking of this magnitude. So I spent several hours making a schedule of exactly when to do what. It saved my life. The plan was to prepare my very favorite Balinese dishes so that I could enjoy the flavors and share them with others. There was one small problem: I had too many favorites.

There are many things I am not, but stubborn isn’t on that list. I am doggedly persistent when I have a plan, and even though at about 2 p.m. when I realized I had not stopped for lunch and would not be able to if my time-line was going to work out, I refused to adjust my agenda. I was going to pull this thing off if it killed me! Diners were scheduled to arrive at 5:30. At 5:00 I left the messy array of food groups for 15 minutes to pull on a clean dress, jewelry, run a comb through my hair and dash back to my stove. I knew when people began to arrive there would be offers of help. There would be no delegating. My regimented schedule would not flex to that extent. If I paused to figure out how to tell someone else what to do it would throw me off my game. Guests had to stay out of the kitchen.

The sweet aroma of sauteed vegetables for curried tempeh wafted through the window to greet the arriving participants. I could hear muffled compliments as their voices floated into the kitchen from the open windows to the deck. I checked the clock…on time…good. I could hear happy chatter and the clink of wine glasses.

Then, suddenly, everything was done. How do you serve a plated meal to 13 people simultaneously? Hmmm. You don’t, at least not without help. At that precise moment Dan, Jessa, and Nancy walked in. They took one look at my panic stricken face and said, “Tell us what to do!” For the next five minutes my support team packed rice into cup size molds and turned it out onto plates, scooped green beans with gado-gado sauce and sprinkled peanut garnish adding a plop of carmelized onion to the rice mound. After strategically placing two perfectly browned tofu satays next to the rice, a scoop of curried tempeh was added and the finished product was rushed out to the drooling guests while the assembly line prepared the next two plates.

There was a moment when I paused to look at the results, to actually see what was leaving the kitchen. You know what? It looked like what it was, Nasi Campur, red rice surrounded by Balinese delights.

It was an adventure and now I can say, “Been there, done that.” I won’t be applying for a job cooking. I may not want to chop, dice, mince, or slice anything for a very, very long time. And when I return to Bali I will have a profound reverence for the wonderful people who feed me.

Now I have to double up on my yoga routine. I see how quickly and habitually I fall into old patterns of performance, striving, perfection. The beautiful tranquility that permeated my being when I first arrived home from Bali disappears in a flash.

So I’m off this morning to the Invisible Bee yoga studio to return to my centered self and recapture peace of mind.

“Look how desire has changed in you, how light and colorless it is, with the world growing new marvels because of your changing. Your soul has become an invisible bee”…Rumi

Nasi Campur – Delicious Indonesian Fare

I’ve tried the Indonesian dish, Nasi Campur in three Warungs now. There are different ways of serving it and I love it in all its forms. But the pleasant ambiance of Cafe Angsa definitely enhanced their rendition of the local favorite.

It is right beside a rice paddy and, of course wide open to the fresh air and vegetation.

That’s a glass of watermelon juice. I’m afraid I had to taste it before I took the photo! I was parched and there is nothing as refreshing as the cool sweetness of watermelon to quench a ravenous thirst.

Here’s a better shot of the delicious meal. At the back of the plate is the steamed vegetable, in this case cabbage, some carrots, bean sprouts and peppers. Next to the veggies in the little dish is the tomato sambal, spicy and just a little bit sweet, and tomato, cucumber and shredded raw cabbage next to the half hard boiled egg with a dollop of sambal on top. Next to the egg is tempeh, a soy product that has a nutty flavor and a firmer texture than tofu. Next to the tempeh is fried tofu. It’s the seasonings in the tempeh and tofu that make them unforgettably delicious. The famous prawn chips complete the presentation. Oh yummy!

As a very special treat on this particular day a grade school band was practicing in the pavilion literally right next to the restaurant and oh! how they love percussion. It wasn’t a peaceful lunch, nor would it have been romantic even if I’d been there with someone special. But it was scrumptious and wonderfully entertaining.

When I finished my meal I strolled next door to the open pavilion and took a quick shot of the kids. Later I found out that there’s a competition coming up in a few weeks where all the schools perform for the mayoral election. They are working so hard! I’m not sure what the plan is for the flags. There wasn’t a lot of synchronization there, but what do I know! I played flute in marching band and that was hard enough!

%d bloggers like this: