The presence of bread in the shape of a crocodile gifted to the bride by the groom is a common sight during a Betawi wedding ceremony and is an obligatory aspect of the process. However, the Roti Buaya is far more meaningful in its existence than simply being a present.
Comes in Several Flavours and Sizes
Always given in pairs – male and female – the female Roti Buaya would usually be accompanied by a smaller sized Roti Buaya that represents the hatchling and to differentiate it from the male Roti Buaya. In the olden days, a Roti Buaya would customarily be void in taste. As time passes by, though, flavoured variants of the Roti Buaya have been introduced so that it could be eaten after the proceedings have ended, such as chocolate, cheese and jam.
Usually quite large in size – approximately the length of an adult’s arm – the modern day Roti Buaya now includes a smaller sized version that are packed separately akin to selling an individual bread. It can be consumed as a snack, although not all bakeries offer Roti Buaya as it would normally baked to order. You can now obtain Roti Buaya – complete with tray decorations and ribbons – at morning cake markets such as the likes of Senen or Blok M.
The Story behind The Gift
What, then, is the philosophy that is embodied within the Roti Buaya? The Betawi people believe that the crocodile is a symbol of loyalty due to its practice of monogamy, and it is hoped the bride who receive the Roti Buaya will apply the same approach towards her marriage and be forever loyal to her other half. The crocodile is also seen as an animal abundant with patience – a trait desired to be carried on by the bride as she faces a new life with her husband-to-be that is sure to be filled with many obstacles.
Interestingly, besides the two aforementioned ideologies, the Roti Buaya that is present at a wedding could also be eaten or distributed to guests who are still single. It is meant to be a prayer for them so that they could find a life partner sharpish. However, back in the day, Roti Buaya were baked to be kept, not to be devoured. A Roti Buaya that is stored away and slowly ingested by maggots until it is finished off is believed to symbolise the love of a married couple that will last until death beckons.
Now, after understanding the philosophy behind Roti Buaya, would it still be relevant to call a man “lelaki buaya” – a “philanderer” in the English language – to describe someone who loves nothing more than to charm the opposite sex?