Decades ago, life was a hard struggle for the villagers, who had to toil physically the whole day for some rather meagre incomes. The need for an escape path for mental and physical stresses was dire.
For many, this came in the form of a cheap illicit booze known as “moonshine” or in the local Hokkien term that I knew – ia kha chiew (meaning alcohol brewed under coconut trees). Apparently, in the depths of many of the cocounut plantations, something more exciting, more intoxicating and more profitable than going nuts was brewing.
I had a neighbour with a bicycle-repair shop front, but made most of his money selling this “comfort drink” for 20sen per small glass. Come evening time, many customers would leave the shop tottering in a happy daze with the moon shining on them.
In the good old times before coffeeshops became coffeehouses, we could get real good kopi, kaw-kaw or otherwise, without having to demolish our bank accounts.
Best of all, while paying only 10 sen or so, our daily perk-up came in dignified porcelain cups, each graced elegantly with a matching saucer. And those cups were also very kaw (meaning thick). I was told that the thick cups was to minimize heat loss from the drink.
These days, at the so-called upmarket coffee outlets, one has to pay a fistful of dollars to get some coffee-looking/smelling liquid with some out-of-this-world unpronounceable names that is served in crass paper cups, or worse, in uncouth health-destroying polyfoam ones. Sadly, there is no lack of eager victims. What to do?
Rummaging through my kitchen cabinet one day, I found this piece of magnificent ancient glassware. I guess it must have been with us for the last 4 decades or so – I might as well call it an artefact instead.
I am not sure what its correct name is – shall I call it Manual Juicer?
That same day I got hold of a couple of oranges, slit them in halves and then revived my hand muscles to get the juice flowing. Man, it was hard work – I really had to squeeze the fruit halves with all my might, while simultaneously rotating them around.
I remember it was a rather easy job 40 years ago. But this time round, my hand joints felt sore, and I had to rub in some analgesic balm afterwards for relief.
Back in the 60s, Ovaltine and Milo were the two rather “classy” beverages and they ran head-to-head. Whenever a guest came avisiting to our humble abodes, a cup of one of these hot drinks would be served.
Ovaltine was favored in my home due to its perceived higher nutrition value (supposedly had eggs in its composition), but some vegetarians stayed away from it and went for Milo.
Over the years, Ovaltine seems to have retreated further and further into obscurity (my perception) whilst Milo seems to have gone from strength to strength. If I walk into a coffeeshop now and ask for Ovaltine, chances are that I will get a few blank stares. “Apa tin lu mahu ?”
Photo shows the packaging designs of the 1960s.