Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Eating Tinned Biscuits and Cakes in Sibu

The Kim Guan Siang Cold Storage was absolutely fabulous for goodies.

When ever one's relatives visited one another,they would first buy some tins of biscuits or cakes from Kim Guan Siang which was situated on Cross Road,next to Chip Thai Leong. The shop was owned by the Cheng Family who lived along Brooke Drive until their land was developed into shop houses.

It was always the "done" thing for a relative to bring along a tin of biscuit or a tin of the nice Dundee Cake whenever they went to see a relative. We call this kind of gift as Ming Neng or Chien Mien Lei (See Face Gift). Many Foochows continue to bring gifts to their friends but not necessarily biscuits. I recently received two books as SFG from ML and we had a good laugh over this practice.

My paternal grandmother used to line up her bedroom wall with as many as twenty to thirty tins of good biscuits all given to her and Grandfather as marks of respect and love. She was very frugal and would never open the tins for any good reason.

There was one story which we cousins used to tell. One particular tin of Jacob's biscuit had been passed from one family to another and one of them marked it with a tiny dot. This tin apparently was passed from one house to another. Until by a stroke of bad luck it ended up again and again in this cousin's house. She finally forced her mother to open the tin and indeed all the biscuits were powdery by then.

It is good that today we have "used by date" on the tins. And any way most children today would be allowed to eat the biscuits as soon as the guests have left. We no longer keep the biscuits behind doors and give them to another relative. Laugh if you like. It is meant to be humourous. But things did happen fortunately or unfortunately.

I hope you will be reminded by all these pictures below. Enjoy a nostalgic visit to the past when biscuits and cakes were bought in tins and they were far in between. My favourite will always be the Dundee Cake.

And Jacob's biscuits did really come a long long way - from Ireland. The Irish Catholic Brothers would be remembered for them. These cream crackers will always be fondly remembered as SUDA pian or soda biscuits by the Foochows of Sibu and its hinterland.

The last picture depicts the very ordinary large tin of biscuits made in Malaysia. The Chinese and other native families would probably buy a tin a month. And these were packed for their children's school recess time. This tin is a favourite for many Foochow women because it can be recyled and used as a container for mee sua and rice especially.


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