An Amateur Chef’s Amnesia

IMG_3296It’s been a week since I moved into the house on the ridge named Kaivalya,* the place that Ike and her son had settled into and made into their home since last year. It has rained every day since I moved out / in.

Still, I’d decided to invite my friend Monique – she who ‘rescued’ me last week – over for dinner last night, together with Ike and I. I thought it the most creative way to show her my appreciation… aside from which, after such a long time sans cuisine, I had a real yen to cook.

But really: what was I thinking?

After living with The Family for two years, I’d grown somewhat accustomed to NOT having a kitchen, to going out for meals (except breakfasts, when I’d have a choice of fruit that I’d regularly pick up at the morning market). It was usually a more convenient option, especially since I felt the guesthouse kitchen wasn’t hygienic and inviting enough to use.IMG_3304

I looked forward to a long overdue attempt to put my cooking flair to work. Or so I thought.

But what was I thinking?

After skimming through websites and Ike’s Thai cookbook, I settled on 2 recipes. I spent a good bit of time planning ahead, including taking 4 different buying trips – to the supermarket across the street and two public markets to gather all the ingredients. This was necessary as it wasn’t feasible for me to get them all in one go. Still, there was a bit more lugging than I foresaw. And that was only the beginning.

Banana tree fell over during a rainstorm
Banana tree fell over during a rainstorm

So what was I thinking?

And then, the reality set in; that bona fide Thai recipes come with an impossibly long list of ingredients that need a fair bit of chopping up. So… I began to chop. Thankfully, Ike pitched in as sous-chef (though having previously worked as a professional chef, I couldn’t hold a candle to her!), lining up perfectly sliced veggies on plates nearby.

But, in the end, the prepping was my job – and it seemed to go on forever: pumpkin, sweet potatoes, garlic, shallots, galangal, ginger, and much much more. Doing it all in a kitchen and on a gas stove that were all new to me.

I'm thinking of whipping up a banana blossom salad sometime soon...
I’m thinking of whipping up a banana blossom salad sometime soon…

My sacrum was getting nervous. It whimpered at me. I did my best to ignore it.

Jeez… what was I thinking?

Chalk it up to a serious lapse of memory.

Over the past 4 years, anytime I’ve attempted to cook, it’s been either a quickie one-dish pasta or salad (for example, in Tabanan) or, say at my sister’s house, with her help and with regular breaks to lie down and rest (leaving the mixing, cooking in her more-than-able hands; or those of her kids). I never did it on my own, and I NEVER cooked without regular breaks.

Bintang supermarket - RIGHT across the street
Bintang supermarket – RIGHT across the street

I think my sacrum was trying to shake up my memory. And I was doing my best to prove otherwise.

Here, I was pretty much flying solo. And there was a considerable amount of turbulence.

Really… what was I thinking?

As the clocked ticked closer to Monique’s arrival, I was wilting. There were three pots on the stove bubbling & burbling simultaneously. I had to keep my eye on them, and gave up on cutting up anything further.

So I left out some ingredients, went for short cuts, chopped in chunks larger than asked for, and called it a day. Turned off all burners, strained the quinoa, limped to the expansive cushioned sofa on the other side of the kitchen, and, shut my body down. It’s about time, my sacrum said.

What, what, what… was I thinking?

The Big Comfy Couch
The Big Comfy Couch

By the time Monique arrived, gliding in with an ear-to-ear smile, a bag of munchies and a bottle of vodka, my sacrum, my butt, my nerves, my leg had calmed down considerably and the tears dried up. I apologized for my failed attempt at whipping up a feast as I’d planned. I offered to send for pizza. They laughed. Didn’t care. We dug in anyway – pumpkin and sweet potato curry, quinoa, grilled pineapple and ginger – and, well, it wasn’t quite as disastrous as I’d expected. In fact, it was edible and (dare I admit) quite tasty.

There, I said to my sacrum, did it.

Who cares, she replied. What were you thinking??

*Sanskrit word = freedom from attachment. The meaning, coinciding with my eviction from a place I’d called home for two years, hasn’t been lost on me…

Tomorrow is another day...
Tomorrow is another day…


  1. You are wonderful, a truly inspiring lady. I’m so glad you’ve got somewhere to live, I was worried about you. Your dinner sounds so good and I hope your sacrum forgave you and didn’t punish you through the night for all of your hard work. When is this rain going to stop? It’s madness. We had a hum-dinger of a storm here in Jakarta last night. Bolts of lightening shot across the sky and it poured and poured and poured. Keep well and happy Amit. Lottie xx

    1. Back to rainy season, aduh! The beauty is that my sacrum forgives me daily.. a blessing. And then I start all over again 😉 Stay happy… especially snap-happy xx

  2. Oh my. As I read this post I was anxious to get to the end to see if you had to stop the elaborate cooking process. I am glad to know that you survied or rather your sacrum did. You new place looks lovely and the couch looks as if it is just what your sacrum ordered.

    1. A wiser (less proud, stubborn, etc) version of myself would have done just that: put an end to the elaborate cooking process. But not I.. Apparently my sacrum’s spirits did well in bringing me to a place with a comfy couch, pool and supermarket across the street. But I went ahead and messed it all up 😉

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