Saturday, February 02, 2008

School Children's Biscuits Soaked in Condensed Milk

Condensed milk played a very important role in my life in Sibu.

My siblings, cousins, and other relatives and I practically lived on it.

As children we looked up to this marvellous food and would always remember it for several reasons.

Firstly, because it was so easy to use, this milk, called Ngu Neng Ko (milk cake) was used to make a quick drink. And to fill our stomachs, we were given Osborne Biscuits or Soda Biscuits ( Suda pian). Our parents would break the biscuits into the bowl of milk and we would eat the softened biscuits.

This was our only known snack before the advent of cereals, and maggi mee.

Secondly, the milk does not go bad easily. So our parents would leave them in the food safe (hang diu). And whenever we wanted something sweet we would take a little out. A favourite way of eating condensed milk was to spread it lavishly on the soda biscuits and we made soda biscuit sandwiches. I would have these to bring to school until I was in Form Three. I never grew tired of it.

Thirdly,this condensed milk was used as a first aid ointment whenever we had a burn. I once burned myself with an iron. I put some of the milk on the skin and I felt quite comfortable. There must be something good for healing in it.

Fourthly, the milk was an excellent way of getting kids to take their medicine. After giving children their medicine, many mothers would give them a spoon of the milk . It was such a comfort food for all of us.

Fifthly, this condensed milk was very convenient to use in the hospital. Whenever any one was sick, it would always be at their bedside. Visitors would often bring half a dozen as gift for the sick. It would always be a welcome gift.

Sixthly, it was a cheap milk for all of us. Milk powder was very expensive and many children were not given it. Instead many of us grew up having the extra water from cooking rice mixed with condensed milk. I remember many of my girl friends had this kind of diluted or pseudo milk mixed with hot rice water because they were girls. Their brothers were given the better milk and better food. Fathers would always say that girls would be married off and belong to other families. So it would be a waste to feed them too well. This perception or attitude came from the Chinese belief of " regarding sons with more respect than daughters" or "valuing sons more than daughters". It took a long time for Chinese parents to discard this belief.

Finally, as a bottle of milk made from condensed milk did not go sour easily, many children would bring a bottle to school. It was very obvious in their bag and many kids would just take out their bottle and drink it in its cooled form. These days kids are so lucky to have thermos flasks which are either cold or hot. And they are spoilt for choice.

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