“I don’t pursue happiness. I don’t pursue anything. I just see what happens, and I let go of expectations.”
Ade Putri Paramadita
Cultural Writer & Culinary Storyteller
On what makes great storytelling, having a sanctuary,
and learning to say “No.”
Mavericks. They are the men and women led by an instinctive curiosity that drives them to learn and share in a manner tuned to their inner worlds. They are here. They are a plenty.
Those outside looking in often shrug their shoulders and scratch their heads in bewilderment as they struggle to place them into the confines of a box. Any effort to do so, however, is done in vain; it is simply their innate nature to find their way out of it.
As a former radio host, MTV Trax Writer, road-manager for renowned punk rock band Superman Is Dead and heavy metal band Seringai, Ade Putri Paramadita knows all about redefining, as much as being defined; her tattoos, piercings and sharp gaze have enticed and unsettled plenty upon first glance.
The Jakarta native is one of a few genuine cultural personalities garnering a following in Indonesia, most notably, for her expansive culinary storytelling exploits – but it doesn’t end there.
A somewhat jack of all trades, Ade could, at any given day, be documenting and photographing the delicacies of a quiet village within the archipelago, appear as a guest speaker or host at some of the nation’s most unique culinary events, be sharing her latest progression in CrossFit on Instagram, or tending to her duties as Co-Founder of Beergembira, a dedicated educational media platform on all things beer-related.
Speaking to Ade, you will find a woman that is warm-hearted and simple as much as she is vivacious and straightforward. Her life is an example of the willingness to explore the worlds that ignite her curiosity, create vocations out of them, and share her insights for the sake of sharing, with no strings attached.
Simply put, what makes Ade interesting, is that she is interested – a quality we can all consider in setting our own barometers for success.
In an engaging interview, she reveals where that drive and curiosity comes from, the qualities that she believes makes a great storyteller and what “Home” means to her. She also unveils her own views on happiness, her greatest fear, the link between a culture and the food they eat, and an unlikely cross-cultural dish she loves most.
Ade, in your own words, what makes a great storyteller?
Passion! If you don’t have it and just work to get paid, that will make the difference in storytelling. With passion, your work will be more sincere, it will be done and said with more love.
My stories are a product of my own exploration; from conversations with people and seeing their processes. I want to know these things, not to get paid, but because of my curiosity to discover something new to share to others. There is a sharing aspect to it.
There are certainly other qualities that make a great storyteller, and many people have stories but simply don’t know how to tell them in a way that excites others or arouses the curiosity to want to know more.
Of course there’s an element of natural talent, but it’s something that can be learned – most notably, where to start the story. It’s what we think of first when wanting to tell a story right? Where do we begin? I never would start a story with the main point of it.
“Where do we begin? I never would start a story with the main point of it.”
I can talk to you plainly about garlic for example and within a minute, I’m sure you’d walk out the room. But what if I said, “Hey! I see what you’re eating – in Indonesia, we have an equivalent of that, but instead of using garlic, we use…”
So there’s an art to arousing curiosity in the beginning of the story, then you can build on that to present what you want to share. We do so with sentences, with visuals, or through demonstration of the process. You can cook while telling a story for example, and in during that, you can ask people to come and smell and taste the raw ingredients.
The way you tell a story matters. Not everyone can fantasize or imagine what something can look like. It matters to the listener when you show them how to add lemongrass and lime, rather that telling them – especially when they can’t cook. You have to be ready to tell your story to everyone, which means having outlets that incorporate the senses.
“You have to be ready to tell your story to everyone, which means having outlets that incorporate the senses.”
Why are you a storyteller? Was there a moment when you knew your life would revolve around food?
I grew up in a family that loved to eat. My mother had a catering service and my grandfather would take some members of the family abroad just for lunch or dinner. I didn’t get much pocket money back then, but I saved and saved until I had enough money just to buy caviar! We all were foodies from before!
Why did I decide to become a culinary storyteller? Back in the day, I used to have a Multiply account, which was a lot like Myspace, but you could write down stories.
I didn’t know much about food that time, but I loved sharing what I experienced wherever I went to eat. I documented things like the restaurants I went to and meeting and talking to waiters – the entire experience of eating there, and not only about the food I ate.
“I saved and saved until I had enough money just to buy caviar!”
From there I kept on writing, then I got an offer for Radio Female in Jakarta where they had a show called “Food for Fun”. We explored food in a fun and lighthearted way, like food you would have on a first date for example. That job put me in a position where I had to constantly find more angles to talk about in the world of food.
I also worked for MTV Trax Magazine and was asked to write about music, but I asked if I can write about food instead. There weren’t many magazine columns dedicated to food and reviewing restaurants at the time. So from that point, I decided to go further into it and tell more people about my discoveries.
There were a lot of good food bloggers already, but they were all saying the same things and limited to only giving their opinion. I wanted to write something more, so I spoke to the chefs and owners, and I also took the recipes home and put a twist on them. I don’t say if a dish is good or not, I simply describe the experience of what I taste and the colors I see.
Who else would you consider to have done a great job in culinary storytelling? Why?
The late Pak Bondan Winarno. As a former journalist, his use of language was incredibly descriptive in a way that was welcoming and not boisterous. He wrote in such an exciting and enthusiastic tone and I didn’t want to put down his books.
His experience was incredibly vast, and he taught me as a writer to always ask questions to chefs because we can’t always leave things to assumption. You can taste turmeric in a dish for example, but you have to make sure.
You can’t just go about on your assumptions then write about it without being 100% sure. You’re sharing this to other people!
“As a former journalist, his use of language was incredibly descriptive in a way that was welcoming and not boisterous”
He would say things like “Go to Sanur and try this Squid Lawar. The family running it is in their 3rd generation, and it started off like this..” Doesn’t that make you want to try the food even more? to appreciate every bite? You will appreciate everything more once you know the story behind things.
It goes both ways too! Chefs and owners will appreciate it too if you’re excited about their story. It becomes an exchange.
Do you think you can tell about the characteristics of a people or a culture by the food they eat? What is one of the best examples you know?
Oh yeah! There are many cultures where entire gatherings are based solely around food and the act of eating together. Some of the Manadonese people in Sulawesi, for example, live on open grasslands , and the grandmother would prepare a big vat to cook Bubur Manado (Manadonese Porridge) and the members would go out together and literally find anything out on the fields that can be added to their bubur.
The whole point is to cook together, eat together, and drink together around music. You can see how open they are as a culture, from the willingness to add in whatever they find.
You see that they aren’t fundamentally a culture of individualism – it’s about the whole. This can be found throughout Sulawesi. They gather around to eat and drink a lot, despite sometimes struggling to afford all of it and without the need for a special occasion too. You can notice that they are a culture that like to make other people happy.
“You can see how open they are as a culture, from the willingness to add in whatever they find.”
I’ve never ran into the opposite. But the Javanese, particularly in Jogja or Solo, like to take Dutch dishes and turn them into their own.
There are some recipes that are named as Keraton (Ruling Class) recipes – but all of these dishes are actually Dutch, and changed to fit the Indonesian tongue. Selat Solo for example is actually Beef Stock, from the Netherlands, but made sweeter.
Other Javanese food is very rural, like Sate Kere, which is made from tempe because they weren’t capable of buying beef, but they put so many spices onto it that it tastes like beef! Through those two examples, you notice how the caste system is ingrained within society, where people are categorized based on who they’ve descended from or how much money they make.
Even now, there are cultures that are still like that in Java, where you find people who can’t eat the things we others eat because you’re not on the same “level.”
This is why Jokowi (President of Indonesia) won people’s hearts, because he invited people to come eat together, especially around street food. He treats you as the same.
What is your greatest fear?
My biggest fear is that I actually try to be fearless. Trying to kill all my fear, actually makes me scared. “What am I trying to prove?”, I thought. I was afraid of heights, so I went wall climbing. I was afraid of being upside down, and so I learnt how to do handstand pushups – all to prove myself that there was nothing to be afraid of.
My friends ask me, “There has to be something or someone you’re always afraid of!”, and recently I remembered how afraid I was to eat something still living – but, for once, I thought “It’s OK, I’m human.”
Killing things right on the spot is just not my thing. I’m not sure that will change, and that’s probably good. As human beings, we need a little fear.
“As human beings, we need a little fear.”
What self-limiting beliefs did you have to change to become the person you are today?
Several years ago, I had a huge life change due to a break up from a long term relationship. I really was in a comfortable time in my life, but it made me realize that not everything I thought was “good” for me was actually good. From that moment, I’ve really learnt acceptance and to go with the flow.
“I’ve really learnt acceptance and to go with the flow.”
What’s one thing right now you wish you could be better at?
Managing myself! I’m really good at managing people, but not myself. I was also the type of person to always say “Yes” to any offer. I’m now learning to sometimes say “No”.
I always try to please and help others, but I learnt that sometimes you can’t. How can you help others when you can’t even help yourself? If you don’t have time for yourself, how would you have time for others? That’s something I can be better at.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Something you don’t have to pursue. I don’t pursue happiness. I don’t pursue anything. It’s all about process. Looking for happiness – you might get there – and it can turn out to be something you weren’t even looking for. I don’t really have goals, and that means things often come as a surprise.
I’m easily pleased, and if I find something that makes me happy, I simply embrace it, because tomorrow it might not be there.
“I don’t really have goals, and that means things often come as a surprise.”
You seem to have the drive to create projects or vocations from the things you’re passionate about most, whether that be in music or food. Where does that drive come from?
I’m a bipolar type 2 – it’s a little crazy somehow, my brain just can’t stop thinking, and that’s how I get a lot of ideas. Sometimes I close my eyes to sleep, but then I get an idea which I just have to type out and send to people.
I meet a variety of different people and like actually giving them all my ideas. I love it when they take them; I don’t feel bothered, I feel proud. I think it started around when I was in my early 20’s – I used to take a lot of drugs, maybe it came from that!
In a digital age of quickly digested life experiences that are easily forgotten, what do you think are ways we can explore the things we love in a more meaningful and richer way?
So, with Aku Cinta Makanan Indonesia – a community I am involved as the PR, we’ve been working with a travel agent to do these culinary trips – a multidimensional culinary experience. We take you to the markets to see what they have, and I invite the vendors to tell stories of their produce.
We then go to the farms and fields, see how farmers harvest and forage for crops, and teach you how to do it. We then head over to watch the villagers cook in a hands-on demo. You can try the food, and then we eat together.
It’s something you won’t forget easily, because you’ve experienced the process. You can’t get these in big cities, and too many places nowadays open just for aesthetics, but they have no story about the food or drink they serve.
So I would love for others to take that kind of mindset and do it themselves; to go deep in whatever they do, whether that’s exploring culture or food. From that deep experience you will develop an appreciation for places and cultures and will naturally want to share them.
“I would love for others to take that kind of mindset and do it themselves; to go deep in whatever they do.”
When you hear the word “Home”, what comes to mind?
I rented this small room in Jakarta; it’s more of a cocoon. I love being there because it’s like a sanctuary where I can just do nothing. I’m a person who loves meeting people, but sometimes I just need to turn off everything and be by myself without people telling me what to do.
This room even feels more homey to me than my own mother’s home! It’s very messy. My son told me that messy rooms are a sign that you have too many things on your mind, and I say “Yeah! I’m twisted somehow!”
“Sometimes I just need to turn off everything and be by myself without people telling me what to do.”
When you hear the word “Home”, what dish comes to mind?
Any form of Balinese nasi campur. There are a lot of spices, but they’re always balanced with plenty of meat and vegetables. You have spicy, salty, umami, and sometimes sweetness too. It’s an organized mess that you want to pour yourself into. Most even come with their own broths!
What would you like to change about the world for the better?
People nowadays just look for more money for a living – they don’t do things that make them happy. There’s too much greed, and I would want that to change.
“People nowadays just look for more money for a living – they don’t do things that make them happy.”
What is your most treasured possession?
My bicycle. It was given to me by my ex boyfriend! After we broke up, I decided to sell my car and use the bike to go to as many places as I could.
I was followed on it by some muggers one early morning, and I told my friend who was in a car behind me, “Let’s go face them!” I wasn’t about to let my bike go, so I got off and tried to fight them off! This bike is like my own kid!
What is the most unlikely cross-cultural dish you’ve tried and loved?
Gohu Tuna, from Ternate in Maluku. It’s one of Indonesia’s 3 ceviche dishes and came about because the Spanish were there, and it was inspired by their cuisine.
People think its like sushi, but the raw tuna is cooked with the acidity of lemon cui (key lime) and mixed with chillies, red onions, coriander and coconut oil to give it fragrance. It’s so so good. It’s surprisingly more well known in northern Maluku.
If you would like to get in touch with Ade, you can email her at
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