La Belle Terre de Bali

Amid the rapidly expanding neighborhood of Kutu Kaja, a stone’s throw from the Botanic Gardens and the house that used to be Kristin’s, down a nondescript path leading to rice fields, is a bamboo-gated compound that gives no hint of what lies behind its walls.

A Moroccan-born, France-bred, Thai-lived, current Ubudian woman named Michele lives here, in a bright, lovely and welcoming home – with an organic garden to die for.

In the late morning, Michele scooped me up at Jalan Raya, and we headed to her home – past shops, Balinese compounds, temples, rice fields, a cemetery, and a large field with covered paddocks where final touches were being made to a phalanx of sarcophagi (brilliantly carved and decorated in the shape of cows, bulls and fish) in anticipation of an upcoming communal cremation ceremony.

My jaw dropped when I entered Michele’s compound, as I gaped at the spacious garden, produce popping up here and there. After a tour, we settled down to work: peeling, shaving, cutting, chopping mounds of mangos. Massive mangos. Dropped into a pot, mixed with sugar, stirred to perfection for a homemade stash of jams.

Our conversation (en francais bien sur, mine somewhat shaky) didn’t skip a beat as we went to gather garden greens for lunch: a large bowl full of green peas, snap peas, a gargantuan tomato and herbs. Sauteed into the most succulent, nutritious, mouth-watering concoction I’ve had in awhile. Topped off with a mango and raisin compote that slipped and slid effortlessly down the back of my throat.

Michele waxed philosophically as we dug into our scrumptious meals:

I don’t wake up and decide what I will eat today; nature does. I see what my garden offers to me each day and that’s what I eat!

Ah, mother nature. The good earth. Thank you (et Michele!) for a gloriously satiating culinary (as well as musical, photographic, travel and family stories) experience.

If this doesn’t contribute to healing, for body and soul, I don’t know what does…

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