LIME POWDER AND THE ART OF CHEWING BETEL IN TIMOR
Yes it is chalk powder but it is not as neutral as the chalk that we use on our blackboards.
Lime powder in Timor is in fact the fossil coral which is gathered then crushed then stewed in a pot, then put into the sun to bake in caked then rerushed then strained so as to remove the dirt and grit and other impurities. It is fine balance of just how much lime powder to add to your betel mix because even just a little too much can burn your mouth.
When chewing betel nut [Areca Palm], firstly the nut is prepared by peeling the skin off and cutting the seed in to quarters, sometimes eights, and placing it in the cheek pouch in the mouth. Then out comes the lime powder container. A small amount (be very careful as too much burns the mouth) is tapped out into the palm of the left hand and tossed into the mouth. Mastication begins. Next (out of the betel/tobacco container) comes the sirih leaf or asparagus-like spear from the sirih vine. A whole leaf or about one sixth of a spear is tossed into the mouth. Mastication continues and the well chewed result is a bright orange salivary mix the excess of which is spat onto the ground retaining the bulk of the solids in the mouth and continuing to chew. If tobacco is going to be added it is about now that the chewer takes a small wad of chewing tobacco and slips it under the upper lip to moisten it prior to combining it with the rest of the mixture held in the mouth.
All in all a fine art indeed. Can you imagine squatted under a tree with your friends sharing conversation and chewing betel nut until your mouth is numb and your head is spinning…..
Copyright Julie Emery 12/03/2018