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BOOK DESCRIPTION, AUTHOR AUTOBIOGRAPHY, BOOK REVIEWS
BALINESE FOOD: THE TRADITIONAL CUISINE AND FOOD CULTURE OF BALI.
BY DR. VIVIENNE KRUGER, PH.D.
PUBLISHER: TUTTLE PUBLISHING (PERIPLUS)
ISBN NUMBER: 13:9780804844505
Balinese food is singular among the leading cuisines of the world: dedicated to the gods and fueled by an array of achingly fresh spices, it is inextricably bound to the island’s Bali-Hindu religion, culture, and community life. Balinese Food: The Traditional Cuisine and Food Culture of Bali bears witness to Bali’s time-honored, enduring, authentic village cuisine: the extraordinary, legendary beauty of Bali is mirrored in its spectacular ceremonial feasts. The preparation of Balinese food is steeped in divine rituals, exactitude, and religious perfectionism: curious strangers in paradise can only gape in awe, respect, and admiration—as we struggle to learn how to eat and make food offerings on the island of the gods. Three million peasants by day—three million smiling artists by night--the Balinese carve and etch and paint their food into the rich spiritual shapes and divine colors of fragrant, holy temples and imposing royal palaces. They build and they cook with love, art, and reverence on an island perfectly positioned and protected—and lost in time--eight secret degrees south of the equator. Welcome to the luscious green villages and humble kitchens of Bali!
Balinese Food: The Traditional Cuisine and Food Culture of Bali, is a valuable social resource about Bali--it fully illuminates its intricate, ancient, highly spiced food culture. This internationally oriented cultural cookbook focuses on the food and food culture of the legendary, mystical island of Bali. Indonesia is a rapidly developing country, gaining increasing strategic importance on the world stage both economically and politically. With one of the world's largest populations, there is great social, cultural, religious, environmental, and economic interest in Indonesia. Balinese Food will be of great use and value to expatriates, travelers, tourists, home chefs, international business people, graduate and undergraduate students, faculty, diplomats, and members of the general public interested in cooking, adventure foods, travel, and Southeast Asia. Food is the lens through which we view and examine the culture of Bali--situated in the exotic, beckoning Indonesian archipelago. Balinese Food serves as a delightful, intriguing, and meticulously researched cultural tool to enhance our understanding of this complex and important region.
Dr. Vivienne Kruger hails from New York City, and is a social and cultural historian with an M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D. in American history from Columbia University. I took a one-week overland tour from Jakarta across Java in 1993, including a freezing cold, pre-sunrise jaunt by donkey up smoldering Mt. Bromo. The trip later deposited me by sheer serendipity on the unknown sanctuary of Bali: I fell in love with the exotic island of the gods at first sight! I have since enjoyed a twenty-year-long literary, spiritual, and cultural love affair with the gorgeous volcanic island where the gods live and the people smile and cook! I served as a special research consultant for E Entertainment Television’s “Wild On Bali” television program (1998-1999). I developed story ideas, interpreted local Balinese culture, and provided background information on religious rites, traditions, and travel attractions. I also supplied valuable interview contacts in Bali and recommended specific filming locations and themes. I was recommended to the E channel’s producer by the Indonesian Consulate in New York. I later researched and wrote a series of travel articles for Bali and Beyond Magazine (including several cover stories) from 1999-2004. I also reviewed a large number of books written about the island of Bali for Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/. As a food writer, I wrote, edited, and produced a monthly newspaper food column for the Bali Advertiser for two years (2006-2008) on Balinese culture and cuisine (“Food of the Gods). I lived in Bali for two amazing years (2007-2008), and launched an international export business buying and selling luxury goods produced in the villages of Bali. All of my passions stem from this precious sacred island: yoga, spirituality, travel, and rescuing and loving beautiful stray dogs from Bali and beyond.
As an investigator, I repeatedly engaged in first-hand, high-risk, “extreme eating” (worthy of a “Survivor” episode) to research the mysterious, inscrutable, sacred cuisine of Bali. I personally sampled such adventure nourishment as fern tips, nasi bungkus packets with the beach ladies, home-made village-grilled pindang, sambal matah, rock hard taop nuts, yeast-infested and flecked tape and tempe, beachside jagung bakar, rice ketupat (in Singapore), endless rows of sate ayam and sate lilit, black rice pudding, and countless colorful local fruits and palm sugar and coconut-based desserts (kue mangkok, sumping, dadar gulung, jaja laklak, onde-onde). I swallowed a slippery, rubbery ritual meat (or dare I say organ meat) object at a high-caste purification ceremony in Ubud in order not to offend the officiating priest! I amassed almost 2,000 photos of the traditional foods of Bali—from the barnyard to the temple to the “final resting plate.” I crawled and slipped through wet, muddy rice fields photographing dragonflies and ducks, pursued live chicken delivery trucks down the side roads of Ubud, and invaded a dark, dank, Dickensian tofu factory in Seririt. I snapped saté stick offerings at a cremation ceremony on Kuta Beach, goat saté sellers in Lovina (trophy display leg, hoof, and skin waving in the breeze), and jukung fishermen bringing in the morning mackerel catch at the break of dawn in Nusa Lembongan.
Review: "Books About Food and Spirit. Bali's Food Culture"
To an outsider, the cuisine of Bali is perhaps one of its least visible cultural features. Just about every visitor to the ‘island of the gods’ will have witnessed the spell-binding beauty of Bali’s brightly festooned temples and colourful ceremonies. Many of us have had the experience of being stopped in traffic while a long procession of Balinese in traditional dress pass by. However, how many of us have witnessed first-hand the intrinsic cultural links between Bali’s cuisine and its culture and religion? How many of us have witnessed the pains-taking predawn rituals of preparing the many and varied dishes that accompany a traditional celebration, such as Lawar or Babi Guling? In Balinese Food: The Traditional Cuisine & Food Culture of Bali, social and cultural historian Dr. Vivienne Kruger has compiled a meticulously researched record of the many aspects of Balinese cuisine—from the secular to the spiritual—with an eye for detail that evades most observers. In the book Dr Kruger chronicles in careful detail the ceremonies, rituals and practices that accompany virtually all of Bali’s unique culinary arts—from satay to sambal. All the classic Balinese dishes are represented such as a babi guling, the popular spit-roast pork to bebek betutu, whole smoked duck—each accompanied with a detailed recipe for those who would
like to have a go at preparing the dish themselves. Lesser known aspects of Bali’s intriguing eating habits are also presented here. You may not know that the Balinese enjoy catching and eating such delicacies as dragon flies and rice paddy eels. Dog is also widely eaten around the island, and regretfully, endangered species of turtle are still consumed on some occasions. In all, Dr. Kruger has prepared a spicy and multi-layered dish as delicious and pains-takingly prepared as the dishes described within to create an impressive work of scholarship jampacked with information and insight into the rarely seen world of Bali’s cultural cuisine.
BALI STYLE MAGAZINE. Vol.10 No.2. May 2014. Reviewer: Adam Fenton. Bali Style Magazine, and former editor of Garuda Airlines Magazine
"A Spiritual Journey into the Culinary World of Bali" By Jonathan Copeland, an author and photographer based in Bali. www.thejakartaglobe.com/features/spiritual-journey-culinary-world-bali Review published in The Jakarta Globe, April 17, 2014.
“What a joy this book is! I love recipe books, but it’s short-lived; I enjoy the pictures for several minutes, read a few pages, and then my eyes glaze over. They are basically books to be used in the kitchen for one recipe at a time. This book, however, is in a different class altogether and designed to be read in its entirety. It’s in its own sui generis category; it has recipes at the end of most of the twenty-one chapters, but it’s a book to be read from cover to cover, yet it could easily be read chapter by chapter, in any order, as they are all self-contained. Every bite-sized chapter is a flowing narrative from a well-stocked brain encompassing Balinese culture, geography and history, while not losing its main focus: food.
As you would expect from a scholar with a PhD in history from Columbia University, the subject matter has been meticulously researched, not from books and articles and other people’s work, but from actually being on the ground and in the markets and in the kitchens of Balinese families, where the Balinese themselves learn their culinary skills, hands on, passed down orally, manually and practically from generation to generation. Vivienne Kruger has lived in Bali long enough to get it right. That’s no mean feat, as the subject has not been fully studied before. Yes, there are so-called Balinese recipe books, most, if I’m not mistaken, written by foreigners, and heavily adapted. The dishes have not, until now, been systematically placed in their proper cultural context, which is extremely important for the Balinese, nor has there been any examination of the numerous varieties of each type of recipe, nor have they been given their true Balinese names.
This groundbreaking book is a pleasure to read, not just for its fascinating content, which I learnt a lot from, but for the exuberance, enthusiasm and originality of the language. There’s not a dull sentence in the book. You just can’t wait to read the next phrase. There are eye-opening and jaw-dropping passages for the general reader as Kruger describes delicacies from the village of Tengkudak in Tabanan district--grasshoppers, dragonflies, eels and live baby bees — and explains how they are caught and cooked. She does not shy away from controversial subjects, such as eating dog and turtle. Parts of it are not for the faint-hearted, but other parts make you want to go out and join the participants, such as the Nusa Lembongan fishermen, who sail their outriggers at 5.30 a.m.
The author quotes Miguel Covarrubias, the great Mexican observer of the 1930s, who wrote “The Island of Bali.” It has inspired all writers since, including myself and my co-author, Ni Wayan Murni, in our book “Secrets of Bali, Fresh Light on the Morning of the World.” There is, however, no bibliography, which I found strange at first. I can only imagine it’s a reflection of how original the subject matter is; there simply are no other sources.
Throughout the book Kruger mentions Balinese and Indonesian words and sometimes discusses their derivations. It’s a Herculean task. I was intrigued to read that “satay” comes from the Tamil word for flesh ( sathai ) and that South Indians brought satay to Southeast Asia before Indonesia developed its own tradition. The book is full of interesting tidbits like this. I was hoping that there would be a glossary of all these words for future reference, but I can quite understand the publishers’ reluctance, as it would have doubled the length of the book. Perhaps an accompanying glossary for future publication would be worth considering. The book contains 47 recipes in all, 11 of which came from Murni’s own restaurant, Murni’s Warung, in Ubud. Mr. Dolphin of Warung Dolphin in Lovina also contributed a number of recipes. Kruger adds an introduction to each recipe, with a detailed and usually very personal commentary. I think my favorite, though, is from a village priest (pemangku), I Made Arnila of the Ganesha (Siwa) Temple in Lovina:
Holy Water from a sacred spring or river, or regular purified drinking water.
Pour the water into a metal container that holds holy water (sangku).
Take small, bright pink bougainvillea flower petals from the offering trays around the central Lingga shrine (at a Siwa temple) and drop them into the sangku. This means that Siwa gives power. Fragrant, greenish-yellow blossoms from the Ylang-ylang, an East Indian tree (Cananga odorata) can be used instead of bougainvillea.
Light an incense stick and place it in the offering tray beneath the Lingga. The pemangku sits on the floor to pray or stands and recites three holy mantras for holy water:
Mantra Ganesha Mantra
Guru Gayatri Mantra
The pemangku distributes the fresh holy water to worshippers at temple ceremonies.
I don’t think many readers will be qualified to use the recipe for holy water, but I am sure most will enjoy this book enormously; I certainly did.”
"A veritable feast of information."—Ni Wayan Murni, owner of Murni's Warung, Ubud, Bali
"Dr Vivienne Kruger has written a book that is as satisfying as the food that she describes."—Jonathan Copeland, author of Secrets of Bali, Fresh Light on the Morning of the World.
"Vivienne is a wonderful and happy person who is full of love for life and delicious cuisine, which she has so beautifully presented in her book, Balinese Food: The Traditional Cuisine of Bali. I have known her for a long period of time, and found her to have a very kind, loving, and generous soul."—Sanjit Das, OM YOGA
"Thanks so much. I'm really enjoying the book. I've known a lot about Bali over my 37 years of going there ... but I didn't always know WHY those things were that way culturally, so it's been a fun read!!" Danielle Surkatty, Member of the Organizing
Committee. Living in Indonesia, A Site for Expatriates.
www.expat.or.id March 2014
"Such a handsome book! Tuttle did a great job on the design, both inside and out. I've only had a chance to skim the contents but look forward to reading it all. Of course, I'm no authority on food, Balinese or otherwise, but I think I'm a good judge of books. Yours is first rate." Cordially, Dr. Alden Vaughan, Professor of American History, Columbia University, New York. March 2014
“Take a Trip to Bali through Food! Enter Bali through the food, spices and cooking culture of the island. An array of favorite dishes drinks, and desserts for those whose passion is food. Interesting and enjoyable reading and cooking!”
Margery Hamai. Bodhi Tree Dharma Center. Honolulu, Hawaii
“I am very happy that the book is ready to enjoy. We are very proud that some Puri Lumbung cuisine (authentic recipe) is in your book. I hope this can enrich the knowledge and creation of people in the cooking world.”
Yudhi Ishwari, Puri Lumbung Cottages, Munduk, northern Bali. April 2014
"Dr. Vivienne Kruger Ph.D has emerged on a growing list of champions of Balinese cuisine with the publication of Balinese Food: The Traditional Cuisine and Food Culture of Bali (Tuttle Publishing, 2014). Vivienne Kruger’s long connection to Bali, her love of Balinese food and academic eye for detail has resulted in a book that breaks new ground in its study of Balinese culture, the island's delicious food and the accompanying ancient traditional cooking methods." A Taste of Bali. From the Bookshelf - Balinese Food: The Traditional Cuisine and Food Culture of Bali (2/22/2014) Bali Update, Feb. 24, 2014. Edition 912. www.balidiscovery.com
"Balinese Food: The Traditional Cuisine & Food Culture of Bali. Just when you thought you knew a lot about Bali, along comes this in-depth look at the cuisine and how it fits into everyday culture. In Balinese Food the author brings to life Bali's time-honored and authentic village cooking traditions. In over 20 detailed chapters, she explores how the island's intricate culinary art is an inextricable part of Bali's Hindu religion, its culture and its community life. This book provides a detailed roadmap for those who wish to make their own exciting exploration of the exotic world of Balinese cooking!" Living in Indonesia, A Site for Expatriates. Recommended Publications. http://www.expat.or.id/info/recommendedpublications.html#non-fiction , March 2014
"Finally I got your book. I show it to all my friends here. And its so amazing, you really put all your heart into this book and I can feel that you love Bali so so so much!" Mega Ngoei. Jakarta, Indonesia. March 2014
“Your book was awesome. It makes me want to go out and become a chef!” Henry C. Smith, San Francisco April 2014
“We are proud and happy that one of our graduates is the author of an interesting book enjoyed by many readers.” Kachuen Gee, Head Librarian, Leonard Lief Library, Herbert
Lehman College, Bronx, New York. May 2014
"Not only a thorough book about a fascinating cuisine, but good travel journalism as well. A delightful journey for the senses."
Mutual Publishing, LLC (Consignment) April 30, 2014
"By way of introduction to Vivienne Kruger’s Balinese Food, bear in mind that eight degrees south of the equator, this modest-sized lava rich, emerald green island rests among the 17,508 remote, culturally distinct constellation of Indonesian islands. It is home to three million mortals who believe they are protected by an unfathomable number of Bali-Hindu goddesses and gods that inhabit the island’s sacred mountain peaks. The Balinese are unlike almost any other island people in that they are suspicious, even distrustful of the sea, believing mischievous spirits and negative powers dwell there—the underworld, as it were. Yes, they eat seafood, they just mostly let other Indonesians do the fetching. Fittingly, Kruger’s masterful use of language; dogged, on the ground conversations with thousands of Balinese cooks and farmers; and disarming humanity leads to a culinary-minded compendium unlike almost any other. Bali, you got the scribe you deserved.
What made Kruger’s work even more impressive is the fact that almost nothing about Balinese food history has been written down over the years. She writes: “Like so many other traditions in Bali, cooking techniques and eating habits are passed down verbally by elders to their children and grandchildren who help in the kitchen. However, Indonesia has an old orally transmitted food culture because the pleasure of storytelling is entwined with the pleasure and effort of cooking and eating.” Balinese Food is framed around twenty-one chapters, including the all-important Sacred Ceremonial Cuisine, Traditional Village Foods, the Cult of Rice, Balinese Pig, Balinese Duck, and specialized cooking techniques like saté, banana leaf wrappers, and the use of bumbu, a sacred, powerful dry spice paste mixture. In the chapter Seafood in Bali, she lists a popular, fragrant accompaniment called Sambal Matah—chopped shallots, red chilies, coconut oil, and kaffir lime juice—that is always served raw and fresh, in this case, alongside a simple recipe for grilled tuna. An outstanding achievement in the realm of island cooking and Indonesian history, Balinese Food showcases the Balinese people in the most flattering of ways."
Foreword Reviews Magazine. Foreword Reviews. Summer 2014