I’m sitting at a table setting of genuine Balinese elegance, gazing through the wide green banana leaves, across a deep ravine towards tall coconut trees. The qualities of these trees have led the Balinese to describe them as “magical”.
A ceramic vase, set on the table, holds seven strands of tuberoses, one red rosebud and a small banana leaf.
The crisp white tablecloth is overlaid with sparkling silver cloth.
The simplicity of the cotton, coffee coloured napkins is heightened by the dark teak chairs.
I’m here because I came across a brochure advertising “Authentic Balinese Cooking in a traditional Balinese Village”
It promised an all-day affairn including personal pick-up and delivery, a market tour, cooking class at the traditional family compound and a guided tour through the rice fields, all about $35.
To good to be true? Definitely not and make I say, even better.
The enterprising Wayan and his wife Puspa have created the package and they are determined to provide a wonderful experience.
As promised, they picked me up at 8.15am sharp. Wayan is the driver and tour guide, he has good English and delivers an interesting description of village life and customs.
He is careful not to bombard you with too much information and also keeps you to the point.
We have made our first stop at the Ubud Markets. I had previously visited by myself and through I was delighted by the authentic wares, I was turned off by the assistant hounding of stall holder.
With Puspa, the hounding was replaced with greeting and jokes.
Clearly, Puspa, who is the accomplished cooking teachers, is a regular and knows many of the people there.
She identified and explained the use of spices, fruits, vegetables and also proved to be solid ally when it came to bargaining.
“I make sure you will get the proper Balinese price. I have told them you are my friend,” she whispered.
We left the Ubud markets with Puspa carrying a basket of fresh cooking ingredients ( and me with even more scarves). Everything Puspa buys is locally grown and she adheres to an organic philosophy.
“We have organic garden at home, so there are many things I do not have buy here,” she said.
I’m delighted with our market trip and have new opinion of this colourful, noisy, overflowing, jostling market.
Wayan talked about Balinese customs and the day’s program as we motored along in a modern 4WD. The narrow sealed road cut through field after field of rice paddies, past sarong-clad men who lifted their sinewy brown arms to wave, past women gracefully balancing palm woven baskets of fruit and rice on their heads and the acient, complex beauty of decaying temples.
Tall coconut palms bordered much of the road and sadly, so did thin lines of rubbish, mostly full of plastic.
The cooking classes are held at Wayan an Puspa’s family compound in the village of Laplapan. Their home is the same as all Balinese.
Wayan described it as having three levels: the first, where the family shrines are – Singular ornate sculptures dedicated to various Hindu deities. Twice day, offering in a small palm woven tray filled woth flowers, herbs and perhaps rice are made. I watched as Puspa waved smoking incese, praying and blessing offering on the holy shrines.
“One offering in the morning is to welcome the day and the one later on is to say thanks for the day,” Wayan said.
The second level is for general living and a wonderful sort of open air stage where ceremonies such as wedding ar perfomed. He third level is for domestic animals.
Wayan and the assistant chef Nuyman build the fabulous new kitchen. In true Balinese style, it is ourdoor, simple and effective.
Close to their organic herb garden and fruits trees, it’s the perfect place for a cooking class.
“Bamboo. Banana and coconut are the magical trees. We use every part of these trees – their leaves, their fruit, their flowers, their stems, everything.” Said Puspa.
After a magnificent welcome drinks of coconut juice and lime served inside the coconut, it’s time for leasson to begin.
Puspa is organized: You are given the menu to peruse and talk about.
The menu gives you a choice of dished to prepare. You are also given the recipe of everything you cook.
Puspa and the Nuyman take you through the entire process.
It’s a big day. They were up at 4am to start the process of creating their own coconut oil. They pick, cut, grate, steam, boil and reboil until they have this sublimely scented elixier. They’re a fanatical about creating and using their own products rather than shop purchases.
They’re also fastidious with hygiene, the kitchen is spotless.
There’s plenty of cutting, mortar and pestle work to be done. It’s as fun as the delicious taste testing.
“When lunch is served, Puspa insists you eat with ease.
“Just take your time, slowly. Slowly,” she says and means it.
A rich Balinese coffee is offered along with a choice of herbal teas.
I decide on my first coffee in a while. I drink my coffee black and it complements the sweet bananas dessert.
I have eaten plenty, yet, in tune with elements of their Hindu religion, I feel neither over not underfed. It is delightful sensation.
And now, its about 1pm and I’m ready for a tour of the rice paddies.
The multi skilled Wayan is not only a tour guide and carpenter.
He also tends the family rice plot.
He speaks of rice with respect and indeed love. This is what sustains present, past and future generation.
He shares details of the growth cycle and its idiosyncrasies.
He is interrupted by the ring of his mobile. It is his nine-year-old son calling for his 11-year-old sister sitting in the back of the car. Her giggles are background to our earnest conversation on the meaning of rice.
• The writer was an independent traveler.
Source : Sunshine Coast*Sunday, May 30, 2010