Growing up in NY in the 60's and 70's as an Indonesian girl was an interesting experience. I never really felt I fit in. I was often made fun of, not by my friends but by complete random strangers on my ethnic background - thinking I was Chinese or Japanese, which is so ridiculous because if you saw me, clearly I am not. Thanks to my father, by the time I was ten I was already a seasoned world traveler so I was able to brush it off as ignorance and walk away. But I digress for this is a food blog...
I'm embarrassed to say that as a child I would choose TV dinners and Jack in the box over home cooked Indonesian meals that my mother slaved over. My sisters remind me of this occasionally and I can only cringe at the thought of it now. Oftentimes when I came home from school I would help my mother chop and dice while she hand grinded fresh spices for dinner. She would make "Sate", skewered chicken, beef or lamb for parties and sometimes even during the winter. I would be freezing my #$%! off while fanning the Hibachi grill in the cold and in utter dismay. I kind of regret not asking my mother for her recipes, for she too was an instinctual cook nothing was written in measurements. I guess my way of learning was simply by the countless times of watching and observing her. Apparently there is a memory bank in my little brain after all.
Many a summer during my childhood and early youth were spent in Surakarta, more familiarly known as Solo. It is city in Central Java where both my parents were born and it is known among other things for it's culinary dishes. We would eat out frequently and get to our desitination by "Becak" pedicabs or "Andongs" horse driven carts - a far cry from my day to day reality in NY. We'd walk at night to watch shadow puppet plays nearby the house, there was always some kind of cultural performance going on. Our neighbors were so welcoming when we arrived for the summer, I think we were probably the only family in the neighborhood that came from abroad and travelled on a plane, so it fascinated them. Solo is such a lovely and quaint place despite the ugly mall that exists there now in the middle of the city.
What has changed is my childhood memory of the eateries along the streets like; "Adem Ayem", the small "Warungs " that sell "Soto" or buying "Sosis Solo" - fast forward 40 years - the taste is just not at par with the memory I had of it back then. But I realize perhaps it is still the same, it's just that there is so much more choice now and quite honestly my standards have changed over the years. I still ride "becaks' when I go to Solo and stop by my favorite "Serabi Notosuman", a sweet pancake made from rice flour and coconut milk and at night to warm my senses, I'd go to Keprabon to drink "Wedang Ronde", a sweet ginger tea filled with mochi and nuts. Solo has a really special place in my heart, it's so endearing and laden with innocent memories for me.
Moving back to Indonesia in my late teens was equally as hard for me to fit in. I would be constantly teased this time because of my accent (mind you my first language is English and at home we spoke Javanese), or my mannerisms and the way I dressed. Again I ignored it and didn't really try hard to fit in. I just allowed myself to be me, a hint of NY, a dash of Solo and just a whole lot human without the slightest thought of any ethnicity to label me. It was only at this time in my life that I began to discover and truly enjoy Indonesian cuisine that is so multi faceted in taste. I fell utterly in love with the people, the culture, the dramatic landscapes and most of all the food that I appreciate even more now - knowing how complex many of the dishes are to make. After all these years here, I feel I've only begun to scratch the surface when it comes to the variety of regional food available . It's an on-going culinary journey to look forward to and relish on.
I'm so upset because I wanted to share some photos of dishes I made that are indicative to Solo and explain what they are, but I'm not able to because they won't upload for some reason. It says' uploading failed - and it's not the internet connection, and then it asks; what URL image is it...as if I would know. So if anyone is reading this and has time to patiently guide me step by step on how to upload photos, I'd really appreciate it. Otherwise thoughts without images will have to suffice for now. Thanks.
Till next time,