August 30, 2014

Sibu Tales : Brandy Brands

Basically,there were four ways we Foochow  kids learned about drinks in Sibu.

The easiest was to learn from the movies. We watched lots of movies and watched how the actors and actresses drank. James Bond was a bad influence. He always looked so handsome in his dinner jacket and a drink in his hand.

We learned from the advertisements, in the newspapers, in the coffee shops, in the magazines.

We learned by watching our elders drink during banquets, parties and at home. But that was not too often any way. We had fun watching our Foochow uncles enjoy a bit of Martell during a good wedding feast in the village. They did not really get drunk but they did get very noisy.

We learned from books. A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens introduced us to the French lower class people who drank cheap cognac. And the Bible told us Jesus turned water into wine. Lovely.

And there were tales which floated around about drunkenness, about alcoholism. We youngsters were secretly amused.

Apart from the Methodists who are teetotalers that is, they don't drink because of their beliefs, many people in Sibu drink :  businessmen and women, bankers, sales people, and almost every shop keeper and especially timber people drank like fish most of the time. One Borneo Company manager had a bottle of whiskey in his office desk drawer. In another drawer he had a pistol. No one dared to mention his drinking or his pistol!! End of story.

Here are some facts regarding brandies. Brandy is a distinct and classic liquor. Brandy is made by distilling wine and is generally considered a late evening or after dinner drink. Some consider brandy to be one of the truest forms of alcohol. Brandy is was invented by accident in the 12th century when merchants concentrated wine for easier transportation with the intent of re-adding the water. However, they discovered that the concentration process improved the flavor. Some brandies are aged in wooden casks, but others use caramel coloring to imitate that processCourvoisierCamus

 A very popular brandy in Sibu was  Hennessy which is a cognac house with headquarters in Cognac, France. Today, the company of Jas Hennessy & Co. sells about 50 million bottles a year worldwide, or more than 40 percent of the world’s Cognac, making it the world's largest Cognac producer.

 Courvoisier, popularly advertised in Sibu cinemas,  is a brand of cognac owned by Beam Inc.. The production is based in the town of Jarnac in the Charente department of France.

It is always given as a gift for birthdays, or for a new born baby. Many Foochow women having a month's confinement will enjoy drinking a peck or two of Martell in the evening to"  keep their uterus warm and healthy". This is believed to help them bear more children at a later date, if not immediately.
Martell must be one of the most popular for the Foochows. Other brands are Camus and Remy Martin.

When we were young we heard lots of stories related to these drinks. If we heard them , would we have been taught moral lessons? If we had seen with our own eyes the influence of the spirits, would we have leanred?

1. A sanba (village ) lady had about 5 katis of deer meat given to her by a relative. Because she was quite a nasty lady she was not able to maintain a good relationship. Her husband had left her. So in frustration, she stir fried the deer meat with half a bottle of brandy. After having her splendid lunch she just collapsed and died.

2. During the Japanese occupation, a man and a woman were caught having an affair. The husband of the woman reported them to the Kempetai. Adultery was punishable by life burial. The whole village came to watch them dig their own graves. Once they had dug enough depthm they were given a bottle of brandy each, which they drank. They each were also given a bao. What thoughts did they have? Every one watched very carefully. When they had finished drinking, they pushed the soil into their own graves and when finally the soil reached their neck, the Japanese soldiers hit their heads with a changkol. And soils were then piled on top. It must have been very hard to witness this life burial for this kind of crime.

3. There was a business man who loved the bottle. One evening he took too much drink and he fell into the river from his own speedboat. His body was later found quite away from Sibu.

4. I was attending a wedding banquet when a rather famous teacher got fairly drunk. He went up to hug a waitress and was later almost carried out of the restaurant. I felt so embarrassed by the scene that I could not ever face him after that. However years later, he shook my hands so innocently He definitely could not even remember he was ever drunk and had such a humiliating scene. Not easy to forget.

You will have to buy me a few drinks to loosen my tongue...Sigh....

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