March 23, 2013

Nang Chong Stories : Raising Pigs during the Japanese Occupation

It is not all true that during the Japanese Occupation in Sarawak, that the Foochows were starving and they were destitute. It was true to a certain extent they  had sweet potatoes instead of rice to eat. It all really depended on whether they worked hard or not, or whether the Japanese came around to carry away their livestock.

Domestic animals were reared and the Japanese soldiers did occasionally, when they were in luck, ransacked the pig sties or chicken coops to pick and take away their prizes, to the loss of the families in Nang Chong Village. Another reason why they did not, or could not rear a lot of livestock was because they could not feed their animals . Food was scarce every where! And they plainly did not have enough scraps for the animals. What would you have fed the dogs with,in those days if you did not have even enough food for the children?
Photo courtesy of my mother's favourite English Chef, Hugh Fearnley Whittingtall. Mum likes him a lot because she too used to rear her own pigs. Mum says he is better and more proper.....

My mother, just in her teens, was already cooking hot meals for her pigs (usually 3 or 4 per batch) every day. Pigs got hot meals twice a day and food was the usual Water lettuce and wild yams. There was hardly any table scraps for them. Mum said that she could not rear more pigs because there was not enough food for people and she was rearing the pigs in the quiet. Too many pigs after all would make too much noise which would attract the Japanese soldiers.

She did have a mother pig during the Japanese Occupation and the animal gave birth to several batches of piglets which she sold.

Once a pig was old enough, the whole village would turn up to get their share. The meat was shared on a cooperative manner. Each family would take turn to slaughter their pig and the sharing was recorded and remembered. Money was not exchanged.

 So in that way, this sharing of pork was quite unique and it was really quite fair. No one could be "lee hai" or aggressive in their attitude and get a lion's share. I suppose this kind of sharing could only be practised by the foochows of those days. May be not today, unless one is really rich and give away for free the best portions of the animal.

My mother actually said that on the day a pig was slaughtered it was like a wedding was going to be conducted. The sharing families would gather around expectantly. Even those who wanted to have a look was welcome to witness the event.

 Food was scarce but thanks to God, there were light moments like a day for slaughtering of a pig. Mum's older brother and sister in law would be so proud on the day of the slaughter and mum and her younger siblings would have better food for a few weeks. The pork would be salted, the fat would be made into lard, and the pig skin would be dried in the sun or smoked over the stove to make more soup at a later date.

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