Saturday, January 05, 2008

Cultural relativism and pig guts

It's funny how childhood food habits become law. I didn't eat horses as a child, so I don't eat them now, even though I eat cows. Ducks, which are almost as normal as chickens here, still strike me as a luxury item appropriate to cruise ships and weddings. The small roasted birds -- quail? -- sold on certain street corners seem tragic and make me a little queasy.

Thus it is with pig. I am a big fan of certain sausages, even knowing that the casing is made of pig gut. But show me a pile of pig innards - what is known as "sekba" in Glodok - and I turn pale.

We didn't try sekba. We ate turtle, and that seemed like a sufficient challenge. (That's another cultural equation, come to think of it: yes to lobster and fish, no to turtles and frogs.)

So I said no to sekba -- or to quote the great Philip Levine, "No. Not this pig."


kopidunia said...

Thanks for a great blog! Brings back memories and makes want to go back asap. Sudah dibookmark. And yes, I was weary about the pig thing too first time I tried it, tapi jangan kuatir, memang enaaaaaak! Coba deh
:-) Takut? Have a great 2008! Kopi Dunia

elyani said...

I am not a vegetarian but I also don't like innards a whole lot, anything brain related, intestines of any sorts. I remember in Surabaya a friend took me to the "Rujak Cingur" stall and I had to apologize profusely for not finishing the food. Rujak Cingur is a mixture of fruit (young mango, star fruit, pineapple), veggie (kangkong, long beans, bean sprout), lontong (rice cake) and cingur (cow tongue) mixed with ground peanuts and dark shrimp paste. It's so yucky, I just don't like it.

kopisusu2 said...

Kopi Dunia -- we are clearly soulmates! Or blogmates or something. You're also braver than I am, for eating sekba!

I like your Indonesian study site. Have you tried the TruAlfa Indo-English dictionary? I like it because you don't have to know the root words. My other secret weapon for language learning is teen novels -- fun to read and great for learning real spoken Indonesian.

Elyani, you reminded me of the time I ordered "otak" (brains) thinking it was "otak-otak" (delicious little fish dumplings wrapped in banana leaves). Sure enough, what showed up on my plate was a supiciously round deep-fried thing covered in breadcrumbs. I picked at it but never really ate the inside part.

michele said...

cultural relativism with food choice, so true. and also hunger/poverty relativism. reminds me how on the east coast of the US, lobster was originally so plentiful and disrespected (bottom feeders) that poor people could catch and eat lots of it, making it a lower class food by association. now that it's harder to come by and very expensive it's a luxury item.

Anonymous said...

Hi Trish!
I followed the link to the Philip Levine poem and really loved it.

kopisusu2 said...

I love that poem too. Often when I see an animal with great inherent dignity, I think "No. Not this pig."

They Feed They Lion is pretty cool too:

kemsey said...

Just to correct Elyani, cingur is even more undesirable than 'plain' cow tongue, it's actually cow nose!

mr_john said...

Who needs to go all the way to Surabaya to get rujak cingur (which is indeed cow nose, or at least the cartilege), you can get it at the east Javanese place around the corner from our house. I've got to say, I'm not a huge fan of the cingur, but everything else in it is super tasty. You can even get it without the cingur if you so desire... It's like a thick, sweet, spicy gado-gado with no peanuts and young mango in the salady part.

Oh, and I love that poem.

mr_john said...

Or maybe less peanuts, I can't remember exactly... Anyway, try it.