a big bite of that American pie

Sure I have days when I’m confused, or annoyed, or just unfocused. And just when those days seem to have nothing else better to offer, there always seems to be an unavoidable cloud of smoke I pass through while on my bike, inevitably inhaling that oh-so-fresh puff of burning garbage. I mean who doesn’t have those experiences?   

But then Sundays happen.

Along with the occasional trips during the week, on Sundays, I bike to the pasar (traditional market) and load up on my makanan (food/produce) for the upcoming week. Sometimes the village kids see me return from the pasar and ask what time they can come over and learn English. I get that warm fuzzy feeling everytime they ask but I never know exactly how my day will be colored. Plus, there are times I dread the thought of entertaining a crowd of endless energized kids. Normally they come over during the week. After my initial exhausted thoughts subside about what chaos will arise, the hour is quickly over and they leave with a glow and I retire to my room guilty-free. In the recent weeks however, due to one thing or another, we haven’t had a chance to meet as frequently during the week and we’ve had to wait until Sundays. On this particular Sunday, when I passed by on my bike two girls Fifi and Dian rode alongside me demanding a time we could play.

“Now,” I responded, “Let’s ride bikes…” I already knew the answer before I asked, but I figured it was worth a try.

“Wah, it’s too hot Mbak Ellen….” if their whines weren’t so adorable I probably would have stopped there, but I kept riding along just a little farther.

“Ok. If you both ride to the store with me to buy some flour, we can make a pizza together,” I suggested.

Fifi was quick to answer with, “Mbak Ellen, it’s so far!,” but then Dian chimed in with, “PIZZA!”

After we got back from the store, they agreed to come back to my house in an hour so I could bike back into town and grab a few other items from the market. They must’ve spread the word pretty quickly because once I arrived home there were 12 kids eagerly gathered on my front porch.

My host mother spat at them like she does with the chickens that often attempt to enter our house. She kept reminding them to remove their shoes before entering. They do that everywhere they go, why would our house be any different?

It was mainly my fault for not warning her about the child invasion. But I too wasn’t expecting such an attendance. She was later appreciative when we cleaned up our mess plus more.

After they all patiently waited for the dough to rise, the girls shaped and decorated their pizzas, while the boys blended juice. I showed them a thing or two when it came to preparing the sauce, but basically I was hands off and played the role of supervisor and of course taste tester when the time came. They were really timid when it came to forming the “right shape” but I pushed them along and tried to explain that it was going to tickle their tastebuds no matter what shape it took.

Being that we were working with fire I kept tabs on the girls while the boys were left to their own devices, with the expectations that they would produce some tasty juice. Mistake. They peeled the oranges and langsung (directly) into the blender went the entire orange. Result—some super sour immediate ulcer on your tongue juice. “Asam!” (or sour) No amount of sugar in Java could cover the flavor. Now these are the boys I often see driving motorcycles up and down my street, or see setting action figures to flame so I’m not sure what I expected. The failure turned into one comical episode of boys challenging one another to taste the juice. They even convinced one boy to finish a glass of it. I bet he had some plentiful visits to the squatty potty later that night.

The girls’ pizzas were ready to be placed in the “steam oven”—the pizza pan sat in another pan above high heat and filled with water, sealed with a tight lid, which created heat from both directions and functioned, best we could do, as an oven. The boys began to make their pizzas, which largely consisted of cheese because they were so excited to use the crater and eat the white cheddar Kraft (yeah I went crazy!) that they just kept adding more. The girls fortunately worked their magical with the blender and produced some yummy juice from jambu merah (guava).

After Faisel, my host nephew stole a bite too quickly and as a result fanned his mouth, we all sat on the porch patiently sipping away on our juices in anticipation for the pies to cool. Each pizza looked so different. I’m sure they didn’t appreciate their creativity presented in each one, but I did. The boys weren’t as patient and insisted on taking it out of the steam oven a little too early, which resulted in a pretty doughy crust. The girls made a squareish-shaped pizza and a circular-shaped one that they attempted to form into a heart at the last minute. When the pies were just warm to the touch, they went for it. Grabbing and chewing and licking their lips, reaching over one another for seconds. Laughing so hard that they toppled over on their sides and sticking their fingers in each others’ slices.  They picked up every last crumb from the pizza pans. They smiled as wide as the crumb-smeared sauce on their cheeks. I was happy to have and share a little slice of what seems to taste like America to me, but they were just happy to themselves.


2 thoughts on “a big bite of that American pie

  1. Hi Maryellen,

    What wonderful memories you will be leaving these children!! I still have happy memories from the student teachers they used to send to our playground in the summer. And it made me so nostalgic for pizza! I haven’t found a good gluten-free one yet! Keep up the good work and continue to be an excellent role model for those kids (and your Ubud!)

    Love, Aunt Tish

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