The Art of Lawar with Wayan Konca
There is so much to be said about art, especially here in Sawidji. We are surrounded by art and culture in everything we do. There is a saying,
that an artist is not a special kind of person, but every person is a special kind of artist.Unknown
One example of this is with our own Wayan Konco. He always underestimates his own artistry. However in one area where he is most in charge is his kitchen. There is definitely an art to cooking. Very few would argue that. In saying that, traditional recipes are incredibly complex. In Balinese communities, a real connoisseur, is just as discerning as the Master Chef Judging Panel.
In Balinese social life, the Lawar dish is often found at its centre. You can say that this is the King of recipes. In every ceremony large and small, the Lawar makes an appearance. And more than likely is commentated on.
It is silently judged, secretly envied or coveted. So when one has a Lawar recipe that is especially good, that is no small feat. It is in fact quite a big deal. One could say that our Wayan Konco does have a reputation for very good Lawar. Though this is acknowledged, there is still the very typical Balinese modesty. He does not own himself to be good at it. However, he acknowledges that when there are ceremonies and events, usually he will be asked to prepare his ingredients for such occasions.
The Lawar, is all in the ‘Bumbu Bumbu’ (herbs and spices). You’ll see from the ingredients list , the length of which is intimidating.. that so many things can go wrong. If salt and pepper needs care to acquire the right balance, you can imagine just what kind of mastery you should have, to achieve the perfect balance between this many ingredients..
So,.. it is no task for the faint hearted.
One interesting fact about the the process of making Lawar in Balinese communities.. is that when it comes to cooking in the community (for shared events and ceremonies) generally this is understood to be done by the men. Though both men and women both can cook the recipes, in community events and ceremonies, generally the men take the lead and are helped by women. The Lawar ingredients is put together by the chosen person and is prepared by the community together . Specifically the men in the Banjar.
Banjar by definition is a community group that make up a village. Balinese Tradition ‘Adat’ has a very specific structure adhered to for centuries and is a very sophisticated social administrative system.
Where do we find the art in Lawar?
‘ We find the art in Lawar in how we unite the ingredients together in Lawar, because our friends are who tastes the results of our efforts. There is beauty and art in that.Wayan Konco
An elaboration on the variations of Lawar is probably in wikipedia.. but nonetheless we will go over a little here today.
The traditional Lawar is made of spices and vegetables usually with pork. Sometimes pork is replaced with duck. There are times when certain ceremonies require the ingredients to be changed to duck. There are cultural side notes to this.
For example, the Pork Lawar is general. When made, it is acceptable for the majority in the community. When it is made with duck it is usually in instances to honor members of a certain caste or position. Like a Pemangku or ‘Sulinggih’ ‘Holy Persons’. There is a gesture and a meaning even in the make up of the ingredients.
As with art, there are a world of expressions, colours and styles, the same can be said of Lawar. The preparation of this dish may have many subtle variations in different regions of Bali. As each community may bring their own particular flavour into this quintessential Balinese dish.
Red Lawar, White Lawar and Green Lawar.
Red Lawar is made of the same ingredients but with the addition of blood. Though the Red and White Lawar are made with the same ingredients they do have very different flavours. From the general preferences, the Red Lawar is probably more popular. More flavoursome.
The Red Lawar is like a flower Pak Konco says. When all the ingredients are put together and as a last step, the Red Blood is placed as the centre nectar. When I asked what he meant by this, he explains when it is placed together there are always the three Lawars. Presented like a flower.
One that is Light Red, One that is White and One that is Green.The light red Lawar is based on the same ingredients, but with more blood. The White is based on the same ingredients but with no Blood.The Green has no Blood and more vegetables. At the centre of the three, there is ‘Lawar Anyang ‘ this is at the centre like a crown or the centre of a Flower.
Amongst Red, White, Pink and Green, the one that really is the most flavoursome, is the Red one in the middle. They call this ‘Lawar Plek’ which means the ‘the substance of Lawar’. When I hear this, there is undoubtedly art in the making of Lawar.
It comes back to why we understand that art is not separate from Balinese culture. It is intrinsic, integrated into every aspect of life. In this case, the art of Lawar making displays undoubtedly the relationship between art, beauty and balinese culture.