Nutrition: What do peasants eat?

By Budhiana Kartawijaya

They consume rice in large quantities of servings, perhaps twice as much as the townsmen eat. Sayur lodeh (vegetable in coconut milk soup) or sayur bening (vegetable soup without coconut milk), salted fish with tempeh or tofu, are their daily favorite dishes. To get a taste sensation, they put sambal (chili sauce) on everything. They rarely have eggs or meat for the meal.

These poor people also consume other carbohydrates such as cassava and sweet potato, both are easy to grow there. Bananas are plenty, but they infrequently take it. Not to say other expensive fruit like mango, orange, sawo or others. Fruit sellers on motorbike offer them the tropical fruits like mangoes and papaya. To the low income villagers, these mobile vendors sell small size and low quality stuff. The best fruit is there in the modern stores in town which they cannot afford due to the high price.

As the low income class, they cannot afford nutritious food. Village women have only a little knowledge of nutrients needed for children. The craze of watching television makes them victims of fake or misleading advertising. They perceive that the processed food on the television advertising is good for daily nutritional fulfillment especially for children. They don’t aware that nutrition is important in the first 1000 days of childhood. Once they had cash on hand, they go to the mini market to buy ice cream, snack or soft drinks. Consequently, we will find plastic waste everywhere.

Many of these farm laborers raise cattle such as cows, sheep, chickens and fish. Livestock is a good source of protein to meet nutritional intake. But cows and sheep are mostly not theirs, but belong to rich people. They only get paid, or take nengah or parohan (both mean “get a half”, that is when the cattle give birth, the owner and the peasant share the calves).

They very rarely eat meat or drink milk even in Eid al-Adha, also called the “Sacrifice Feast”. In Indonesia Eid al-Adha is the second most sacred Muslim holiday and it is celebrated worldwide each year. Muslims sacrifice cows, sheep, buffalos or – in Arabs countries—camel. The meat is distributed to the poor to meet their protein need. But unfortunately, many villages in Cimenyan are out of touch area. The last ritual slaughter was four years ago with only one sheep.

Last year, Odesa Foundation collected donations for the Islamic day from urban community. In Eid al-Adha 1438 Hijriyah (according to the Muslim lunar calendar) or 1 September 2017, Odesa brought as many as 16 sheep and two cows. The animals were slaughtered in Kampung Sentak Dulang, packed it into 600 small plastics bags. According to Ujang Rahmat, the local religious leader, the number of sacrificial animals was shocking. There has been no sacrifice for a long time. The last four years ago, it was only a sheep. So did the people of the Pondok Buahbatu village, they expected the annual sheep donation from Highschool 12 Bandung.

What about fish and chicken?

According Ujang Rusmana, a prominent leader in Kampung Cisanggarung, many residents keep the chickens and fish. However, chickens are slaughtered and fish are fried if there are major events such as holidays, religious festival or family party, e.g. wedding party or sunatan party (procession of circumcised boy). Chickens and fish are raised at home to welcome important days, not for daily protein fulfillment. So beef, lamb, chicken and fish are “festival food”, whereas in urban society, fish, chicken and cow meat were consumed as daily food.

So their daily diet is a simple menu: salted fish, jengkol goreng (fried dogfruit), tempeh and tofu, and lalapan (raw vegetable). Simple grilling, boiling and frying the single raw stuff are the only cooking method. There are no culinary arts such as making soup, sayur asem (vegetable in tamarind soup) or lodeh, capcay (mixed vegetable), let alone rawon (black nut soup).

There is no such a culinary art in these hidden villages. For them, carbohydrates and full belly, are much more important. Therefore, dependence rates on rice is very high despite the expensive price. Residents usually buy rice in less than 3 kilos retail weekly. Having had no enough cash, not many of them buy in a five kilo pack. The minimum essential carbohydrate for a family is 5 kilos of rice a week for three times meals a day.

“If there is not enough rice, they can stand to eat once or twice a day. If there are rice donations, they are like ‘possessed’. Instead of having three times meals, they can eat up to five times a day. Asked why don’t you manage the rice consumption to three meals a day so you can save the rice for more days ahead? They say ‘never mind! Tomorrow is another day!’” said Ujang.
(Budhiana Kartawijaya)

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