Magic Jar – #14

July 6

1. I looked at the rice cooker – the Magic Jar – and commented to Suartini that the first time I stayed with her and Nyoman, 22 years ago, she was cooking rice in the traditional way, albeit with an aluminum pot over kerosene as opposed to a clay pot over a wood fire.  I wonder if her mother uses a Magic Jar now too.  Her daughter-in-law had the old kitchen torn down.

2. I’m so used to them now, would I have noticed it in Suartini’s kitchen if I had not been awash in a nostalgic wave? The Magic Jar is a metaphor for change.

3. Yesterday I looked for Ketut’s (stone) mortar and pestle as I acquainted myself with her kitchen.  I could only find the mortar.  But she had a blender, which she had pointed out to me before she left.  You can’t crush the seeds of the hot peppers and tomatoes when you make spice pastes in a blender.

4. Magic Jars relieve women of time-consuming work (boiling the rice until it’s half-cooked, then removing it to a woven Pandan leaf cone set in a clay pot – shaped like a funnel atop a reservoir filled with water – where it is steamed until it is fully cooked). Buying rice in bags relieves women of time consuming work (pounding, hulling, and cleaning). Blenders relieve women of time-consuming work (making spice pastes with a mortar and pestle). Piped water relieves women of time consuming work (getting river-water in plastic buckets (historically clay or copper pots) balanced on their heads).  Washing machines relieve women of time-consuming work (once washing clothes in the river by pounding them on a rock with the suds from the leaves of a particular plant I wouldn’t be able to identify and the name of which I can’t remember. Then, later, with laundry detergent and scrubbed with a brush on the floor of the bathroom and rinsed in a cheap plastic bucket from China. Grocery stores relieve women of time-consuming work (getting up before dawn, traveling to the market, bargaining for good prices, carrying things home on her head so she can start the cooking, feed the family, gather fodder, feed the animals . . . ).

5. Now she has time to go to work.

6. When I started my fieldwork in 1998 there were no grocery stores.  You had to go to the market. I hate the market.  I love the market.

7. How would you photograph this place: gritty and in transition from traditional and natural beauty to modern something else, caught in a (visually) cluttered limbo between dump and exquisite green vista of rice planted in a cascade of terraces from the volcano to the coast, luminous in the pregnant moment before seeds set and the fields turn to gold?




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