When we were in Ubud we signed up for the ever popular, Paon Cooking Class. The cooking class takes place just outside of Ubud in the village Laplapan, and offers a unique insight to the local food, people and culture. I did a similar cooking class in Thailand and it was a great way to spend the day as well as get a better understanding of the food. And of course, anything with eating and I am a willing participant.
The day kicked off at a local market where we were introduced to traditional herbs, exotic fruit and vegetables, and the process of Bali Hindu offerings – a small collection of flowers, plants, money and sometimes food. Afterwards we were taken out to the countryside to a rice paddy and were taught about rice farming.
The last stop was to the family home where we were introduced to the star of the show, Puspa, and her husband Wayan. Wayan welcomed us into their home and provided an introduction and family background before Puspa took over and we started cooking.
Puspa and her husband have been married for 17 years and live a rather unconventional Bali life. She moved from Denpensar to Ubud 18 years ago in the hopes of finding a job, but instead ended up pregnant and married. Or as they jokingly referred to it, “M.B.A. – Married by Accident”. In a place where religion directs a large part of everyday life, it is incredibly frowned upon to have a child out of wedlock. The family, particularly the mother and child, are scorned, and have to make large offerings to the spirits and god to receive forgiveness.
Today, Puspa and Wayan have two children, aged 17 and 14, and appear to live quite comfortably in their large home. Most families in Bali reside in the same home or compound with the extended family of the husband and can become quite large. For example, their neighbours have 37 people living in the same home! In contrast, Wayan and Puspa live alone with their two children, while the rest of Wayan’s family lives in a separate village. Their cooking school, which costs $35 per person, and is often fully booked, appears to offer them an above average standard of living.
The day was a huge success! We cooked a collection of 8 dishes including curry, chicken satay, gado gado (vegetables in peanut sauce), fried tempeh, and tuna steamed in banana leaves. Puspa’s enthusiasm and expertise made the class incredibly enjoyable. We were well taken care of, and very well fed!