Current news about major events in Southeast Asia drew my attention to a map that showed, among other places, the Indonesian island of Sulawesi and its largest city, Makassar. I will digress from food topics for a while, and I hope you don’t mind.
When I was into handicrafts many years ago, I came across a crochet project called antimacassar. I wasn’t into etymologies then, so I bypassed research on the term; I didn’t do the handicraft project, either.
Now I’m finding out: an antimacassar, popular in Victorian times, is a piece of washable fabric or needlework placed on the seatback of an upholstered chair. It was intended to protect the fabric from being stained with Makassar oil, which was a popular hair dressing.
Fast forward to 2014. The city with an exotic name has captured my attention, so I do an internet search… Makassar is the provincial capital of South Sulawesi, Indonesia. During the 16th century it was a dominant spice market center where traders from China, Arabia, India, Siam, Java, and Malaya came to do business. Its most famous traditional food is coto Makassar, a stew of beef offal seasoned with spices and nuts. Offal are the edible internal organs and entrails of a butchered animal; however, it does not refer to any specific organs, which vary by culture and region.
Could this be the source of our oh-so-comforting goto? The basic ingredients are identical; maybe we season our version differently, but that is to be expected. Note, too, that the traders who called at Makassar also found themselves on our shores during the same period, most likely bringing new goods as well as foodways.
The above photo is from Connie Veneracion’s recipe. Click below to see how she cooks goto: