Balinese Indigenous Wisdom Against Food Paradox

by Titik Kartitiani

Ngaben. Thousands of people came, hundreds of tonds of rice during the ceremony cooked, hundreds of pounds of fruits served, dozens of pigs, all food abundance is accompanied by readings this ceremony. Is there any wasted food?


Ngaben Ceremony Tjokorda Gde Raka, Puri Sidemen, August 2016


For Balinese, ceremonies such as breathing. Starting to wake up and till to bed again, there’s always the ceremony. Some of them are individuals ceremonies, some of them are great ceremonies. Before sunrise, Balinese will put the “canang sari” with prayer. is one of the daily offerings made by  Balinese Hindus to thank the Sang Hyang Widi Washa in praise and prayer. Canang sari to put on the side of the road or the desaired places. Though not much, no more pinch of rice, their look wasted food while in the other parts of the world, people picking up grains of rice grains in order to survive. Almost  1.3 billion tons of edible food is wasted every year, four times the amount needed to feed the 795 million undernourished people around the world.

Moreover, when the ceremony that bring a lot of people, that is also good for cooking food or snack offerings. On the island of Bali, the ceremony took almost everyday. The greatest cremation ceremony called “Ngaben”, can bring in thousands of people in one day. As “Ngaben” was done to Tjokorda Gde Raka in August 2016. Cok Sawitri, his daughter, who also Bali culture observer, wanted to make all the ceremony supplies by hand (handmade), including crafts, carvings, to the calf statue use “to bring” his father to Nirvana.

“I don’t want calf made from environmentally distructive stuff. Usually made of styrofoam. For my father, made of wood, so depleted when burned,” said Cok.

With that kind of details, Ngaben takes preparation about 3 months. Every day, hundreds of people came to the Sidemen Castle, the place where the ceremony prepared and held. Even in the week leading up to summit ceremony, could have thousands of people came. In Ngaben, 3000 participants came in that day. How many tons of rice and other foods are cooked. Of course, plenty of food left.

In Bali, excess food is better than less so all participants would get food. For a nobleman, let the guests don’t get food is the act of disrespect. Excess food will be leftlovers. Do go to into the dusbin?

Honour to the Btari Nini, The Mother of Rice

“We trust throw boga it shouldn’t be. Boga was all the food. Especially rice because rice was from Btari Nini,” said Cok. The Balinese believe that Btari Nini derived from rice (Rice Goddess Mother). Btari Nini is revered as a goddess of fertility, bringing fertile of the land. The cult of the goddess of paddy was written by Cok in a form of spiritual poems sung by Ayu Laksmi, famous singer from Bali.

Food Paradox
Food in Ngaben Ceremony

Oh, Goddess Nini
I worship thee
From the North, the South, the East and the West
Separately or together
Inseparable for they compliment each other
Purusha pradana
They grow in the womb
They fill up the womb of Mother Earth

This poem represents how the Balinese people that some Hindus venerate the goddess of rice. Starting from irrigation system of planting called Subak, tending, and harvesting, all with ceremonies.They believe all processes for Btari Nini and represents God, The Creator. As the the embodiment of obidience to his Lord, the Balinese is manisfested with the philosophical concept of Tri Hita Karana (three reasons for prosperity), namely harmony among people, harmony with the nature or environment, harmony with God.  From that concept, its actions when there is food left over, they will not throw it away. All kinds produced by paddy, rice in particular, will be highly repected and feared when wasted.

“If ofter throw away food, cost of living will be more wasteful,” said Cok. Tri Hita Karana also teach the Balinese people to live in harmony with nature and the environment. The habir of discarding food is wasteful way of life which is not in harmony towards nature. Nature will take more wasteful of nature so that nature will be quickly damaged.

Get Around Leftover and the Concept of Sharing

Rice, meat, vegetable, and fruit is the main componen food ingredients in a ceremony in Bali. Some are processed into food for the guests, there are presented to the Gods in the form of “sesaji” (the offerings) and decoration. Processed rice in a ceremony that could be a main course and a snack. As for meat, mostly pork. Served in the “babi guling” menu, the pork without cut and just baked. Guests will immediately take by hand without knife to make slice, then eaten directly or with rice.

It’s just because in Bali there are also muslim community and being a brothers, in a ceremony that also served goat meat and chicken for those who do not eat pork. These materials are often letf after the ceremony.

“In Bali, all leftovers can be processed back into the food. Rice, meat, and all the food the rest of the ceremony can be created new food,” said Cok. Leftover rice is dried by the hot sun to dry. The result is called “sengauk”, in the form of dry rice that resemble rice again. This “sengauk” can be stored several months later. How to cook with spices, “terasi” (deep fried shrimp paste), and green chilli. Served as a side dish.

Babi guling inedible which can be processed into “abon” (shredded meat). The leftovers meat shredded and then seasoned with brown sugar, salt, and spices. Cooked until the seasoning blends. “Abon” can be eaten as a side dish, or be additional to the other snack like be a topping of biscuits. “Abon” can be storage several weeks.

Pork skin not usually eaten immediately, dried into “krupuk’ (cracker). These crackers are fried for a snack, it’s so crips. Or made “krecek”, the cracker cooked with gravy and potato.

The cuisine is always served in a ceremony that invite many people is “lawar bali”. That cuisine is made from a mixture vegetables, coconut, and spices-rich meat. After the ceremony, “lawar bali” left can be fried without oil, could then served again. If we diligents fried till dry, this food can be served several days.

While the remaining fruits could be made iced fruit. Fruits are still hard cut, added the syrup, and ice. Ice fruit is one favourite dish in Bali. Balinese cuisine has always been rich in spices. Ice fruit often added with cinnamon and star anis. When the fruit was looking no longer fresh, could made “manisan” (candied fruit). The fruit is boiled, mixed with spices and sugar. “Manisan” can storage for several weeks.

Are the food is healthy because it comes frome the leftovers? Sure. This food stay healthy because of the expertise Balinese in using spices. Additional spices, sugar, and salt make food does not lose its benefit even durable without addition of synthetic preservatives. Despite the abundant amount of food in ceremony, almost nothing is wasted.

“But the rest of the food prepared back should not be sold. It was the tradition rules,” said Cok. This rule teaches people to share, do not accumulate wealth alone. After the ceremony, processed food is distributed to discharged specifically for people who need or who have come to help in ceremony. Each had ist own tradition for friendly with nature and spread the love and also how againts food paradox. That’s why we need to take care of the diversity in the face of this earth.

This article for Food Suistainable Media Award 2017


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