September 2, 2014

Sibu Tales : Hot Water Flask or Thermos Flask

There are lots of stories involving the Thermos Flask made in China. They are also known as Hot Water Flask, a literal translation from the Chinese.

When we were young, before the days of electricity and gas, wood was chopped to make a fire in our Chinese stove. It was used to cook three meals a day. Besides cooking meals, the fire would be used to boil enough.water for the use the whole day through.

My maternal grandmother would have a flask in the kitchen, and bottles of boiled water for every one to drink. She had her own flask of hot water to be taken upstairs for her to drink in case she need a glass of warm water at night. Mothers would also have a flask of hot water to make milk in the night for their children.

My mother would boil two kettles of water in the morning, besides cooking the rice in her pot. The hot water would fill up two flasks for the day use. The next day, any left over water would be poured into bottles . This cooled water would be our drinkig water. This kind of daily home practice was really environmentally friendly. Very sustainable economic practice too. It was a kind of waste not and want not kind of lifestyle whereby housewives made sure that they did not even waste their firewood or fuel!!

I would always remember the happy sounds the hot water make when pouring out of the kettle into the thermos flask. It is always associated with the carefulness my mother had when she carried out the duty early in the morning. It was like the day was starting well and everything was right.

Flasks bought in Sibu found in the house of a Kelabit chieftain in Bario...with White Penang Noodles too...

It was a mark of filial piety for the daughter in law to prepare hot water to fill up the thermos flasks and send them upstairs to the mother-in-law's room.

My great grandmother had her own flask to make her Horlicks and Ovaltine in her own room. We the great grandchildren would get a treat whenever we visited and she did not have to call out to any one to make the drinks. We felt like VIPs!!

Foochow Brides, the past, before the time of attached bathroom and piped water, were given these flasks as part of their dowry. In the first morning, she would pour out warm water for her husband , a cup, for him to brush his teeth, and a basin of warm water for him to wash his face.  You can still see such scenes in Chinese movies.

From Penang...Double Happinese Flasks for weddings. What a lovely collection.

At the Lau King Howe Hospital Sibu, I saw a lot of these flasks. You would know immediately the ethnicity of the patients by looking at the flasks they had by their bedside. Orderlies of the hospital would come from time to time to fill up the flasks with hot water. It was such an essential duty. I found it a very caring duty carried out by the orderlies. I would always remember the "water cart" of those days. Today, hot water is available in the kitchenette of some hospitals. A very much self service thingy.

Elders were often seen carrying a basket in which you find a tingkap (cheng Ark) and a flask. They would be relatives who were visiting someone in the hospital. Today it is a rare sight.

Although the flask is a iconic and convenient item in the past, it is still in use and lots of memories are associated with it.


Anonymous said...

They are the tong gu (湯壺) in Foochow.

Ensurai said...

Yes that's right. Hot water flask.

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