Ole-ole is an Indonesian word for bringing souvenirs from one’s travels for friends back home. I recently met an Indonesian guy who was on holiday in Europe, and travelling back to his home in Sydney, his luggage went missing. He did not rue the loss of his personal belongings, but his disappointment was more in the fact that he bought ole-ole for friends back home that were now lost.

Though they are not Indonesian, my mother and mother-in-law both had lots of ole-ole in their houses. A couple of weeks ago, I gave away two boxes of my mother-in-law’s ole-ole to the charity shops. Who will buy figurines printed with St Petersburg, small clock with Lausanne on its face, cow bells with Switzerland written on them, orchid in resin from Malaysia? As you can guess, my kids had been responsible for adding on to their grandmothers’ boxes of knick-knacks. I remember our mad rush on the last day of our holidays buying those souvenirs that collected dust for years. It has become an expectation to bring gifts to people so we follow the tradition.

And then to my surprise, my partner (who had lived in Indonesia) gave me a meaningful ole-ole from our summer weeks: a daisy he picked on one of our many walks on the South Downs, preserved forever.


I made some ole-ole for a friend, though it is not strictly from abroad: sun-blushed tomatoes in basil and vodka. I think he will appreciate them, and they would certainly not have the opportunity to gather dust. Try giving something like this instead ❤