Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Mud Cookies

I read in the Star a few days ago about people in slum areas of Haiti eat cookies made out of mud in desperate measures to survive. Their economy is in a pretty bad shape. They simply can’t afford even a decent plate of daily rice, let alone to feast on luxury cuisine we call it ordinary in our standard. That’s how poor is poor to some unlucky human beings just like you and me in certain corner of the globe.

Merchants dispatch the dirt to the local market before women would go buy, then process it into mud cookies. They then carry buckets of dirt up ladders to the roof, strain out rocks and clumps on a sheet, and stir in shortening and salt. They pat the mixture into mud cookies and leave them to dry under the scorching sun.

The whole family then consumes it just like you and your family having lunch or dinner despite of the form and figure of mud cookies that replicate our Oreo cookies for kids that aptly meant for tea time, if it is at all edible.

Wonder how it tastes like.

One would never have imagined having to eat dirt to continue living, at least not for us in this part of the hemisphere. But the reality is as such for them that instantaneously would give a sane in us a brush of gratitude for being born and live in this land called Malaysia.

In some remote cases we may have heard people are having hard time to feed their families here in our country, but I never came across people starving to death for having to go without food yet or having to nosh on such gross thing.

I came from a less-than-rich family over in east coast of the peninsular but as far as I can remember, foods were never deprived from our daily routines. Without knowing we grew up healthy by way of consuming a lot of vegetables. It was not unusual then when I was tasked by granny to go pluck any vegetables that I like to have in the backyard for our lunch.

We eat a lot of fish too, be it saltwater fish bought from fishmonger on bicycle or freshwater fish we caught in the rice field. The head of that damn “haruan” sure looks like a snake – no wonder in English they call it snakehead fish – but it’s rich with protein.

Meat diet only come every once in a blue moon. Chicken and meat were the super luxurious food that only in certain occasion we get to taste it.

The fun starts as early as chasing the chicken that roams around the yard after identifying it in a coop before. With some paddy in hand as bait, pretending to be nice feeding it, let it enjoy the bite in its rhythmic noise for a while before at lightning speed; grab it with both hands while the heart is pounding fast. Sure it’s a major surprise in the chicken’s life when the rug is pulled underneath. Even bigger surprise when grandpa would have it slaughtered. Grandma would then busy processing it while I’d be busy to nose around. Need not to tussle with my little sister as chicken have got two feet, fried chicken feet, we get one each – our favorite snack before the actual meal.

It’s a heavy contrast to what the Haitians in slum have to eat to continue living even when we put it side by side with our 70’s lifestyle and theirs now in the new millennium – my chicken feet were way better than mud cookies.

Let alone if compared to our live today.

I would see my kids, or anyone’s kids for that matter, the choices of foods are abundance. They have all the luxuries to pick and choose from. Unlike when I was small, whatever served underneath the “saji” right on the “mengkuang” mat, I would eat it with no grudges and enjoyed it, just as much as our kids today are enjoying their burgers and pizzas.

Sam's Call
Sam is studying the menu hard before placing order in Pizza Hut recently. It is his call today and he is known to have good palate for food and his choice never have failed us.


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