(Photo Source : Mr. Manager http://mrmanager.blogspot.com/2008/01/old-hot-water-flask-and-enamelled-tray.html)
Way back in my younger days, grandmother and mum would have a hot water flask in their bedroom at night. In the morning, we kids would enjoy carrying it down and pour the luke warm water into the plain Sun Valley) glass bottles and we would have cooled water to drink. In the morning, they would fill up their flask with hot water. In this way, we boiled water only twice a day and thus saved a lot of fire wood and extra effort. These thermos flasks are still being made in China. The hot water keeps well for more than 12 hours.
A hot water flask sitting on top of an enamel tray was seen every where in fact. A shop towkay would have his hot water flask sitting next to his desk, a shop house kitchen would always have one , ready for any visitor.
A friend coming into a shop would always be served at least with one glass of warm water as a mark of welcome. This was indeed a gracious act. Whenever my grandmother visited a friend in Sibu, she would be offered either warm tea or a glass of warm water. To this day, I still feel the warm of welcome when served with a glass of warm water. At that time, no hostess would ask if you wanted a drink. You were immediately served with one. And we graciously and happily accepted the drink.
Water was always boiled in huge kettles over wood fire in our homes in those days by the river bank. It was just freshly drawn and. carried in recycled kerosene tins, from the river. If it was a draught season, we would have to depend on rain water. There was no fear of pollution or anything else. In fact the word was not even in our vocabulary. Boiling the water (in Foochow, a hundred bubbles, suo bah goon, would have killed all the germs in the water) was adequate. Cholera and typhoid were already things of the past then.
A hot water flask would also accompany any sick person who was admitted into a maternity clinic or the Lau King Howe Hospital. A tin of condensed milk,a cup with a cover,a spoon, a bowl and another cup for brushing teeth (nga ki pui), a white Good Morning towel, and perhaps even an enamal basin for face washing, would be part of the ensemble in a basket to be brought along. These were all the essentials a proactive Foochow would bring along when he or she was sick.
The hospital orderly would dispense hot water some time just before lunch time or dinner time, and family carers would just fill their flasks. I liked this kind of service very much .
And would you believe it? When a daughter got married, she would be given her usual bridal gifts of a mattress with bed sheet 2 pillows, and a bolster, blanket set, a sewing machine, a bicycle, a wardrobe, two German made kopitiam chairs,a tampoi (spittoon),a dressing table, a wash basin, and yes, a hot water flask. Traditionally every one of these would be carried on two bamboo poles. The foochows called these DAN. The richer the family the more DAN (gifts) the bride would get.
And on the wedding night, the red flask would be filled with hot water, and in the morning, the bride would pour hot water into an enamel basin, for her new husband to wash his face. (Remember in those days, there was no attached bathroom). That would be her first act of servitude the day following the wedding.
And do you know that before you buy one of these hot water flasks, you have to listen to the flask? A sweet sound indicates that it is excellent but a flat sound means that it is not of good quality.
Go listen to a flask.
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
Memoir by I Am Sarawakiana at 8:51 AM