collecting taste as memorabilia

(I never actually succeed in collecting anything other than book, photographs, and only recently-- a taste of memory. I tried collecting stamps, fancy papers, fridge magnet, and trinkets. At the end of the day, I say goodbye to most of them. Unlike what it might seem, I don't do hoarding and not easily seduced into buying small stuff that I don't need. But, travelling makes me weak. Like other first-time traveler, when I finally went on a trip as an adult ten years ago, I tried to start a collection of travel souvenirs for my house. Several countries and few years later, most of them do not spark joy or memory as I wish it would be. I learned about it the hard way, including that one time when I blew basically my whole budget at the first day of the trip to buy a mini toycam, disabling me to cafe-hop as much as I wanted to. Thank God it (at least) makes a funny self-depreciating travel story every now and then, especially after the fact that I only use the camera twice before it got buried in the deep end of my closet and eventually got broken. 

Two years ago, after knowing better than blowing my budget for things I don't need for a collection I could never build, I start saving up my travel budget for things I enjoy doing and bring home only books, photographs, and only one or two things that actually makes me happy. After few trips that allow me to indulge not only my sight but also my tastebud, I accidentally find a new favorite souvenir: taste as memorabilia. Despite my belief that involuntary memory is triggered and not constructed; with the taste of a recent trip to a certain place-- there is an exception. The memory is combined with the memory of our body to respond to the trigger, which in this case is the food recreated from the journey. 

First, it acts as a memorabilia from a particular moment. For example, there is a delicious ginger crème brulee I had from Bourke Street Bakery in Sydney. That particular treat reminds me of my first winter day spent outside; challenging myself to one of the thing I fear the most. I failed to recreate the ginger crème brulee at home but it always becomes my token of bravery against that stupid fear of eating out alone. Then the list is getting longer: there was that asparagus and haloumi cheese served during a picnic by the seaside that get me completely obsessed, the best-polvoron-ever from a recipe passed in the family of a friend in Manila, that African style sweet potato fries Dito and I had when we are very hungry but wanted to save some money to see Jean Paul Gaultier's show, that first time I finally learn to cook rendang with my uncle (in Madrid!!) and learn how to make dumpling perfectly (in Darwin) from a girl who learned the trick in China, that time when my uncle took me on a dinner date to have an extra delicious Spain-style cold-served prawn that I am still fully obsessing until this day, that super strange mix of Belgian potato with satay sauce and mayo I had in Amsterdam that is strangely delicious.. the list can go on and on. 

But, not until I found a delicate rose-petal jam served with sesame toast in Darwin have I start recreating foods from my trip and collecting the recipe. My host said that the rose petal jam was from a Greek shop in Melbourne. After that short trip in Darwin in 2014, we went to Melbourne and obsessively tried to find the jam (and failed just as miserably). It leaves a strange disturbing mixture of curiosity and disappointment; so, I tried making the rose-petal jam as soon as I got back to Jogja. It was a successful experiment and just a bite of it always brings me back to an endless summer morning in Darwin with all the strange birds’ sounds outside. At this point, it becomes a time capsule. 

There are also the comfort foods that I still keep on recreating until this day: an Asian-style rice bowl with the perfect sunnyside up I had in Madrid after few days of eating only pastry, nuts, and potato. The burritos I had in two different cities served by two different ladies, each one after a long exhausting flight. And on the way back, after a morning flight from Spain to Amsterdam and a brisk walk in cold weather with extra heavy suitcase and a new extra travel bag; there was that comforting ginger risotto with veggie stir fry and tempe that does as much to my soul as it does to my body. The ginger risotto with veggie stir-fry also made me promise myself to one day make it for my vegetarian best friend-- which I did when we were both in town. I still make them regularly because it's just so good. All of which also reveals my bad habit of flying on empty stomach and got very very hungry each time I landed-- which makes a bonus point for every warm food that is served after.

Most of them are recreated at home only by its taste and memory instead of written recipe, yet, all of those reminds me of a good time, good friend, and makes the perfect souvenir back home as a reason for an intimate gathering with friends and family.  I guess this time; this collection will last for a little bit longer.)


thoughts // eid

(My love-hate relationship with Eid has been flourishing since I was younger. Overtime, it's more on the love part and less on the hate part. My dad was a very traditional person and Eid used to mean endless visit to older relatives-- and there are lots of them. I remember enjoying the visits and eating all the cookies when I was younger, hating it and being a sulky teenager who put up an attitude when I got lost at small talks, and start playing a team work of cancelling Eid visits with my two little sisters. I don't know when exactly the number of those visits start decreasing and Eid start becoming a beautiful ritual of big family dinner the night before, sitting by the window waiting for the glorious light from hundreds of torches carried by children while praising God and walking together around the village, the morning prayer at one of the most beautiful prairie soaked in warm morning sun amidst the cold mountain air, and the family gathering right after that.

Eid holiday makes me falls in love with the idea of staycation and food as the most effective tool to foster a relationship. Oh, the food! I remember that one time when my aunt went out of town on the first day of Eid and suddenly there was a big empty space in the holiday spirit that year without the chicken curry and spicy beef-liver curry she makes every year. Eid would also mean homemade calories-loaded dish served mercilessly, uber-delicious bread-and-butter pudding from a neighbor that my other aunt would bring, lots and lots of chocolate to brawl about with my little sisters (the friendly-brawling always become the best part of it), those perfect cakes my uncle brings, and the Javanese-style rendang my mom's cook will make before he went back home for his holiday. If there is one thing that never changes, it is the feast and endless shopping sessions for food, fresh flowers, and gifts. It is the time of the year when heavy consumption is collectively tolerated. 

But Eid, so I realized when I grow up, is never exactly the same every year. That is why the presence of those rituals are very comforting and reassuring. Other than that, Eid is keep on changing along with the family's movements. When I was still in the university and my sisters are still around, we would binge-watch Disney's movies or gather around in silence reading fantasy while nibbling on bottomless cookies. When I moved to the city, going back home was an act of vain success symbol and irrational splurging. Thank God it was only that one time before I move back to my senses. When my sisters and I start learning to bake; we would spend a day making strange mixture of milk and cheese cookies, brownies, and weird-shaped food that mom would brag about. There always a time when my uncle would impulsively ask me to help him throw big barbecue parties at the garden in the afternoon and the children can taste a drop of Bailey's during one of the family dinner a night before. That was when I taste my very first alcohol in a Kahlua mix that was way too sweet even for my young taste bud. 

When I got married, Dito took me to my very first Eid mobility across region which I loved at first and despise two years later. Apparently, I am more of a stay-in Eid lover than the roadtrip-goer person. We then would start our annual house cleaning session, buying a bunch of fresh flower to put around the house, and stocking up food like we are about to face a zombie apocalypse. There are lots of baking-session happening in the house, afternoon spent reading together, an annual day-out with my friend Anna, gathering invitations for different groups of friends, and some exhausting yet satisfying days of endless friend and family visits. This year, we decided to do Eid night a bit differently. Instead of staying in, we stayed at Dito's parents’ house and went for a night ride around the city, had gelato for two instead of having big family dinner that night, and came across some youth on the back of some truck chanting praise to God on highroad instead of seeing them walking around their neighborhood holding torches gracefully. At that moment (and in the case of NYE too) I bragged, "Apparently, we do things better in Kaliurang, don’t we?” Maybe it was the weather. 

The ritual keeps on changing but the togetherness always warms the heart—when served in the right portion. I still loathe the big big-family gathering with hundreds of people I don’t recognize shaking hand and forgive each other for wrongdoing they didn’t even have the chance to do as some of them are only meeting each other once a year. I still have mixed feeling when meeting my old friends from school and see them change so much; like yesterday when I met the cute senior I had a crush on when I was 9 and see that the bad boy who used to steal my hat and put it up on the tree turned into the sweetest gentleman who teaches toddlers for a living-- and suspected gay, naturally.. And on top of it, I still hate the fact that my uncle is not coming and my sister went back to the city before Eid ends, leaving a part of the holiday incomplete and gave a twinge of melancholy when she left.. Like today.)