Friday, August 13, 2010

King Among Fruits

It appears that I have grossly underestimated people’s love for durian. Now, I understand that durian is the fruit kingdom’s equivalent of Elvis. Or some people would travel to Malaysia just to taste a certain species of durian. And it’s among the priciest fruit in the market. In Jakarta at least. It’s dirt cheap in Palembang or Medan. A perfectly ripe durian is said to be able to make you believe in God.

Yes, I get it. Durian is the yummiest delicacy ever produced by a tree. I kind of like it myself. Not like it enough to risk physical harm though. But some people would. And I had no idea about that until last Sunday.

I was shopping for milk and diapers (yes, those are the kind of things I shop for these days) at a supermarket when I noticed some people carrying durians to the check-out line. Now, that was strange because we passed the vegetables and fruit section a while ago and there was not even a whiff of the fruit. Usually, when the store is having a durian sale, the smell will greet you at the parking lot.

But there’s nothing there. We had finished shopping and were on our way out of the building when I told my wife that I was going to double check. A durian sale is always worth checking out. Actually, that’s about the only time we could afford one.
When I get to the fruits and vegs section things were as they were a while ago. No durian. I was about to leave when I noticed the attendant emerged from the back dock. He pulled a trolley on which three cartoons bearing the mark of the king of fruit. Imported durians of montong variety. The good ones. Then the inexplicable happened.

Out of nowhere people literally jumped on them. Seriously. They jumped in and muscled their way around the trolley trying to grab as many durian as possible. An elderly gentleman, who apparently thought fuck it-here goes nothing, barged in shoulder first to the crowd. Think of opening the scene of Black Hawk Down in which the starving refugees fought over sacks of donated flour. I kid you not. Same thing happened here in an air-conditioned hypermart in Jakarta.

Shouting and baring their teeth at one another, they thrust their hands into the box and try to claw out any durian that they can get their hands on. Even in a peaceful condition, you need to be careful when handling durians. It’s called durian for a reason, i.e. the skin is made of hundreds of sharp spikes the size of your thumb. These people were groping in with reckless abandon. It wasn’t long before yelps of pain started to be heard.

A man managed to drag a way a full cartoon and made for the checkout line. Others were quick in mad pursuit. They yanked the box with rugby-like tackle. Both knees on the floor, completely ignoring the man’s repeated claim that the durian was his. You had to be there to believe it.

It was over in less than a minute. Three cartoons of durian. All gone. I was stunned. The elderly man walked to the checkout carrying a quarter of the fruit with his scraped hands. It was split open during the scramble. I didn’t know how the cashier was going to weigh that.

Please accept my respectful bow, O, King Among Fruits.

Friday, February 13, 2009


I have stopped wearing shoes to the office. It's not worth it. Rain has made it its business to visit Bekasi at the ungodly hours of the morning. As a result, to get to the station from where I park my motorcycle I need to waddle across of excellent mixture of rainwater and the sewer. Which is not nice.

Unfortunately, that's not all. The trek from Stasiun Pasarsenen to my office isn't any better. The primary route, crossing the Terminal Pasar Senen, is marked with numerous blackish poodles of water and goodness-know-what-else. The alternative route of getting off at Pasar Gaplok is far much worse. It's muddy and littered with rotten vegetables.

The grim reality that I have just described, apparently doesn't stop some people from wearing their fancy shoes. I'm not talking about Cibaduyut- or Mall Blok M-fancy. They're the shoes designed not to be anywhere near dust, let alone the muddy terrain of Pasar Gaplok.

This morning I witnessed an immaculately dressed gentleman of my age jumped down from Rangkaian Kereta Ekonomi Karawang-PasarSenen, otherwise known as the Odong-odong. His shiny leather shoes, more fit to roam the marble halls of Bursa Efek Jakarta, sank into sole deep mud. Although what an fashionably dressed gentleman was doing in a train of such class is another interesting point to ponder, I can't help but felt pity for the shoes.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


the fridge and the cupboard, you will find something that you might like. I left it there this morning. Promise me you'll feed it.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Who woke up this morning thinking it's Wednesday?

I did. Now I have to go to a two-day workshop in Bogor without fresh clothes and toiletries.

I blame the Idul Kurban holiday on Monday for this lapse.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

I Dream of Roasted Eel

What’s a good meal to you? Have you ever had a particularly delicious dish in an environment that is just right? A thick burger with melted cheese in a busy fast-food joint perhaps? Or a jazzy restaurant’s delicately intricate dish so pretty that you feel content just by staring at it? Or a perfectly fried mendoan at a shabby warung that you stumbled upon when you tried to locate where Kebasen is?

You may remember a lot of good meals that you’ve had. You see, the memory of a good meal tends to stay with you. It is etched at the back of your mind and springs forward when you see or hear the phrase ‘good food’, or when you’re hungry.

I love eating. I particularly adore gudeg and soto Sokaraja and have had countless portion of them. Yet, my recollection of a good meal has nothing to do with Yu Ginuk’s exceptional gudeg or Pak Amin’s thick broth and liberal topping of tripe chunks. It wasn’t even my meal. Instead, it involves two eel hunters and a graveyard.

I was about 10 then. My cousin and I were returning from a fishing expedition. We were walking across the graveyard near my uncle’s house when I saw them under a tall salam tree. Two tukang urek-urek taking a break after spending a good part of the morning fishing for eels in the vast rice fields to the east. They had built a small fire on a cemented floor between two gravestones, across which chunks of eel meat clamped between two bamboo sticks were being roasted.

They must have had a good day. The eels they selected for their lunch was quite large and they’re not exactly frugal with the cut. The meat looked reddish-brown and oily, the edges were charred from roasting. An empty sachet of kecap manis ABC suggested that they had added sweet soy sauce for taste. I could see the juice dripping down as the sweet scent of roasted eel rose to the air.

One of them produced a packet of cooked rice, while the other got up to get banana leaves which would serve as their plate. They knew my cousin and invited us over. My stupid, stupid cousin politely declined. I couldn’t remember why.

As we walked home, I couldn’t get the picture off my mind. It would have been a perfect lunch. Rice on banana leaves with slightly charred chunks of roasted eel. The meat would have been sweet, succulent and juicy. Not to mention that they are enjoyed outdoors, accompanied by light breeze bringing the scent of rice stalks. Really, I couldn’t get it off my mind. Even now.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Halfway Through

So we’re twelve days into Ramadhan. Well, actually, it depends on your denomination as well. If you’re a disciple of Naqsabandiyah—I hope I wrote that correctly, then you’re fourteen days into the holy month.

The thing is, the Ramadhan has always been an enigmatic time for me. For someone whose attitude towards food is somewhere between gluttony and anarchy, the idea of refraining from food is not very appealing, to say the least. It affects with my mood, my productivity—or lack thereof, and my ability to hold a decent conversation without falling asleep.

Like the other day, for example. I was sent to this five-hour long meeting, from 1 to 6, at a nearby hotel conference room. Yes that’s right. That’s a five hour battle to ward off severe drowsiness and boredom. The warm ambiance, cool airconditioned room, fluffy desks, and the monotonous voice of a man droning on and on about the importance of getting the program name right when they are to be included in medium-term development plan. Things like that are bad enough on a regular day. On a Ramadhan day, it’s a downright torture. The grave misery I had to experience that day is second only to the time when, stuck at an angkot, I was forced to listen to Syaiful Jamil sing.

But then again, there is the break-fasting (or fast-breaking?). Either way, it’s a truly joyous time. It’s the time when the heavily quoted sentenece ‘you never knew what you’ve got till it’s gone’ actually means something. It’s time for the bottled-out rage to be unleashed at the unsuspecting dinner-table. Feast, feast my dears. Let you be hungry or thirsty no more! Don’t sip, gulp! Attack with vengeance!

Yet, fast-breaking wouldn’t be fun if you don’t fast. Even if you only cheated with a quick gulp of water at noon. Come fast-breaking time, you may still be hungry and thirsty, but you don’t have it anymore. The mucho gusto has flown off the patio.

So yeah, it’s kinda paradoxical, isn’t it? But it never is a bad thing. May you make it till sundown. Cheers..

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Big Three-O

Oh wait, that was last year. I'm thirty-one now. Man, how time whizzes pass like a chipmunk on Redbull..