Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Fourth of July, or, My Host Family Thinks I'm Crazy

I've discovered why Indonesians like to sing so much at parties (and, by extension, all the time): They don't drink. I can't actually take credit for the observation, but it's totally true – when you have a party without any alcohol at all, not even a beer or two with the snacks, you have to plan things like kripik-eating contests and singalongs or else it gets quiet fast. It's almost shockingly wholesome, like a 9-year-old's birthday party without the hired clowns. Such was our Fourth of July party at Pak Peter's house on Friday. Eating, chatting, silly party games, and lots of Indonesians exhorting the reluctantly sober Americans to Menyanyi! Menyanyi! Sing! (Seriously, what kind of 4th of July is it without so much as a Corona to wash down the hot dogs? Downright unmerican, if you ask me.) And hot dogs there were, and brats, and salsa, watermelon, and even a steak, all alongside grilled tempeh and a whole catered spread of Indonesian food. They told us to bring food, which is where all the non-tempeh stuff came from, and Pak Peter rented a grill, which turned out to be not much larger than the steak we were trying to cook on it.

At this point we're all getting desperate for food not deep-fried and loaded with sugar – more on the food later, but long story short it's all delicious but fried and sweet as Halloween – so I decided to make tzatziki. I went to Matos, the mall near school, to the supermarket on the bottom floor, where miraculously I found plain yogurt and mint and feta cheese. Okay, so the “plain” yogurt was still kind of sweet, and the “fetah” tasted like a cross between real feta and American, but they're really not dairy people around here. Friday afternoon I went home to cook, and my host family crowded around to see what on earth the crazy American was going to do with cucumber, garlic, yogurt, cheese, and mint. What started out as interest slowly turned to confusion, then horror as they realized that no, I wasn't adding sugar, or oil, or mayonnaise. “Tidak pakai susu?” Nope, no milk. “Betul, pakai cuka?” Yup, I really am adding vinegar. My host sister, Rani, was the only one brave enough to try it: “Asam sekali!” – Sour! My host mom took a look: “Seperti maionas”- like mayo. Well, sort of. It was a big hit with the Americans at the party – fresh! Not sweet! Not oily! The Indonesians stayed away.

The coda to this story is that last night we had a little party for my ibu's birthday, with a bunch of my American friends invited. Rani took the leftover mint & feta and made her own version of tzatziki – with mayo and mustard instead of yogurt. Almost, sist, almost.


  1. You know, Corona is Mexican. :-P

  2. is it impossible to get alcohol there?