My grandmother lived in three different places since she arrived at the age of 5. My Grand Uncle Headman, Lau Kah Tii, bought her for 5 silver dollars , as the child bride of my grandfather.
Grandma lived in Ensurai until she married my grandfather in the Foochow custom and all of my uncles and aunts including my mother were born in Ensurai. My grandparents lived with the big Lau family. Life was pleasant according to my grandma because food was cheap and she was hardworking to have her own vegetables, pickles and in exchange for some cash, she helped her elder sister in law to tie "rokok" together and pack tobacco to be sold to the Melanaus who came to trade.
Later, when my grandfather saved enough money tapping rubber for his brother, he moved to Chieng Nang Chong, the area nearer Lee Hua Sawmill. They stayed there for a few more years to help his elder brother open up more land. When his own family was getting really big his elder brother deemed it time for him to "open up his own land by getting a grant from the Rajah".
Further inland, were coolie hostels my grandfather was able to provide. By then, he had more than 100 acres of rubber trees and he was considered rather prosperous by the then standard. But he was never able to attain the status of his eldest brother, LKT.
In 1938 he built this big wooden house facing Ensurai, which was on the opposite bank of the Rajang. However, five years later, my grandfather passed away because of extreme ill health and exhaustion from hardwork.
My maternal grandmother and my family had a very good relationship. She would visit us most weekends and stay perhaps until Monday.
One of the best memories I have of our happy and story telling grandmother was her love for pig's brains.
My mother would buy one or two pig's brains which cost only 20 cents in those days and grandma would sit at the verandah to clean the brains with a small needle very patiently. All the veins and membranes were carefully picked and pulled out with a fine needle. The brains would sit in a bowl of salt water. I loved to see her workmanship. She was meticulous and silent in her work. She was the first person who taught me there is a lot of joy in work.
And after the cleaning the brains look so clean and refreshing.
The cooking is very simple. A bit of salt and some finely chopped ginger and a table spoon or two of Foochow red wine. Steam for 10 minutes.
My mother herself was not too fond of eating pig's brains. But I remember we kids would share some steamed brains whenever we had exams.
Most importantly, when grandma came, if she only mentioned her desire to eat brains, my mother would walk to town early in the morning to buy a brain or two. And only grandma could eat the brains bought by mum. What a loving gesture from a filial daughter.
Enculturalisation - in this way we caught social values taught by our ancestors. Certain food prepared can only be eaten by the honoured guest like grandmother. Children could only get a portion of the food later. We had no objections to that because we knew it was a kind of love my mother could show her mother.
And pig's brains are really special.
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