(This is cross posted from MidCity Saturdays)
Just kidding…but for those of you who don’t know, before the Peace Corps I wrote a blog about entertaining at home. The area where I live here is know for it’s apple production and on Sunday I got the chance to do a little entertaining when my host mom told me that she wanted to invite the two language cluster groups in our village over for dinner (thus the title of the post). After some quick texting and word spreading, everyone was game to come over.
Sunday was really not unlike many days back in DC when I would spend the day doing chores and getting ready for friends to come over. I got up early, ran errands, lugged groceries back home from the market, did laundry, started cooking, took a bath and got dressed, finished cooking and starting greeting people. But it is a little different…
My morning started when my alarm went off at 5:25am. I threw on some clothes and my host mom, and two of my host brothers (ages 11 and 1) and I walked down the road to the mushroom farm. The mushroom farm is three buildings where mushrooms are grown in damp dark rows. The farm, it turns out, was closed on Sunday (at least this particular Sunday morning). We walked over to a neighbor’s house stopping to greet several villagers on the way with “Monggo, Ibu/Pak!” (Javanese for hello Mrs./Mr.!). We are only learning the Indonesian language, so people are pretty excited when I greet them with a Javanese (local dialect) phrase. We sat down with the neighbors and they agreed to give us some mushrooms later that day from their farm.
When we got home, I had my ladle bath, got dressed and around 7:15am we headed out. First we stopped for breakfast at a little restaurant that lets you pick out all the different dishes you want with your rice—really tasty! Then we hopped on an angkot.
An angkot is a minivan of sorts with bench seats around the inside and the door is always open. Usually all six of us Americans are piling into one and someone has to sit in the door seat and hold on for dear life. My host mother usually drives her motorcycle everywhere but since Peace Corps specifically and strongly forbids us to ride a motorcycle she had to ride the angkot with me. This was no problem for me as we take them everywhere, but I’m not sure she was super thrilled with the idea.
The angkot took us to the traditional market in Batu. Let’s just say, it’s pretty intense. It’s like Eastern Market (for my DC friends), but more Indonesian and much larger with more animal body parts and flies. They have pretty much all the food you could want from fruits and vegetables to beans, flour, eggs, meat, tofu and tempe; as well as clothes, kitchen items and school supplies. We bought everything we’d need for dinner including a watermelon and a papaya and lugged it all back home on the angkot and down the road to our house.
Once we got home (around 9:30), I started doing laundry. My family actually has a manual/mechanical washing machine, which is fantastic (put in the clothes and detergent, fill up the tub, tell it to start agitating, then drain, refill and rinse, drain again, move clothes to the spinner). Once I hang my clothes on the line they dry in about an hour and a half in the equatorial sun.
Laundry, homework, saying hello to people stopping by and eating lunch took up the bulk of the afternoon. Around 4pm I started trying to make homemade tortillas. I was planning to make corn tortillas, guacamole and chicken fajitas for my portion of the dinner.
My tortilla experiment was much harder than it should have been, thanks to language difficulties. The night before I asked my host mom if we could get wheat flour (I looked up the word in the dictionary). She said that would be hard to find. So then I looked up the word for corn flour and she said they had that. I knew it wasn’t going to be masa harina, but figured I could make it work. Well, it turns out that what translated as corn flour was cornstarch, which I realized as soon as I poured boiling water into it and it turned into a gelatinous blob (scientific term). When my host mom came in and saw it, she said, “oh, will this flour that is used for baking cakes work?” Uhh…yes, that is wheat flour. She sent her son out to buy more and I made delicious homemade flour tortillas.
Next, I made chicken fajitas out of chicken (duh), onions, chili peppers, salt, lime juice and garlic. Will came over and made guacamole from avocados, onions, peppers, garlic, salt and lime juice. It was great with cassava chips, and Indonesia’s knock-off version of Doritos—Happyitos!
We had heard that guacamole is weird for Indonesians because they eat their avocados with sugar and milk as a dessert. Most of them tasted it to be polite, but our bahasa Indonesia teacher came back for seconds (and thirds…and fourths) AND asked me for my fajita recipe on Monday!
For the rest of the meal, we had grilled tempe and tofu (a technique they’ve started since I came and started grilling things. Before, the preferred method was frying), a kidney bean and beef soup, mushrooms, and vegetables.
It was a lot of fun to get our two groups together for a purely social gathering. Had we not been on the other side of the world, it would have been just like a weekend night in DC. We had our first taste of American food in a month, lots of laughs and cross-culture exchange.
By the time everyone left around 8:45, I gave my parents a quick call and was ready for bed. I had to get up at 5:00 the next morning to start working in a local school…but that’s for another post.
It was a busy, busy Apple-City Sunday!