Idul Adha: Beautiful. Bloody. Bovine.
Viewer discretion is advised. This post will feature photos of animals being sacrificed. Though no animals were harmed in the making of this post, freshly sacrificed animals were consumed while writing it. No regrets.
So Idul Adha happened this week and it was epic, bloody, and lively. I usually wake up around 6:30 or 7 am but today the students came to school around 6 am to prepare for the day’s festivities. I woke up to the sound of the school rock band warming up and the aggressive jingling of the basketball backboards and hoops. Today was going to be one of the books. Idul Adha is the Feast of the Sacrifice and it honors the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son at God’s command, demonstrating his complete trust in God. As Abraham was about to sacrifice Isaac, God spared his son and Abraham sacrificed a ram instead. On Idul Adha, animals are sacrificed in remembrance of this story of Abraham and his son. The date of Idul Adha varies every year but it typically occurs in the fall several weeks after the holiday celebrating the conclusion of Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr.
Last summer I was lucky enough to live in Morocco during the entire month of Ramadan. I was not there long enough, however, to celebrate Idul Adha with my host family and they kept telling me how cool it was to see the lamb sacrificed in the modest kitchen in our apartment. Sad to have missed that but fast forward to this year. Missed Ramadan in Indonesia but here for Idul Adha. After today, I now understand what my host family was talking about. I feel blessed to have been able to share this day with my students and fellow teachers and witness a large part of Indonesian culture in the celebration of Idul Adha. Earlier this week, students had school off to celebrate this holy day with their families and community. Today the school had its own Idul Adha and sacrificed 3 cows and 2 sheep then students cooked the meat and competed against each other in a culinary competition.
Part I: The Sacrifice
I had heard from my sitemate, Julia, that the sacrifice at her school was very humane and that the animals were very calm before the act. This definitely helped me to mentally prepare for today as I walked out to the front of the school and saw the first of the three cows to be killed. This Big Bessie was apparently the largest cow so naturally she would be the first up to the plate. My (extremely brave) students and several of the male teachers led the cow over to the tarp and pit but as they were doing so the cow made a run for it. Fortunately the men held on tight enough to keep the cow from going far but it was enough of a bolt for me to nearly pee myself as I was standing right in the cow’s charging path. My running away screaming after the cow tried to run also gave my school quite the laugh and the students more reason to think Ms. Kendra is “gila” but what’s done is done. This big cow threw quite the fit and took around 8 minutes to finally get into position. Once aligned over the hole in the ground, the sacrifice was swift and humane but the smell of bovine blood was a little more than I could handle and I quickly moved from the front row to the very, very, very, very back where I hid behind one of my school’s gym teachers who just so happened to be wearing excellent perfume. Unplanned but v clutch.
After the first cow was done, some of the male teachers began to break down the cow and many of the students and teachers had already set up tables and weighing stations for cutting the meat. Off to work they went and the next cow was up to bat. Within an hour, all 5 animals had been sacrificed and the meat was being broken down at a startling pace. I mean these students and teachers were butchering like there was no tomorrow. It was incredible and impressive.
Part II: Top Chef
When I walked out of my room today and into the main courtyard I saw that all of the students’ motorbikes and bikes were parked there, which means the parking lot was empty. Turns out the parking lot was covered in bamboo mats and later covered in students frantically cooking delicious smelling food on hot coals and propane burners. All of the students in the school were allowed to compete and there were several dozen teams. It was incredible watching all of the teams working with so few amenities but still putting out great dishes. Everywhere I turned I could see sambal (a crushed chili pepper paste) being made from scratch, meat being carefully diced and seasoned, students fanning coals to keep them hot, and the chatter of hundreds of teenagers working together to create something beautiful. I wish I had half the cooking talent these students have — their patience, technical skill, and palette makes MasterChef Junior seem like a cheesy advertisement for a Easy-Bake Ovens. Gordon Ramsay should have been here today to learn a few tips.
All in all, this was my favorite part of the day. The students were so impressive and I left the parking lot in an amazed shock at how resourceful these students are. Wow. Just wow.
Part III: The Gemuk Life
Gemuk means fat. And after today, my food baby (such a nice term in English) would be labeled as gemuk. But I don’t care because food. Holy cow this food (kudos to Julia for the “Holy cow” pun).
The students cooked dishes from all over Indonesia and many students cooked some variation of rendang daging, a meat dish hailing from West Sumatra and earning the Reader’s #1 Pick for Best Food according to CNN. I hear that statistic at least once a week from someone at my school. One of my fellow teachers, Bu Sari, hit me up on Whatsapp and said to come up to the main auditorium in the school to judge the food. I was not worthy of this task, but I like to eat almost more than I like to be alive so I ran up as fast as I could. The food trickled in, one dish at a time, as students finished up their presentation. The plates were all brought in so subtly that I had to have eyes like a hawk to spot when new dishes arrived so I could pounce. Every meal came with a fruity drink or traditional Indonesian drink and most meals came with rice and some side of fruit or vegetables. It was all heavenly. Mbak Sari and I thoroughly tested each and every dish, sometimes two or three times, just to really make sure it was just that delicious. We ended up taking one of the drinks, Wedang Bandrek, back downstairs with us it was just that good.
My favorite meal of the day was made by pastry students who had formed a team and decided to make rendang daging pizza (possibly the best thing that’s ever happened to me) and quiche lorraine with rendang inside (also incredible). They were the only students who had thought to use pastry as a way to manipulate a common dish and turn it into something no one else was making and something that not many people would have had before. I would like to think they would have won a challenge on Top Chef with a dish like this. And they’re 16 and 17 year olds. I’m just in awe. Many of my students want to take pictures with me because I’m new and a bule, but today more than I wanted to take pictures with all of the students because they were celebrity chefs in my eyes.
If I leave today with one goal it’s to ask for some serious cooking classes from these students. I have far more to learn from them than they do from me. I’m a proud little guru today.