I thought we’d done well last weekend when our friend Andrew (Achilles to his mum) came around bearing an extremely impressive pastitsio.
However I think we may have just had a world record breaking weekend of eating Stuff White People Like.
First there was a cup of fair trade Ethiopian coffee (#1) and shopping at the non profit (#12) ANU Food Co-op (#48) for organic tempeh and the like (#6), followed by a trip to Choku Bai Jo (even whiter than the Farmers Market, #5). Then it was lunch at my sister’s house, a very glamourous version of surf’n'turf, fat slabs of steak from the organic butcher at Belconnen Markets, a coleslaw with homemade lime and chilli mayonnaise and a salad of prawns, avocado and kipflers:
… followed by hollowed out strawberries filled with a Campari jelly and topped with mint and lemon zest – white person heaven. The recipe is from Moveable Feast, but minus the wasabi because they’d forgotten. If only I’d known I could have bought the fresh horseradish root in the veggie crisper.
But that was just the beginning. The peak of our weekend’s White Person experience isn’t on the Stuff White People Like site, but I heard founder Christian Lander on Radio National (#44) one day saying about the best thing you could do for a white person was cook them something from your culture and tell them it wasn’t available in restaurants or anywhere else.
Our next door neighbour, Ann, is a follower of Tibetan Buddhism (#2), and is one year away from finishing a three year meditation retreat in France. While she’s away, her house is used by Bhutanese students (who are generally either studying Buddhism or doing MBAs, as far as I could work out.) On Friday afternoon Dogpa (a phonetic spelling) invited us to come on Saturday and celebrate the coronation of their new King, explaining that we could experience some Bhutanese culture as everyone would be wearing their national dress and there would be Bhutanese food.
They had set up a beautiful white marquee in the back yard, with a flagpole and the Bhutanese flag and thangkas and photographs of their beloved monarchs. Their national dress is very handsome indeed, and the women in particular looked very beautiful (#11).
There were a few brief and charming speeches explaining the significant current events in Bhutan (#18), and a including a passing reference to their happiness that Barack Obama (#8) had been elected in the US in the same week that they celebrated a hundred years of their monarchy, the achievements of the Fourth King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck (which include the peaceful transition from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional one with a democratically elected Parliament) and the coronation of the Fifth King, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck. There was butter tea and saffron rice, and advice that this was a ritual offering, and we should hang around for the feasting.
omg, the feasting. The community members had divided up the cooking, and there were about 15 or 20 different dishes. Tripe! Pig’s head! Dry beef! Ema-datsi, the national dish of chilli and cheese. People kept asking us how we coped with the chilli, but that was no problem for us. I’m not buying Ruth Reichl’s view that Bhutanese cuisine is “the worst in the world” – the food was delicious, and the tripe in particular was extraordinary; braised to a beautiful soft consistency and firey hot.
There’s not much information about Bhutanese food on the web – the country only began to use television and the internet in 1999 – but there’s a cultural overview here.
And yes, the White Folk joined in the Bhutanese dancing.