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Oleh-Oleh!

Oleh Oleh is a tradition here. The practice of bringing back gifts for people when you go away on a trip. Most Indonesian airports here have dedicated Oleh Oleh shops for just such gifts. Nuts or cookies or key chains. Often there is a regional flair; something that the area is known for.


I travel a lot, so I’ve taken to picking up things for the office or my house staff. I’m not sure where the boundaries lie, but it seems to be appreciated. Nothing big and seldom anything permanent. I’ve not seen their homes, but I imagine them to be small and I don’t want to contribute to their cluttering up. Tea, coffee, chocolate. Is that the perfect gift?  Something you savor with all your senses and then flush?


On a recent trip to Oz, I brought back kangaroo jerky.  Mrs. S.A.M. wondered if it were halal.  Could Muslims even eat it?  This was a true concern. Was I being an insensitive jerk(y) by offering it?


I gave it, but later I confessed that I didn’t know if it were halal and apologized if they couldn’t eat it. It brought about an interesting discussion.


Turns out that my driver and housekeeper had talked about this very issue. My driver who is the most pious in our immediate environment opined to our housekeeper that because kangaroos mostly eat grass and seeds, they were like sheep, and so they could be eaten.  This might be how they got that Monty Python skit about how to if someone is a witch.


I thought this an interesting tidbit, so I asked if that were the dividing line? Whether something eats grass or seeds made it legal. Sheep eat grass. Cows eat grass.  They were okay. Pigs were dirty because they eat anything.


Mrs S.A.M. asked,  “What about goats?”


Housekeeper: “Yes. We can eat goats!”


Mrs. S.A.M: “But, goats eat anything.”


Pause… Awkward laugh. Change of subject. “We can eat fish and shrimp! But if something lives in two worlds, like a salamander then we cannot eat.  But sometimes a frog lives in the water and in a tree, but we need to eat it for medicine. Then, it is okay.”


Hmmm. Another exception.


I asked the next day how she liked the kangaroo jerky. She said it was good, but was a little too strong so she cooked it in fried rice. Her family loved it.


My driver and his family ate his all up without question. Once it was established that kangaroos are bouncing sheep, all was kosher, or whatever. He revealed that he once ate tiger.


“Please tell me about that, Pak?” I’m dying to hear about this rule.


It seems that his brother was in the army and was posted in Borneo back before the island was a giant palm plantation and tigers still roamed. This brother found himself face-to-face with a tiger and having no other choice, shot it. Having done that he cleaned and brought the meat back to share with his family.  Not sure where the exception is.  Whether it was dead already and so could be eaten or some other rule.

Tiger Killed, Chopped Up, Eaten

Then I found the above article and I think the rules about eating tigers predate the arrival of Islam to Indonesia.  I think this is ancient jungle tradition.
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