I finally have a new kitchen! And it is
hugely popular! No, no fine Alessi kitchenware, designer cabinets
and Italian tiles: we built a plat-form at the back of the house
from recycled wood, added a corrugated iron roof, decided to do
without walls and installed a traditional wood-fired stove, called ‘dompuran’
or ‘dompuan’ in various Dusun languages. It comes with a
bamboo smoking rack, and further up is the drying rack for firewood,
promptly occupied by one of my hens who decided to lay her eggs
amongst the firewood. We put her eggs in a cardboard box of a local
beer brewer and now she hatches her eggs in there, still on top of
the firewood, forcing us to store the firewood somewhere else.
new kitchen under construction
This "primitive" kitchen has become so popular that we have to think
of enlarging it! A recently felled tree provides, cut in half, a
bench that can seat about four, and another four can sit on the
floor, but then the kitchen is really crowded and there is no space
any more for the dishes. And cook we do: BBQ wild boar marinated in
olive oil and rosemary, fresh fish from the seas, wild vegetable
soups and fragrant hill rice, and stews of a variety of hunted
animals. Recently I even made French fries, and occasionally I place
my oven above charcoal and go for pizza. Everything always washed
down with some home made rice wine, obviously!
Traditional stove with "pizza oven" installed
Grilled brinjal - served with a hot sambal, and the ingredients for a delicious wild boar goulash
It is curious, but I have often wondered why in Sabah the locals
don’t have traditional stoves at home. Lighting up a fire is not
that much work, and firewood is easily available. In Sarawak, nearly
every home is equipped with a wooden fire, right next to the gas
stove. On markets there, one can even buy bamboo sections for their
‘pansoh’ cooking, that is meats or fish, together with some
condiments are cooked in a bamboo section over an open fire. In
Sabah this is called ‘uluon’, the meats or fish thus prepared are
extremely delicious but it is nowadays a virtually unknown way of
cooking, to a point where it took me days just finding the
vocabulary from some old lady. In Sarawak nobody has any hang ups
combining the traditional with the modern. Maybe it is because here
in Sabah the only people who do have a traditional kitchen are those
that cannot, for one reason or other, have a gas-stove. Gas
might be too expensive – firewood is easily collected and costs
nothing but sweat – or they live in such remote areas that carrying
a gas cylinder is simply not worth while. As such cooking over a
wooden fire is maybe considered primitive, backwards and poor… but
my, how good dishes are when cooked over an open fire. Now and then I even
boil my tea water over an open fire, which invariably perfumes the
water and gives the tea a delicate smoked flavour.
French fries and pizza - admittedly not exactly traditional
Sabah dishes, but universally appreciated!
Plus, my new kitchen has added to my pleasures in life: sit out
there in the back in the evening, with a nice fire going, some wild
boar or fish grilling, with a couple of good friends, and a couple
of glasses of rice wine. I don’t exactly have a Balinese garden, but
when you sit on the elevate platform of the kitchen, your head just
a little under the full height of the wild yams and with gorgeously
yellow flowering ‘doringin’ (Dillenia sp) at the back, my colourful
chicken happily looking for the odd grain, my cat purring contently
next to the fire and the dog watching sorrowfully as we devour wild
boar, you actually start relaxing all by your own!
Here something more traditional: sago grubs on charcoal,
prepared at my friends home in Kalangga'an,
locals still use "real" traditional kitchens...
The new kitchen also incites my visitors from far away villages to
tell me stories, teach me many new words and even make some
handicraft. Some afternoons we sit there and work with bamboo and
rattan, tell stories and legends and look for nearly forgotten terms
in Dusun for the various artefacts we make. My new kitchen…
The making of a local 'timbaku', a kind of basin made
from the frond
of an areca palm leaf... local handicraft
inspired by my new kitchen!
One of my hens roosting over the firewood...
one day or
other she will roast over charcoal!
Me cooking in an Iban longhouse in Sarawak - note at the back the gas
and traditional are happily mixed there; not so