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  • Hulda Bachman-Neeb

The setting of “Perils and Pearls” by Hulda Bachman-Neeb

The country of Indonesia, at the time of my book still the Dutch East Indies, is very much present in our lives. Several members of my family had, and still have, the urge to return more than once after we left the islands in the 1950s. We knew we had lost our privileges, but the rice paddies were still there, the friendly Javanese, the fragrances. Indonesia is home to vast tea and coffee plantations, to rubber plantations, to coconut groves. It has a tropical climate, a wet season and a dry season. The wet monsoon makes plants, flowers and trees grow in abundance. Once outside the main cities, there is space.

When the family in Holland has, or finds, an occasion to celebrate, which is often, we always opt for the Indonesian “rijsttafel”. We either go out to one of our favorite Indonesian restaurants, invariably named “Bali”, or we get our dishes from one of the many take-outs. In the United States, California has many such restaurants. After the Dutch Indies acquired independence from the Netherlands in 1949, life had lost most of its charm for many Javanese or other ethnic Indonesians. Many moved to Australia and California, and began their wonderful Indonesian eateries. A “rijsttafel” consists of a variety dishes, small dishes, fish, vegetables, eggs, meats, accompanied by rice.

I miss it and sometimes I try to cook a dish or two. But I cannot get the proper ingredients. Besides, the dishes are rather labor intensive. If you have a chance, try out an Indonesian “rijsttafel”, preferably somewhere in California.

NOTE: My blog post was originally featured as a guest post here:

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