Monday, January 17, 2011

Dewi Sri And A Day In A Rice Mill

Everytime I see a paddy field, I can't help remembering the folktale of rice goddess Dewi Sri. There are many folktales circulating across Indonesia on her. A version says that she was a princess who is cursed by the gods, while another version says that she is born out of a snake's tear. Whichever legend you hear, Dewi Sri is always pictured as the mother deity, since she controls rice, the staple food of Indonesia. While Indonesia is home to the world's largest Muslim population, there are communities who still practice the animist-era beliefs, including holding festivities for Dewi Sri to have a successful harvest.

This nation is pretty much attached to rice as its staple food. Indonesia's rice consumption stands at 139 kilograms per capita per year, according to the National  Survey on Social Economics. The survey showed Indonesia produces 38 million tons of rice per year and consumes 33 million tons of rice annually. 

The consumption rate is high compared to Thailand, which produces 20 million tons of rice per year, but only consumes 10 million tons, with an average annual per capita consumption of 70 kilograms. So, Indonesia produces more rice compared to Thailand, but this country only has a surplus of 5 million tons while Thailand can save 10 million tons of rice. (If the last two paragraphs sound very serious, it is because I take them from my article, hehehe.)

In the past, only Sumatrans, Javanese and Balinese who ate rice as staple food, while people living in Indonesia's eastern region ate other foods, such as corn, cassava or sagu. However, when the second president Soeharto came to power, he changed how Indonesians ate by applying the rice policy. Rice was perceived as the status symbol (you are not rich when you don't eat rice), yada yada yada. As a result, we are now so dependent to rice, we have to import if the great harvest does not yield enough for the whole nation.

Now that there is this climate change issue that causes failed harvests across the region, one may think to start diversifying menu, just in case there is food crisis. I start to eat pasta (exclude instant noodle, LOL), bread and cassava. By the way, I love sagu! As an Indonesian saying states 'belum kenyang kalau belum ketemu nasi' (I am not sated yet if I have yet to eat rice), I still feel hungry as if I haven't eaten, but I'm determined to put a stop to my dependency on rice.

Recently I visited a rice mill in Karawang, West Java. Then I realized why Indonesians have this strong attachment to the white grains: they are as beautiful as Dewi Sri. And here are the photos I snapped there. 

The before and after:)

Unhulled rice grains (Gabah)

Pouring the rice into a sack

Sealing the sack

Ready to sell

Looking down from the stairs that led to the milling machine

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