The primary school staff worked hard to make Book Week and the culminating Book Parade Day special for our kids. It is one of the few times during the year where the kids get to dress up (Ellie said, “MOM! It’s just like Halloween!”) Most of the costumes on that day were borrowed or made with clever homemade materials.
One of the things I appreciate about my childhood is that I didn’t have access to everything…my family had fun and lived simply. When we girls were home from boarding school, my parents splurged and bought special foods for us. However, we couldn’t buy things like Jello, Angel Food Cake mix, Ranch dressing or koolaid in Indonesia. Those came in special packages once a year usually around Christmas time. Living between Indonesia (where my parents worked) and Malaysia (where I went to school) meant that we were able to eat all kinds of flavorful and spicy food. My mom made a lot of things from scratch so it was not a huge transition for me coming to PNG and making my own bread, etc.
When I came to PNG, I realized 1) eating out is not really something we can do often, maybe once or twice a year if we are near a city or town and 2) eating out is very expensive. In Indonesia or Malaysia, sometimes eating out at a local stall was cheaper than cooking it yourself and 3) sometimes the things I’m used to having all the time (like spaghetti or brown sugar) aren’t available for a little while.
So why am I reminiscing about FOOD? Well, a good portion of my day is spent in the kitchen preparing food. We have access here to a lot of basic ingredients, so if we can’t buy something, usually we can find a way to make it. I have been on a quest to recreate some of those Asian dishes from my childhood and it is so FUN if I can get it right. When I started looking up recipes for Malaysian chicken curry, my heart sank because I didn’t have the right spices to recreate it here. I had a chance last week to go to a town a half an hour away to go to Papindos, which is a chain of stores that gets a lot of its stock from Indonesia. There I can buy sweet soy sauce (ketchap manis), fish sauce, sweet chilli sauce, and this time, I found Malaysian curry spice mix! I know it probably sounds crazy to be so excited about a small thing like this, but it really comes out just like I remember it. The only problem is that I remember eating it with Roti Canai, yummy Indian bread which is soft on the inside and crispy on the outside. I think this is something else I don’t think I can duplicate. Although, who knows, maybe sometime I will be able to do it!
Adding to my excitement about the Malaysian curry spices, I went to our store today, and found out that a shipment had come. Not only was I able to buy pasta and ground beef, but there were also things like Pad Thai noodles and jasmine rice. I can TOTALLY live without all these little ‘extras’ but it is very exciting when something you’ve been without shows up. It almost makes it more enjoyable to have been without that little thing and then to realize “it’s here! We can have popcorn again!”
To top it all off, we have a really good market here in the highlands, where we are able to get yummy fruits and veggies all year ‘round. A few things we’ve been enjoying lately are purple passion fruit, avocados and tree tomatoes.
So if you ever want to make your own mayo, bagels, lasagna noodles or tortilla chips…let me know! It takes a little time but the effort (in my humble opinion) is worth it. And it makes our family meals fun.