Cooking a love story

Rice in Indonesian folklore has the status of the love-hate relationship of a couple

Last Updated: Sunday 07 June 2015

Cooking a love story

Much of southeast Asia's folklore is woven around rice. In Indonesia, the Rice Mother is invoked for a bountiful paddy harvest. It is believed that a rice plant named after her protects other plants in the field. A tale from Kei in Indonesia illustrates the importance peasant folk attached to rice:

Letwir was a hunter who lived in Wir Werbut, an interior village on the island of Kei. One day, his dog fell into a ravine and when Letwir went to look for it he encountered an old lady who lived there. She invited him to lunch and served him what the people usually ate -- raw tubers and uncooked rice. But Letwir offered to first cook the rice. With a flint and some firewood, Letwir fulfilled this task. The aroma of rice filled the ravine and the two fell in love and decided to marry.

News of this fragrant food travelled far and wide and Letwir shared his secret of cooking rice with all. But he longed to return to his home village. His wife agreed to accompany him but the 2 quarrelled en route and Letwir wished to divorce her. She demanded her due -- the rice grains -- but Letwir managed to smuggle 2 under his nostrils.

Letwir returned home and planted his 2 rice grains, one of which was brown and the other white. His bountiful harvest attracted villagers but Letwir would always sell only brown rice, keeping the white rice for himself. This annoyed the brown rice, which decided to run away to Tanjung Jabri, a coastal district. Here he ensconced himself in the field of another old woman who watched brown rice grow with much suspicion.

But come harvest time, brown rice was eaten with relish and his qualities praised. The old woman thanked the Almighty for having sent this food and declared that rice would henceforth be their staple diet.

The brown rice is still popular in costal areas of Indonesia.

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