We’ve been away from the United States now for a little over six months. We left September 16, and it’s now March 19. So that’s close to 170 days–no small amount of time. Until last night, we had held out. Well, it’s not even really fair to call it holding out. We just didn’t even think about it. It was natural. But something seems to have changed yesterday. It was different, and we acted upon it, and it was fine. Yes, last night, for the first time since leaving the States, we cooked a non-Asian meal.
That’s not to say that we haven’t eaten non-Malaysian/Indonesian food since we’ve gone. We had pizza one time in Jakarta, and we had Indian food a couple times in Jakarta. We also went out once every other week or so to a bar in Jakarta that served good salads and soup. And we’ve gone out for German food twice, once in KL (excellent), once in Jakarta (not so bad). And we can’t forget the two times we went out to a giant multicultural buffet in Jakarta.
What we haven’t done is actually cook a meal involving all Western ingredients. In Indonesia, we ate nothing but noodle stir fries and vegetable dishes, Javanese and Sumatran curries, and deep fried tofu and tempe at home. Since we’ve arrived here, we have eaten salads made at home, since we now trust fresh vegetables enough to eat them raw. But we always construct an Asian dressing full of kecap manis and coriander, and we always add tempe, tofu, and/or Chinese noodles. Last night, though, we both wanted spaghetti. What we really wanted was spaghetti with Italian pork sausage, but that’s not an option here. But we were able to find fresh thyme and olive oil, so we made a simple Molto Mario tomato sauce with ground beef, spooned it over linguine, and served it with a salad with balsamic vinaigrette, a loaf of Italian bread, and a bottle of red wine. Oh yeah, and two beers (for TP). It totally hit the spot.
As an example of how unprepared we were, we had to buy the following things: thyme, onions, linguine, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, canned tomatoes, wine, and bread. We always have these readily available in the States. The only thing that we already had was garlic. Never fear, though. Tonight we are thinking about going to a Chinese hawker center for some fried fish.
James March 19, 2005
Wow. You’re officially an expat now. Once you don’t feel like you have to immerse yourself in the local culture all the time, but only do it when you want, you’re there. Now you have to have overly privileged children and send them to the American school in KL. Oh, and you should try to pepper all your conversations with obnoxious comparisons of this place (wherever you are now) with that place (whatever cooler place you’ve already been to) and how that place is better than this place in some subtle way that only an expat like you could know (“they have better salad greens,” for example, or “the golf course at the Hilton there has a tougher sand trap.”) Hehe. I kid.
Matt and Sarah March 19, 2005
Hi Tom and Julie:
We just looked through your pictures from Bali – they were amazing. We can wait till you get home and we can put you to work cooking us all this great Asian food. We were planning to make red tofu curry this week, but now we’re not sure if it’s authentic enough for us. We’ll go look for some banana leaves….
hope all is well
matt and sarah
Tom and Julie March 20, 2005
James, you sound like an expat expert. What is a little disturbing is that we have noticed ourselves comparing KL to Jakarta to people who obviously don’t care. Yeesh. No reading our minds, please.
Matt and Sarah, good to hear from you. You must realize that we are hardly the gastronomic gurus that we wish to be. For every one recipe we’ve posted we can name at least one other that we’ve tried to create and failed miserably. And speaking of tofu, we had the most incredible tofu ever yesterday at this little stand. It was red and curry-like, but it was deep fried and had some sort of crust on it. People would eat tofu a lot more in the US if it tasted like that.