This one comes to me by old friends who i met last year… Dan and Trishna are a couple who live in a proper 1000 year old village in the Balinese interior, literally in the crater of an old volcano. Her ancestors all lived in the same village and nearly every time we turn around, there is another cousin. When an invitation came to stay with them overnight, I leapt… And was rewarded. In 24 hours, we lived with them and visited hotsprings, drank from a natural pristine waterfall, dipped my feet into a crater lake, and got my “less ordinary” on. Effectively, i’m about to experience life (with a few noted exceptions) as its been unchanged for a few hundred generations. All this, so I could experience the dedication of a new village temple, and its required animal sacrifice.
Wake up at 7 am, fashion a male skirt of two layers and a belt. Put a huge chopping knife and sheath into the belt. Headdress on. Walk to the temple, and enter an alternate reality. Initially it’s Jew-walks-into-catholic-funeral scene, and then it immediately shifts. It’s fucking Oz suddenly and there is no two ways about it… Kansas, this is not. So we find our way to an 18 month old bull, tied to a tree and make small talk for 15 minutes or so as we casually look at the last few minutes of the bulls life without any suffering. He will be sacrificed for the new temple, shiva must be properly regarded. Suddenly, the bull is tied to the tree, head bound to a bamboo pole and the lucky executioner begins his work… . He makes some cuts which appear to start the process, but then slows significantly in progress. Dan and I confer that he’s new at this and this makes it excruciating at watch. At times it is as if he has lost his watch in there. (I’m trying hard to make this palatable dear reader… To know where your food came from and that it also had a life is important… Remember that next time you casually order a steak, someone was there with a knife on a pulse).
Right, so the gore was shaking me up a bit and I asked for some work to do, as I contemplated going vegetarian again.
Tasked with “kitchen duty” I assume a seat under a tarp with 20 or so locals. Minutes before, locals chopped up spices, lots of red chilies and shallots, and put them into 5 gallon buckets. Here, I am wanting to be assisting with my big knife. Cutting board is an old supporting beam from someone’s house, and within 5 minutes the fresh meat is brought in for processing.
Here is the rub. It’s warm. Shockingly so. Another reminder that this was a recent breathing creature. We hack through sate pieces, soup pieces and fat, organs and bone… It’s well utilized by the locals and I am in awe over their abilities with basic tools and profound resourcefulness. It reminds me of how, in the first world, little are we connected to the processes that we have grown used to as a luxury. You order 1 pound of beef brisket, or a kebab… How many hands passed over your supper? What fraction of hands passed over this lunch. So we ask the golden question… How much was the cow, how heavy was it and how many will it feed. We’re talking at least an order of magnitude cheaper (Safeway, folks… And this is a Whole Foods grass fed organic steer, blessed by temple elders) and it will feed the whole village. We are told to make our way to a new tarp and in moments, we’re staring on a cauldron boiling on a wood fire. Three men supervise, with a coconut husk on a long pole acting as a ladle.
So, it’s about to happen… Bullhorn calls and were off to the races. Two laundry looking baskets of rice are swarmed and plates of brown waxed paper are dispersed full of it. We are handed two of them. Did I mention that everything is eaten with the hands here? It’s spicy to say the least, but the flavor is incredible. Meat is excellent and I relish it all… Until I get seconds. I’m asked if I like it and upon my approval, the locals ask me to buy some land in the village. The cost is about $600 for what you might need for a small house.
We are sent home with some sate for the ladies. It’s an experience of a lifetime… A Dr Livingstone moment, in a neolithic event that has been repeated for 10k years and for a change, an iPhone was brought in to record it.