The Yum! Diaries :: An American in Bali


Norma Jean

From the USA to Indonesia with love.

THE EXPAT TABLE: Where do you hang your apron these days?
NORMA JEAN: Ubud, Bali
THE EXPAT TABLE: How did you end up in Bali?
NJ: I came on a vacation and met some friends who loved the songs I wrote and encouraged me to write an album!
THE EXPAT TABLE: What inspired you to get in the kitchen?
NJ: Most people in Ubud are transient and quite a few are on a "vacation high." There's great restaurants here - like WORLD CLASS great - but after awhile you need the space to nourish yourself to feel at home. Also, I started the Anti-Candida Diet, cutting out all sugar, fruit, bread, anything with yeast, and alcohol, so making my own food has become the easiest way to make sure my body's getting what it needs (and what it doesn't!)
THE EXPAT TABLE: What does your kitchen look like?
NJ: Ovens are like unicorns here, so I'm operating on a pretty basic scale. Sink, 2 gas burners, a lot of counter space. I bought a blender which has made my life infinitely easier. Also, my kitchen is outside and overlooks my lotus pond... one of those beautiful Bali things.

THE EXPAT TABLE: Do you make a lot of things from scratch?
NJ: Yes. I find that making things from scratch brings more gratitude and enjoyment to the finished product.
THE EXPAT TABLE: How has doing this changed your life?
NJ: I'm more process oriented, and less results oriented. I guess you could say I'm more present about what I'm doing.
THE EXPAT TABLE: When you are missing home, what do you cook?
NJ: When I'm missing home, it's less about the recipe and more about the ingredients! I used to go straight for the cheese, now it's either avocados or almonds (I AM a California girl!) Also chicken soup is pretty reminiscent of home. I'm of the school of thought that says "Soup makes most things better."
THE EXPAT TABLE: What is the one ingredient you can't live with out?
NJ: Olive Oil. I know it's not local like coconut oil (which is so rich I use it in my hair more than my cooking) but sometimes you have to shell out for what's really important.
THE EXPAT TABLE: What is your favorite new ingredient from Bali?
NJ: Bali is an amazing place and there's a plethora of great, locally grown commodities.
A LOT of chocolate is grown here, and I started making my own chocolates with stevia (instead of sugar) that use local cocoa powder and cocoa butter! Even my friends who eat sugar are having me make them en mass!
I also like a lot of the local tea - Rosella is my favorite!

THE EXPAT TABLE: How has Bali affected your cooking?
NJ: Things are slower and less processed here. It forces you to insert yourself into the process to get the results you want.
THE EXPAT TABLE: How did living in Korea affect your cooking?
NJ: In California, everything is available year-round. It may be more expensive at certain times, but there's a general accessibility that anything can be had at anytime.
Living in Korea was not only the first time I lived anywhere with real seasons (or snow) but where there was a limited time-frame for certain foods, making things like eating locally and seasonally all that more conscious.
THE EXPAT TABLE: What do you do when you aren't in the kitchen?
NJ: I sing! I just finished my first album (it's on iTunes!)
Ubud is also a phenomenal place to live, there's so much to do, see, experience... There's great live music here every night of the week, so I go dancing a lot, practice yoga, and work for a magazine.

THE EXPAT TABLE:  What do you want to make next?
NJ: I've been on a Mediterranean kick recently, making hummus at least 2 times a week (I like to garnish it with sunflower seeds that I've freshly roasted in the pan with olive oil and a bit of salt.)
I think the next logical step is Baba Ganoush!

Norma Jean is a singer and Expat living in Ubed, Bali.  She just released her debut album The Devilicious Sessions.  You can find it on iTunes and playing around Bali.


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