That time I made spaghetti.

Last Friday, I made spaghetti. At first, I was going to go to the market to buy tomatoes, mushrooms and spinach. Then Bu Zumaroh told me that (a) there are no mushrooms here, and (b) I shouldn’t go to the market to buy stuff, because I will be ripped off. So I changed the recipe to make spaghetti sauce with tomatoes, carrots and the local variety of spinach, kangkung. And then another girl, who was going to the market at the time, offered to pick up the vegetables I needed for the local price and not the bule price.


After I got the foodstuffs, that afternoon I set about to make the spaghetti. Two girls, age 7 and 8, hung around and helped me and we shared which foods are our favourite, and then one girl told me all about this one show on tv, which I barely understood. I was just nodding and smiling.


I washed the sayuran, vegetables, and then cut the tomatoes, carrots and kangkung, while I boiled the noodles. Bu Zumaroh studied the box of spaghetti noodles that I had brought from Yogya for about 5 minutes, wondering out loud, “opo iki? What is this??”.  I told her that it needs to boil for about 8-10 minutes, and it was so long! Fortunately, there was a picture of spaghetti on the box of noodles to show what the end product was, because I don’t think she understood when I said I was going to make tomato sauce. Here, tomatoes can be used in sambal, a spicy chili sauce or paste. Or they are a side (2 slices) with gado-gado salad (rice and cabbage and tofu/tempe with spicy peanut sauce). They aren’t used to make a sauce, with just tomatoes. Anyways, I started cooking the sauce after the noodles (only one burner worked on the two-burner gas stove; traditionally there are no ovens here). I boiled down the tomatoes and carrots together, and took half of the chopped tomatoes and blended them in the blender. I seasoned the sauce with onions, garlic, oregano, basil, pepper, (these 3 spices also brought from Yogya), salt and a bit of sugar as well. Then, I thickened the sauce with one spoon of cornstarch.


At this point, I had been in Paciran for 1 ½ weeks. I usually eat rice 3 times a day: breakfast, lunch, dinner. When I decline to have rice, usually for breakfast, and instead have some fruit and sweet bread that you get as a thank-you gift from a wedding, scandal results: nek ora mangan sego, ora lego. This is one of Pak Suwanan’s favourite sayings: if you don’t eat rice, you’re not full. I love Indonesian food, but once in a while, the break is so nice.


So I sat down to have spaghetti, and then they were aghast when I said I wasn’t going to have a side of rice with spaghetti, and that that would be enough to eat. And although it wasn’t the best tasting spaghetti that I’ve made (I think the local spinach is too bitter for the sauce), it felt so good to eat NOODLES. My stomach was really thanking me; it was like a comfort food. Sometimes I go to one of the two corner stores in the village and buy chocolate milk. It’s SO GOOD. Have you ever had it that you just taste something, and your stomach says, YES, YES, YES! And it just feels so nourishing and so good to eat that food? Well, it was like that. I was relishing in my meal.


I offered Bu Zumaroh to have some spaghetti with me. I had made a large quantity (I am incapable of cooking for only one person; I may be destined to have a large family). After some hesitation on her part, I made a tiny plate for her. She tried it, and it seemed okay. It was interesting. It was very different. I brought the plate over to show Pak Suwanan, and asked if he would like to try. He declined. There was no hesitation there. Then, I brought it back to Bu Zumaroh. She added rice. When Pak Suwanan came over, she insisted, try, try! So he had one bite, and then I ran outside to probably spit it out, I think. I decided not to investigate.


I was going over to a friend’s house for a sleepover (lots of people want me to sleep over at their house). So I brought the spaghetti over, for them to try. The reception was mildly better. People at least tried it. The brother first insisted that I eat it, to see how I eat it. I showed them how you can twirl the noodles around the fork and then eat it. Then main utensil to eat is your hand here, and after that, a spoon and fork, the spoon doing the cutting and scooping while the fork only pushes things onto the spoon. Then the brother took the fork and smelled the spaghetti. He said, Oh, fear factor, fear factor! It’s like fear factor for Indonesians, eating spaghetti. I had to laugh.


He took a bite. It was okay. But he said it needed more chilis and meat, that’s what Indonesians need. I said I will make it like that the next time. Then the Mom smelled it, and was like, What is this american food! This is so crazy, making sauce out of tomatoes. And then the sister tried it. Not a fan. Then the baby, the one-and-a-half year old wanted to try it. Her face was the best. She thinks I’m hilarious, and so it was like she wanted to like it, but her face betrayed it all: it was a scrunched up and her eyes closed; it was not a food that she liked.


So I had spaghetti for lunch the next day too and it was delicious for my body.  I think I will make pancakes or bake cookies the next time I make something “american”.


3 comments on “That time I made spaghetti.

  1. amanda says:

    you’re hilarious Joz “spaghetti is fear factor for Indonesians!”
    i wonder what they’ll think of pancakes…. you should make them on Shrove Tuesday!!!!
    Glad to hear you’ll as entertained as entertaining! XOXOXOXOX

  2. Gwendolyn says:

    loved your spaghetti story!
    I wonder what they would think of pizza

  3. Cheryl Fox says:

    That’s so funny Jozina!
    To think making sauce out of tomatoes is strange?!
    It’s fascinating to read about the cultural differences!

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