Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Reminisce - Makan time...

It is already getting dark, so I start to light the oil lamps, some I hang on the wall and some I put on the wooden floor. All the doors and windows have been shut so as not to allow the mosquitoes in as well as all the bad elements that are lurking in the darkness of the night. Folks are superstitious. We kids were told of the demon and the devil that would want to destroy the harmony of living, thus we must be aware and told what to do. The sound outside whether it is of the grass hoppers, the crickets or cats howling looking for its mate are to be considered to have some mystical effect and could be the devil itself and one must be careful. So if an insect especially a grass hopper enter the house in the night, one must catch it, separate the head from the body and spit on it and throw it outside. That would instantly kill the bad spirit. The fear factor is always there, especially so in a moonless night, the outside of the house is pitching black.

I took two of the lamps to the place where we are going to sit down and eat. Been the eldest boy in the family I had to do this ritual come evening and I just love doing it day in and day out. There was no dinning table. We spread the tikar [mat] made of mengkuang leaves on the wooden floor. Mother or our elder sister would place the dishes that mother had cook which are not that many. Some fried fish, a bowl of Ikan Aya Singang [Tuna fish cook in plain water with some lemon grass and galangal plus anion and green chilly] and Sambal Belacan to go with the steaming white rice. Sometimes we would have Ikan masak asam rebus or Ikan masak lemak and Ikan Bakar [roasted fish]. Chicken or beef comes only during a feast or on the day of the festival of Eid Fitri. So Rendang comes only once or twice a year. Because of the scarcity of cooking oil, most dishes were boiled thus not much oil were used except for frying fish. Even that the oil were home made from coconuts. Because time was rather hard we had to share everything on the 'table', a bit of everything especially that fried fish and Ikan Singang, my favorites. With the white rice on our plates we sat quietly to eat. The boys would sit cross legs in lotus style [bersila] while the girls in a different style [bertipoh]. Girls are not allowed to sit the ways of the boys. And as usual we drank plain water in between eating. Drinking plain water is a must when eating meals of rice. We would get scolding if we did not drink water when eating rice. The water came from a well near our house. There was no pipe water but to us it does not mean anything. Since I could remember at that period of my life, the well water was our only source of water for drinking, washing and bathing. The water from the well is crystal clear and as good as any water that we ever had.

It was indeed a very simple meal for the evening and that is the ritual every evenings. We all ate together with mother and my other brothers and sisters. Father seldom joins the dinner for he is still tending to the business at the shop where he sell foods and would always come home late after we all had gone to sleep. So it was always with mother. It is just a simple dinner but we all enjoyed it. And till this day I could remember of how I wished to have more of that fried fish but could not because what is there we all had to share. Now looking back to that scene I am choke with emotion for the kind of life we had during our childhood compare to our children and the grandchildren who always have plenty to eat at anytime of the day.

But then it was in the forties, a period where getting a decent meal a day was already good enough but for our family we had breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday without failed. The breakfast were normally of boiled banana or Lempeng [Malay pancake] if there are flours. Bread was rather scarce then and if there are any, it is beyond our reach to buy. So in actual fact we were better of then the others. Even during the Japanese occupation which is the most difficult period of the country, we still had three meals a day and we always have rice whereas others would have to resort to eating Ubi Kayu [tapioca] only. The reason for this is because father had a shop selling foods and he could get supply for his shop.

Superstition was the order of the day which I eventually got rid of it totally and raised our children to not believing in it. We have brought up our children to love every living species which includes insects, animals and plants.

Friends those were the days that are still fresh in my mind. In those days we eat to live but now it is live to eat. Image above is a scene of a ferry crossing at a river near Kuantan in the forties. Have a nice day. [Makan mean to eat].


Anonymous said...

dear pak idrus,
we went through same experince,and believe others who are about same age of us too.our young generation should read this to appreciate their parent or grandparent past live experince.

Pak Idrus said...

anonymous[12.05PM], thanks for the visit, the greeting and sharing your thoughts on this subject.

Well, I believe we are a lucky folks who quantum leaped into another timezone during our life time. Like you said, to appreciate life one had to understand some history and what I wrote is the history of our growing up period.

I believe the present generation should get some ideas of how we folks live and enjoy life at that moment in times. So while I enjoyed sharing my thoughts, my hope is that the readers enjoy it too.

Have a nice day.

Akmal said...

Pak Idrus,
You had such experiences and learnt about hardness and turbulence of life, hence appreciate and enjoy your life better than anyone else with whatever you have. People of your generation, most of them do. On the other hand, people of my generation started with not much problem. No colonization, no food scarcity, nothing. Too bad, many of us enjoyed life 'dangerously', if you know what I mean.
And what a coincidence, I am having Ikan Aya Singgang for lunch :)
Have a nice day.

Pak Idrus said...

akmal, thanks for the visit and sharing your thoughts on the subject of this posting.

Well, civilization is like that. We all have to go through it one way or the other. Mine was wonderful, I think so, from a period when we were just at the bottom of our civilization and then quantum leaped to the present, the IT world of my children and grandchildren. I am enjoying it and having fun as well.

I am sharing this thoughts so that your generation may reflect on our history and appreciate what you have got now and prepare for the future with confidence.

Well, Singang ikan aya is one of those simple dish and should be enjoyed. Have a nice day.

ms istanbul said...

Pak Idrus,

Stumbling into the ikan singgang and sambal belachan, I simply have to leave a comment. The combination of the twos really escalates one's appetite. *smiles*

When I used to live in KL, monthly visit at mom's place (a 2 hrs drive) will surely lead to those dishes and gulai ikan patin.

These days, we try to eat typical malay food once a week. My girl's fav is rice + fried chicken + egg mixed with soy sauce. Typical kampung delicacy. hehhehe....

Pak Idrus said...

ms istanbul, thanks for your visit, the good words, as well as sharing your thoughts on the subject of this posting.

You must be from the east coast or central Pahang [Temerloh and its vicinity] to know and enjoy 'gulai ikan patin'. Whenever I am on the way to Kuantan using the new highway I would stop at the new R & R at Temerloh and have a great lunch with gulai ikan patin.

As for singang, it is a normal dish at our home in Ampang jaya. It simply delicious with Ikan Aya. Sure, with Sambal Belacan its a combination that's made in heaven.

Wherever we are, our typical Malay kampong dishes are still the best. When I was living in Boston, we cook just like home in Malaysia and enjoy every meals.

Kids always love fried chicken, so your girl's favorite is just what my grandchildren love too. Have a nice day.

mad.redo1 said...

The picture of the ferry certainly bring back memories of my childhood when traveling to Singapore from Trengganu by bus.

The experience of the bus boarding the ferry, if I am not mistaken at Rompin still remain as one of the memorable childhood memories that I cherish till this day.

Thank you Pak Idrus for the lovely photo.

louis said...

Hi Pak Idrus,
All these comments about Malaysian dishes have been making me salivate.

Please tell this foreigner what some of them are made of :)

Pak Idrus said...

mad.redo1, thanks for the visit and the good words on this posting especially of that images of the forties. Thanks also for sharing your thoughts on the subject of this posting.

Well, when I was a kid and later in my youth, to get to Johor Bahru or to Singapore, one had to cross at least five rivers using ferries. Like you those experiences still etched in my memories of the days gone by.

Have a nice day and take care.

Pak Idrus said...

louis, thanks for the visit and the kind words on this posting especially so on the dishes that I mentioned. I believe you have seen it while on those many visits you have had to Malaysia.

Anyway I would do a posting with images to give you the right picture of those great Kampong dishes. In the mean time just ponder and enjoy the day. Have a nice day. Take care.

Rita Ho said...

Hi Pak Idrus,

My childhood is somewhat similar. We too had simple meals of white rice accompanied by a couple of home-grown veggies and cheapo fish - kembong, white bait and one other which name slips my mind now. It is long, slim, very tasty and is always coated with curry paste before deep-frying. I understand all 3 are darn expensive these days! Chicken, beef and prawns were also specialty dishes reserved for Chinese New Year!

Those were my fondest memories, though. Eating together as a family, sharing duties around the house like taking turns chasing chicken into coops, collecting their eggs and washing their droppings! We probably didn't enjoy some of it then but looking back now, those were great times!

Thank you for the walk down memory lane and I look forward to your images of kampong dishes! If you post some simple recipes, I might be encouraged to try them out and invite Louis over, so he can stop drooling. Haha!

Enjoy your weekend, Pak Idrus.

louis said...

Me again, Pak Idrus...

I am looking forward eagerly to that post and pictures of kampong dishes. Meanwhile I'll be patiently eating my hamburgers.

Please add those recipes that Rita requested, so I can take her up on her immensely kind offer(?) ha ha. (Hey, Rita, not nice to laugh at a senior drooling, lah)

kenari said...

Pak Idrus..
Thank you for posting this. It brings back memories when my family and i went to visit grandparents' kampung during school holidays. Those were the exact simple life like yours too.

My two brothers and i always excited and looking forward to balik kampung. Taking the early morning bath at the was really really cold that my teeth cluttering everytime.

Breakfast usually hot steamy coffee with nasi goreng or pulut kukus ikan kering. As for lunch simple fish kari or asam pedas, fried fish, vege plus ulam and sambal belacan. The same menu for dinner too.

How i missed those childhood time. Life is simple. Everyone doing whatever chores assigned individually. Taking care of buffalo and chicken goes to my Pak Long. Lighting up the lantern goes to my Pak Anjang. Closing all doors and windows goes to the grandchildren. Preparing and heating up dinner goes to my mom and makcik.

No television. No computer. After dinner family members sitting close together listening to my grandfather's jokes and tales.

Thanks again Pak Idrus. Salam.

Zawi said...

Pak Idrus,
Assalamualaikum. It is great to reminince about old times.
Ahhh those ferries of the east coast. Used to ride on them when travelling backand forth from Kota Bharu to Kulai Johor in the 70's. Once we had to wait for the tide to rise before we could cross because the river was too shallow for the ferry to cross. We had to wait till almost 8.00 PM before we could cross over. Those were then and now bridges made those ferry crossing something jurrassic.
Thanks for sharing with us and bring back old memories.

Pak Idrus said...

rita, thanks for the visit and the good words on this posting, as well as sharing your thoughts on the good old days.

Well, it is indeed interesting to know that you went through those daily ritual like I do. Other then the chicken, we had a few goats and I had to help to fed the goats and get it back to the goat house when evening comes.

Well, looking back, like you said it is indeed a valuable experiences. As for the dishes, I would do a post in due course.

Have a nice day.

Pak Idrus said...

louis, thanks for the return visit. We do not have Hamburger here. It is Beefburger all the way. Great for a change of food.

Well,I would try to do the posting of dishes done and if possible let rita and you know of how to get it done.

BTW have you been to rita 'Janda Baik'. Have a nice day.

Pak Idrus said...

kenari, thanks for the visit, the good words, as well as sharing your thoughts, which add color to the subject of this posting. Indeed we had the same experiences and that memories are as clear know and looking back it was a wonderful time of my childhood.

Like you said there was no telephone, no radio, no any home entertainments except those that are told by word of mouth by our elders. The bathe at the well 'perigi' was indeed like you described. Cold and shivering.

Have a nice day.

Pak Idrus said...

zawi, thanks for the visit, the good words as well as sharing your thoughts on the subject of this posting. Indeed it was a great memories of the good old days of our childhood.

Those ferries like you said is now Jurassic. In a way it was great to see how it operate and enjoy that river crossing. Have a nice day.

mamadou said...

Assalamual'aikum Pak Idrus

You made me invoke of my memories of Ikan aya singgang, ikan takok masin, ikan sepat pekasam etc. I miss that for for almost 20 years. Air perigi really quench the thirst. I also remember travel to Kuantan or Pekan were a special trip for my family. I am younger than you but what was written nothing less than what I had gone through and for now living in kampong also not much different except some better infrastructures. Thanks Pak Idrus.

Pak Idrus said...

mamadou, thanks for the visit, the greeting, the kind words as well as sharing your thoughts on the subject of this posting.

Indeed the good old days. Looking back it was a memory of great time and acquiring knowledge, that eventually became useful as we journey on in life.

Sir, we are from another era and I believe are lucky to have had been in the period gone by and been transported into another timezone of the twenty first century.

How I wished I had a piece of Kampong land near to KL, where I could put up a shed and relived those great moment in times.

I am indeed glad that this posting has somewhat evoke your memories and that my friend made my day.

Have a nice day and enjoy your travel.

Kerp (Ph.D) said...

Pak Idrus,

Reading this entry reminds me very much of the conversation we had yesterday. Like you, I am so pleased to have met you for the first time and no way that’d be the last ever. I’ve got so much to learn from you sir, perhaps over a smaller-scale, quieter lunch do. that would be lovely. even having to sit next to you briefly was flattering!

Pak Idrus said...

kerp[ph.d], thanks for the visit and your kind words on this posting. Indeed it was a great meeting yesterday. It all started in cybersphere and yesterday in the real world and now stranger no more.

You and the gang are mostly from the generation of my children. It really made me happy to see you and the others so articulate and concerned and full of love for the country. It is because of the wisdom of your generation that changes happened in the last election. It is good for the country.

Like you I hope to meet you again and maybe we can chat and discuss in more detail of things that are of comment interest.

Indeed I am flattered of your comment. Have a nice day

Anonymous said...

I was just passing my time going through from one blog to another when I came across your 'reminisce'. It feels good to reminisce and one does it a lot when one gets older. The picture of Kuantan ferry brings back memory, pleasant memory.

Pak Idrus said...

anonymous[7:42], thanks for the visit and the kind words on this posting.

I am glad that you are touched by this reminisce. Well, at this age the past events are becoming crystal clear day by day. So I am sharing it with all to enjoy. But the present selalu lupa.

Have a nice day and do come back again. Take care.

Al-Manar said...

anonymous (7.:47) has a blog that you can visit

Keep writing

Pak Idrus said...

al-manar, thanks for the return visit and I would surely visit your blog. Indeed great to meet another blogger. Cybersphere is a great place to be and enjoy life. Have a nice day.