Monday, December 31, 2007

the Making of Acar

There was no doubt that my grandmother was a Nyonya from Java. She was introduced to my grandfather by the Rev Hoover who had already introduced her brother and sister-in-law to the teaching community then. Hence the Chongs became very much a part of our Foochow community. In fact my grand uncle who was English educated became the first English teacher of Sibu in the 1900's.

According to our family history, my grandmother was not able to speak Foochow but she learned quickly and once she picked up the dialect, she never spoke any other, apart from the English she was able to speak.

All food served at home then was Foochow food as my grandfather was quite particular about food.

Any way, this brought out the significance of Foochow cuisine in my family for two generations. Without doubt, my extended family had only appreciation for the very traditional Foochow food which came from theFujian province of China.

I was a rebel and a adventurer where food was concerned. So ever since I was taught by an Indonesian born Home Science teacher in Form One, I was very keen to learn the cuisine of other ethnic groups. One particular dish that I wanted to learn was acar.

My mum was horrified that the acar had so many ingredients. Being frugal, she could not understand how a dish should have more than ten ingredients. Any way, I saved all my money for several weeks and then started to accumulate the ingredients according to the advice of my Hokkien friend.

On the day I started to make the acar, the cut the cucumber into thousands of small slices and dried them on a zinc sheet at about ten in the morning. At about eleven o'clock, the rain came. And I was truly horrified by the fact that I had squandered the family fortune in order to make a "foreign dish" , one which could not be eaten by a Foochow because of its spiciness.

My mother gave up and said, "Now what. I told you so. You cannot make any thing at all."

I cannot remember exactly what happened. But I did buy another batch of cucumbers and had the acar made in my friend's shop lot in Blacksmith Road. A lot of face was lost and probably I lost a lot of my feminine touch after that. whenever people asked me if I could make a cake or a delicacy I would pretend that I was a tom boy and I was not good in the kitchen.

My mother probably also felt that I was a complete idiot as a result of that episode.

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