During the Japanese Occupation, food shortage was a serious problem. The Japanese issued ration cards to control supplies of rice and other essential items. Without this ration card, you could not get any provisions from the shops. The scarcity of goods sent prices sky-rocketing and there was a black market for those who could afford to pay.
My grandparents have 3 young children, an 11-month-old baby and another one on the way (my Dad). The 3.6 kg of rice rationed monthly was not enough to feed the whole family. My grandmother could not produce milk for her baby who subsequently died.
The sweet potatoes are rich in vitamins and high in fibre. When added to a pot of porridge, it kept every one from hunger but it made people let out lots of gases. hehe......
What little rice they had were reserved for my grandmother and the new born baby. She would cook a little rice in a pot of water, then feed the rice soup to her baby. The rice was of a poor quality with weevils and small stones in it. Yet many times, she let the older kids eat her porridge while she ate sweet potatoes or tapioca.
Excess crops were sold or bartered for food in the black market. My grandmother kept two chickens for eggs. Then she started breeding them. When a hen couldn't lay any more eggs, she slaughtered it and it would be eaten for days and days. Every morsel was savoured. Every edible part of the chicken was eaten. Nothing was wasted in those days.
During those war years, many were happy just to drink a simple bowl of porridge without worrying what the next day would bring......
Living in a kampong (village), my grandmother learnt some frugal ways from her Malay neighbours. She bartered for small fish, dried and preserved them with salt. After eating the flesh, she fried the bones and pounded them finely, sprinkling it on porridge for my toddler Dad.
During hard times, women had ingenious ways to provide food for their family...
It used to disgust me to watch her eat. She would eat 2 bowls of plain porridge every morning with just ONE pickled olive, for 4 days! She downed half a bowl of porridge, nibbled a little of the picked olive, then licked and sucked a quarter of it while finishing the remaining porridge. One pickled olive lasted her for 4 breakfasts! @.@
She taught her daughters-in-law and I how to manage a household with whatever little we have. She led a simple life, she had little needs. She died at the age of 97, surrounded by 4 generations of her descendants.
Photos from Memories at Old Ford Factory and Hua Song Museum
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