My eating habits have devolved since I’ve been in Indonesia. My vegetable consumption is practically non-existent and I’m eating rice like nobody’s business. In fact, I have never eaten so much rice in my life. The other day, I had rice for breakfast. For breakfast, people! It was a dish my colleague B said i just had to try. That was the day I properly learned that rice is on the menu everywhere here and for every meal. I hear that even the KFC up the road serves rice.
I’ve been trying to find a salad since the start of my second week here. One evening, I thought I had struck gold. My colleague B told me that an Italian restaurant had a Greek salad on the menu. I should have known better…an Italian restaurant in an Indonesian town selling a Greek salad. What I found was a fake Greek salad, which turned out to be a less-than-basic Caesar salad – not an olive or a crumble of feta cheese in sight, although the menu description and picture promised both. And it was overpriced (more on money in a later post).
Don’t get me wrong, there are vegetables here. The problem is that a (good) fresh salad or a nice steamed vegetable plate is not to be had. I can get 1 steamed green (like a spinach-type green) with many meals but a straight up salad or a nice side of steamed veg is nowhere around. And even if I could get a vegetable plate, everything on it would surely be fried.
Chicken (‘ayam’) is just as popular as rice. I can’t go half a block without seeing an ‘ayam penyet’ sign (chicken, fried and done with a special sauce). And honest to goodness, I haven’t seen 1 normal-sized chicken; these are the smallest, skinniest full-grown chickens I’ve ever seen. I don’t know if they’re so skinny because they’re killed too soon, or if it’s what they’re fed or if it’s just a small breed of chickens. No joke, I could probably eat a whole Indonesian chicken by myself – the whole chicken probably has as much meat as 1 normal sized chicken breast! I was trying to take a picture of a whole chicken to share with you but I wasn’t able to get a picture that would properly convey the size of the chickens.
Now that I think about it, the people here are fairly small too, so maybe I shouldn’t be surprised about the chickens.
Another issue contributing to my deteriorated eating habits is the fried-ness of everything. Other than the fake Greek salad, I don’t believe I’ve had a meal in which at least 1 item wasn’t fried. Even the soup is oily…maybe they fry it, too.
On top of all this, we tend to eat dinner late for 2 reasons. First, we have to wait until all the children have left the centre – classes end at 6 pm each day but the last child doesn’t usually leave until about 6:30 pm. Secondly, if we don’t make it to a restaurant before 7 pm, we may have to wait until after evening prayers are over and the restaurants re-open. Not only do we eat dinner late, but it’s always fried and it’s always rice or noodles. So I eat something fried with rice or noodles then go to bed a few hours later with it all sitting on my body, converting into fat because I haven’t had much physical activity. Still, portion servings aren’t overly large so that’s good.
Also on the plus side, I’m still drinking a good amount of water during the days.
With all of that in mind, I decided to take myself in hand so I don’t end my year in Indonesia way heavier than when I got here. How to solve this food problem?
I’ve started with fruits, which are my saving grace. I’ve started buying them fresh every week from the market. Most of the fruits are ones with which I am familiar and I’m planning to add a few new ones, like dragon fruit, to my repertoire.
My standard breakfast is now a mug of weak Milo (yes, they have Milo here and weak Milo is my favourite!), a large fruit plate and a mug of corn flakes mixed with plain oats. Yes, breakfast is a nice serving of vitamins and fibre. I tend not to eat all my breakfast at 1 time; I stretch it out. So I’ll have my Milo while I’m doing my devotions at around 7 am then I’ll have my fruits when I start working at around 8:30 am then I’ll have my corn flakes and oats about an hour later.
Lunch is made by our cook at her house and delivered to us by 11:30 am; I usually eat at around noon. It’s always rice (that nice, fluffy white rice…yummy! My downfall!) plus a meat (fish or chicken or tofu), a steamed vegetable (like eggplant or spinach) and sometimes she adds a little bit of something else, like (fried!) tempeh.
Dinner is a little trickier. I go out with my colleagues for dinner because it would be antisocial not to, plus we sometimes discuss work issues and brainstorm ideas while we eat. So I can’t not go to dinner. My dinner resolution, then, is to go to dinner with A and B but load up on the fruits by having juice and leave the rice and noodles alone. That should give me some great fresh nutrients without all the carbohydrates so close to my bedtime. The only possible stumbling block for that plan is that they don’t serve juices in large glasses. A regular juice serving here would be somewhere between a small and medium in Jamaica, not nearly enough to satisfy me for the night. I may have to order 2, or have a sop buah.
Skinny chickens and no vegetables notwithstanding, I don’t find eating here a hardship. In fact, it would be easy for me to go to town on the rice and noodles if I wasn’t so nutrient conscious. I just have to find a routine that works for me.