A memoir-type story about my own experience as a freelance journalist covering the abortive communist coup attempt in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Sept 30, 1965.
Basically Ray was to learn how the various Indonesian cuisines were prepared and what were the ingredients and condiments used. He was also to taste these varied food items himself so he could precisely describe what they were like to a Westerner’s taste bud.
Weeks before Ray arrived in Jakarta I lined up a series of food-tasting sessions with leading personalities of Indonesia’s culinary world. These were not only in Jakarta, but also in Bandung (West Java), Yogyakarta (Central Java), Surabaya (East Java), Ubud (Bali), Ambon (Maluku or the Moluccas), Makasar (South Sulawesi or Celebes), Menado (North Sulawesi), Palembang (South Sumatra), Padang and Bukittinggi (both in West Sumatra).
In Jakarta I was introduced by Brig. Gen. Sutikno, then Head of Household Affairs of the Merdeka (Freedom) Palace, to Ibu Supit. Ibu is Indonesian for mother which in this context means Madam. She was then Jakarta’s top caterer whose cuisines were served for dinners in state functions attended by local and foreign dignitaries hosted by President Suharto. Ibu Supit strongly suggested that we feature Mrs. Tien Suharto’s special recipe for sop ikan (fish soup) in the book. She said the first lady was an excellent cook and sop ikan was President Suharto’s favorite dish.
No sooner did Ray arrive in Jakarta than the two of us embarked on a hectic whirlwind tour of those cities. We tasted what were supposed to be the best culinary delights in each city. In Menado our host was Governor H.V. Worang while in Bali it was no less than the Raja (King) of Ubud himself. Ray was quite a gourmet and astonished people in Padang and Bukittinggi with his chili-munching capability. I wrote down the recipes of certain dishes Ray thought would be suitable to include in the book.
With the help of Gen. Sutikno and Colonel Dwipayana, intimately addressed as Mas Dipo by senior palace reporters, I succeeded in getting a lunch appointment for Ray and me with Mrs. Tien Suharto at the first family’s residence on Jalan Cendana No. 8 in Menteng. Mas means big brother, a term used to politely address someone older or respected. Mas Dipo was President Suharto’s press officer. To Ray’s and my surprise, Mrs. Tien Suharto, popularly referred to as just Ibu Tien, spoke fluent English and Dutch. I found out later she attended the Dutch MULO secondary school. She was accompanied by Mrs. Alamsyah, wife of Major Gen. Alamsyah, one of Suharto’s top aides at the time.
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