Monday, May 30, 2005


Saturday, 5/28/2005 23:11: Banda Aceh

We finally moved into our new house. I’m very happy. Even though it’s only semi-furnished, it’s so much nicer than the dump they call “Hotel Sulthan.” I’ll try to post some pictures shortly… and just as I write this, the power went off. But that’s just Banda Aceh. One of the first things I bought for the new house was candles! It is annoying though. No power means that the water pump doesn’t work either, which means the toilets won’t flush. Each Indonesian bathroom has a cistern to store water. They use the cistern to bathe and also to flush the toilet when the power goes out. OK, where was I. I like the house, it’s big and spacious. We also had air-conditioning installed in the bedrooms. It’s amazing how much better you sleep when the air is on.

We’re going to hire a housekeeper, but not until next week. Teh was gone for the day so I had the house to myself. I went shopping for food in the market for the first time. It’s an exciting thing to cook in your own house. I saw gigantic button style mushrooms and knew I have to have cream of mushroom soup. I also decided to accompany it with a steak salad. Indra drove all around trying to find me a meat seller. We finally found a butcher. There are no butcher shops here, just outdoor vendors with slabs of dead cow or goat hanging from them. I tried to pick a piece that was not black with flies.

I got back to the house and proceeded to cook. Shallots, the onions of the Gods, are so plentiful and so cheap here. At Meijer’s, you pay about $1.50 for two small shallots. I paid about twenty cents for a half kilo! So I sautéed the shallots, garlic, and mushrooms. I couldn’t find white flour so I had to settle for rice flour as a thickener. I added some milk. Earlier, with Indra, I had bought some low fat milk… then when I decided to make the mushroom soup, I realized that I needed cream… poor Indra, at the moment of my mushroom soup epiphany, we were in a remote area of the city on a wild goose chase for prawns. We went to all the small stores looking for milk… nothing. Finally, I saw a can that said “FULL CREAM” in big letters. I got excited and bought two. So, I’m in the kitchen cooking. I had added some milk. I opened the can of cream and poured it into the soup. I stirred it up and it thickened quite nicely. I added a bit of Maggi seasoning for flavor (you can just forget about finding chicken stock or even bouillon) and then took a taste. I spit it across the room. The soup was SWEET, I mean sickeningly SWEET. What did I do wrong? Did I substitute sugar for salt… and then a feeling of dread filled me. I looked at the now empty can of Full Cream and read the very small print at the bottom of the can “Sweetened Condensed Milk.” I then proceeded to attempt to save the soup by pouring it into a sieve and rinsing the now cooked onions and mushrooms. I re-sautéed shallots and garlic and then added the now rinsed contents. I added milk and thickener and tasted it… still sweet. The sugar had leached into the mushrooms and wasn’t coming out. In disgust, I threw the whole thing away… an hour and a half of work… for naught. Well, at least the salad was tasty!


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