English and Exotic Food for Thought
The English food
I refer to is for nostalgic expats who now have different diets.There has been a tin of Colman's mustard in my larder for as long as I can remember. I can't honestly recall the last time I used it. I'm sure it is probably still all right, but the label on the tin is starting to spot in places, like a second-hand book jacket.
The above is true, even though they aren't my words.The Marmite jar is as much a national emblem as the black London taxi and the Routemaster bus. It is a national emblem, at least for those who have the taste for it.Why liking or not liking a staggeringly salty, yeast-derived spread only edible in minute quantities should be a sign of one's patriotism is debatable. I am not sure the test even works, as I love the stuff beyond words yet I am hardly what you might call an Anglophile.
The above is true, even though they aren't my words. I've got a supply in, but I've also got three supposedly empty jars for when I need a sniff or a taste.
Curious, too, that even when the pot is empty, it is never truly empty. If you pick it up and poke around long enough with the end of the knife, you will always, always find just enough for another round of toast. Just.
Other folk have other national emblems. I can't be sure what the Indonesian one is, though, as there are so many regional variations, even extremely local ones from a particular kampung
, that I find it hard to define Indonesian cuisine. Would it be the ubiquitous ABC or Indofood brands of instant noodles? Or Padang food?
In a week or so Jakarta will seem virtually empty as much of the population goes (does? performs?) mudik
, the journey back to the home town or village to celebrate Idul Fitri, the end of the Muslim fasting month. This is a week or so of bliss, with very few traffic jams to contend with. And as the holiday ends and folk straggle back they bring oleh-oleh
, snack foods as gifts for family, friends and colleagues.
Most of the stuff that arrives in Jakartass Towers is from Medan
'Er Indoors comes from there and b)
because everything from Medan, the capital of North Sumatra, is, she says, the best in Indonesia. I would agree about a couple of things.
Receiving a bag or three of freshly ground Sidikalang coffee
is a special treat because it isn't packed commercially, but is fresh from a farmers' co-operative up in the hills towards Lake Toba. It comes in plain plastic bags tied off at the top. The brew, a couple of spoonfuls in a mug with recently boiled water added, stirred briskly and then drunk once the grounds have settled may not be in the style of purists with their percolators and filters. But, hey, it's the way it's drunk by the growers and it's the way we like it.
Then there's the strangely named bika Ambon
- strange because Ambon
is the capital town of a different province a thousand miles away!
Another welcome oleh-oleh
is marquisa (passion fruit) juice which is also a favorite offerings as they are used as drinks offered to guests when they visit in the season month. Several brands popular and produced in Medan are Pohon Pinang and Sarang Tawon. However, you may choose other brands to offer, there are also home-made marquisa but the packaging may not be as good to offer as gifts.
Sumatra does offer an amazing range of views, foods and cultures and is well worth a visit. Read the account of a lengthy trip
undertaken by Indonesian food lover Sri Owen a few years back for a flavour of West and North Sumatra . However, for those wishing to spare themselves the hassle of actually going to Medan, there is a network of bika Ambon shops in Jakarta
If I were back in Blighty, I could expect different foods as presents
, some more welcome than others. For example, there used to be Psschit, a juice drink from France, Semtex, a popular fizzy drink from the Czech Republic, a salty liquorice treat found in Denmark called Spunk and sweets from Egypt called Spurt - banana flavoured chewing gum with some gooey syrup in the middle that 'spurts' out when you penetrate the outer ring of gum.
I think I'll stick to Marmite.