In this exhilarating culinary novel, a woman’s road trip through Indonesia becomes a discovery of friendship, self, and other rare delicacies.
Aruna is an epidemiologist dedicated to food and avian politics. One is heaven, the other earth. The two passions blend in unexpected ways when Aruna is asked to research a handful of isolated bird flu cases reported across Indonesia. While it’s put a crimp in her aunt’s West Java farm, and made her own confit de canard highly questionable, the investigation does provide an irresistible opportunity.
It’s the perfect excuse to get away from corrupt and corrosive Jakarta and explore the spices of the far-flung regions of the islands with her three friends: a celebrity chef, a globe-trotting “foodist,” and her coworker Farish.
From Medan to Surabaya, Palembang to Pontianak, Aruna and her friends have their fill of local cuisine. With every delicious dish, she discovers there’s so much more to food, politics, and friendship. Now, this liberating new perspective on her country—and on her life—will push her to pursue the things she’s only dreamed of doing.
A Note From the Publisher
“For me, [The Birdwoman’s Palate] was a bittersweet road trip—I’m going to resist all the culinary metaphors, because they could get hackneyed, but I could pull them out: redolent, peppery, silky come to mind. Running through the novel’s riot of textures, smells, tastes, is the closeness of disease and death, with lust, self-discovery and love. The novel has an aura of a dream, too, a little shimmery—it’s in the idiom of twenty-first-century text speak, and yet, as I was reading, I thought of Dutch still lives, with their artfully perfect fruit, flowers, fish, and meat, reminding us of mortality and decay amidst beauty. The Birdwoman’s Palate for me is an incitement to take time to savor the present from the endless protocols that mask and organize human frailty.” —Margaret Cohen, author of The Novel and the Sea, Andrew B. Hammond Professor of French Language, Literature, and Civilization at Stanford University, and 2017-2018 Guggenheim Fellow
“Laksmi Pamuntjak’s second novel, The Birdwoman’s Palette, is her delicious love letter to the culinary world. The author, who made her name writing the bible of Jakarta’s food scene, takes us on a journey through the far-flung spots of the Indonesian archipelago, diving not just into the wealth of local cuisines but also the complexity of regional politics with her signature wit and wisdom.” —Yenni Kwok, Hong Kong-based journalist
“When history and climate change threatens to overpower us we need books like Lakhsmi Pamuntjak’s The Birdwoman’s Palate to remind us that it is through love, culture, and sharing the good things nature has to offer we will find solace and the solutions for moving forward. It is a well-told tale that brings us closer, over time and space, in the hour of need.” —Sjón, author of The Whispering Muse and Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was
“Who better to write a book about a culinary tour through Indonesia than Laksmi, whose passion and knowledge of the local cuisine is unsurpassed. I still remember when she took us around Jakarta on a local food tour eighteen years ago. This book brings me back to the street satays and sit-down feasts we experienced together.” —Jean-Georges Vongerichten, award-winning chef, restaurateur, and author
“A beautifully written novel: humane, humble, passionate, and ripe with culinary interactions…A fitting tribute from the author of Indonesia’s first independent Good Food Guide.” —William Wongso, Indonesian culinary guru