July 12, 2013

Nang Chong Stories : Recycling of Bottles

Although many people believe that recycling is a new 2lst century concept, the Foochow women of Sibu and the Rajang Basin have already been practising it since their arrival in Sibu.

BOTTLES were probably the first item to be recycled.

We even had a few men who went around collecting bottles in the villages and in Sibu . They usually cycled from door to door and they used a gunny sack to keep the bottles they collected. Beer bottles, soy bean bottles and vinegar bottles were best and people could get several cents per bottle. One man in particular had a special call which I cannot forget . He would call out "Mo tut! Mo Tut! Mo Tut!" which is  a corrputed Hokkien version of the English word Bottle. He had a rather creaky voice. We had our choice of the Mo Tut men because one in particular was rather stingy and he would want to cheat us by giving us a very bad deal. The green ones fetched less and the white ones more. He would complain about this and that and he actually wanted to get our bottles for free. Poor guy. He was a louse indeed because he wanted to cheat even children.

Later some of these bottle collectors used a three wheel cart.

Aerated pop drink bottles were usually sent back to the factories in exchange for more drinks.

My grandmother and aunties collected good wine bottles from relatives who had confinements. Many wealthy women had bottles of Dimple, Hennessey, XO and Vodka. These were precious to my grandmother and aunties who would wash them and dry them in the sun. Besides these they also kept the beer bottles for reuse.

Whenever they made Foochow Red Wine they would use these well washed and well dried bottles to bottle the wine.


I bought two bottles of Foochow red wine from a friend. The contents were rebottled in my Snow Grouse clear bottle which has a good twist cap. The red wine will keep longer if I put it in the fridge.

As a child I would love to watch the red wine clearing up in the clear glass bottles. Whenever we had egg soup or Soh Mien, I would beg for a few drops of the precious red wine. My grandmother would cluck her tongue and said that I would grow up becoming a Wine Ghost like Uncle so and so...But I knew then that Grandmother herself loved the bottle too. Every night she would have a peck of brandy while Third Uncle have his beer if they had stock. I could not remember when they stopped drinking together as mother and son. It was a good bonding time for them in the Landor or balcony.





Foochow red wine making also required a lot of bottle corks. These were carefully saved by all. None of the corks were thrown away and they were kept in a big glass bottle or a Nescafe Jar for future use. Chu SEng in Sibu owned by Uncle Wong would sell corks. Grandmother would ask other uncles not to throw good European wine bottles with corks away.

A Hennessy bottle like this with a twist cap is a treasure which can be re-used for many years.
The Black and Red Labels would always remind me of Uncle Wen Hui (Hii) who enjoyed this together with Aunty Yung. Their relatives who respected them would pass a lot of Duty Free whisky to them as gifts for their birthdays or any occasion. BYO has a special meaning for me.

Back to confinement again. The Foochow Red Wine is usually brewed for a new mother by a reliable relative if her own mother or mother in law cannot make the wine. Home made wine is much cheaper than store bought. Usually the confinement requires at least 30 bottles of Foochow Red Wine. And the person who makes good wine will become more famous by word of mouth.

Tofu Milk, water and tea were all bottled in the bottles for all of us to carry in our baskets whenever we went to the rubber garden, school or town or the next village.

Those were the days before Tupperware, Cosway, or Korean and Japanese Brands came into the market.

However I continue to collect a few good bottles for my Foochow Red Wine. Do you?



3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ya, I remember at the Lau King Howe Hosiptal, there was someone who sold recycled bottles of all types for those who want to take medicine home from the dispensary/pharmacy at one corner of the hospital. Do you remember that?

There was also an old man who go around in tricycle collection used bottles. Old memories!!

Stenographer said...

Yes, I remember the scenario in the old Lau King Howe hospital. Those patients who were regulars brought their own bottles (usually the tomato sauce bottles).
My cousin said that there were three men who collected bottles for resale,as their way of earning a livelihood.

Thanks for visiting.

Ann, Chen Jie Xue 陈洁雪 said...

My bro Charles was just relating recently abt the Bo Tut man. (Cantonese name), connected to the family. The woman who sold the bottles at Lau King How Hospital is my ah Yee's MIL, sis to the principal of Sacred heart Pri school, the late Hii Kui Kui.