A tradition long forgotten?

I have a rather horrible habit when I’m cooking in the kitchen. I tend to day dream in the kitchen. It is amazing that I haven’t set the kitchen on fire or burn any of my meals…well, at least, not yet.Kitchen, I must say, can be very inspiring at times. I shamelessly admit that most of my ideas in writing comes from the kitchen. This one particularly, is inspired when I was cooking.

Last night, I decided to make some jelly as dessert, simply because it can last at least a week in the fridge and can be eaten anytime of the day. You know, those packed crystallized konyaku jelly that you can easily obtained from sundry stores. It’s very cheap and easy to prepare, and I would have shared it with my dad if his meeting in KL this week was not canceled. Oh, well, guess I’ll just share it with err….my mom outlaw since she’s in town and adore my jellies.


While I was cutting canned peaches to mix it with the concoction, I sighed and reminisce about my childhood days when I was growing up in England as well as in Malaysia. There’s this long forgotten tradition that keeps my heart warm just by remembering. It’s the tradition of exchanging warm food with your neighbours.

My family used to have friendly neighbours as well as constantly visiting fellow Malaysians when we were in the Great Britain, and every now and then, my mother would cook up some simple Malaysian dishes or cakes and share it with the neighbour who happened to be locals. They adored my mother’s cooking, and in return, they would cook up some amazing warm dishes of their own every now and then and give it to my mother to share with the family. And the sharing ritual would go on and on and on. That particular neighbour used to be hostile to us because we are Asian and probably do not have good impression on us in the first place. But they had open up to my family since my mother shared her dishes with them. In no time at all, my family become their best friend and we’re often invited for backyard BBQs with their family. It’s actually nice to share dishes with your neighbour, it keeps the spirit of neighbourhood alive, no matter what country you’re from. It has somehow set our differences aside.

Things did not change when we return to Malaysia. My mother continue to cook and share her famous signature dishes or desserts with our neighbour who usually would be very grateful and they too would return the favour by cooking up dishes of their own and share it with my family. Things actually became merrier during the Muslim fasting month, as my mom and the neighbours get infected by the ’share the dishes’ virus. As you all probably know, during the fasting month the Muslim housewives would cook various dishes for breaking the fast, and yeah, my mom and her comrades gone nuts about this. They would shamelessly go around and exchange dishes with each other, that I had myself believe that my mother only cook one large portion of dishes and share it with the neighbours and get various kind of dishes in return.The tradition didn’t just end during the Muslim fasting month, it goes on and on and on endlessly back then.

Time flies, and I’m all grown up now. My mother no longer cook for me because she is not living with me, and I have to tend to my own meals with my own cooking. Don’t ask me why I cook. I’m a very fussy and hard to please girl when it comes to food. So cooking my own dishes is the best way to feed myself and stop my foul mouth from complaining.

I’ve come to a realization that the tradition of exchanging food has long been shot dead, especially in the city. I don’t see people sharing their warm dishes with their neighbours anymore, and MYOB sticker is plastered clearly on everyone’s face. No one is friendly with one another anymore. Even a simple hi or friendly smile is hard to come by.

What kind of a society we’re becoming, I don’t know, because to me, the modern society these days lack ‘warm human touch’. Deep inside, I feel that exchanging dishes with the neighbours is a good tradition worth continuing, especially in the current state of economy where not many of us can afford to eat a variety of food at one sitting without upsetting our budget. Let’s just remember that it’s not only through RELA or RC meetings that we can strengthen the spirit of neighbourhood. Small gestures like sharing and exchanging dishes can too.

Cleffairy: Exhanging/sharing food with the neighbours is a tradition long forgotten but worth reviving.


  1. Calvin says:

    putting aside all the crap that is going on in malaysia, i guess we malaysians are one happy people. needless to say that we are also damn lucky not to fall in the volcanic and earthquake zone…..in the future perhaps, with all the sins that we have created.

    the tradition of sharing of foodstuffs between neighbours were very well received back in the old days when robberies and murders were manageable by the police. nowadays, people are even scared to go shopping. neighbours robbing neighbours are common these days and there are no such trust embedded on the people’s hearts anymore. you die your problem!! that’s what is being taught into our childrens’ mind even by the school, what not their own parents.

    reading the berita harian this afternoon, i was shocked that the police lost drugs worth RM1m in their very own backyard. still feeling safe in malaysia? i’m not….never was.

  2. KevinP says:

    Clef, you very free one hor? Thinking about all these things and make us all think back on all the good old days… Raya, Deepavali, CNY… we share all those delicacies… well.. until they do not eat the stuff we cook….

    Calvin, the RM1mil drug “heist” is an inside job trying to save some drug lord’s butt… either that or they find it too lucrative not to sell it.. :).

  3. roses says:

    traditions are long forgotten..
    i should be thankful if my neighbour aint spooky, suspicious-looking bandit or even worst, rapist who got holes drilled through the wall and peeps (peeping tom) ewwww~~
    malaysia SAFE?!?!?! BAHHHHH~~
    but i gotta acknowledge something, Malaysians are one of the most alert making us the best tourists around. we hold our bags tight, look out for pickpocket n stuff…

    i love konyaku, used to have it during my diet period.

  4. chit says:

    lol, hey, that’s me man!!!lol. i mean..i share my stuff. juz did that on sunday when we passed some newly experimented steamed pumpkin baos to the neighbour who are a couple of retirees. however on that day, i suddenly realized that they never pass us anything in return, but they r not obliged to anyway. in fact, we should not expect anything else in return, but it’s strange, so i guess the tradition is dying, even amogst the elderlies.

    it’s different back at home(town), people still exchanges, rave and grateful for it. what’s happening to the society? these people r not totally extinct yet…we all mah…hehe. so, when r v gonna exchange foodies? lol.

  5. cleffairy says:

    Calvin, we may not be classified as a country in the Pacific fire ring, but the government is so determined to put everyone on fire. Hahaha…people are taking after the attitude of those disaster. Some are behaving like tsunami, a good deal of others constantly explode like Krakatoa while some others have the mood or a typhoon! I like the feel good feelings I used to have when i was growing up, and I missed the good old times where i can feel safe going out to shop alone without parents supervision. I feel safe back then just because the neighbours was keeping silent eyes on me where ever I go around the neighbourhood. I doubt the kids these days can do the same. god knows if our neighbour is not some cold blood murderer.

    Kevin, I’m not so free lah, but when I spend some time in the kitchen, I tend to go down memory lane too. LOL. Talk about deepavali, i kinda miss one of my neighbour’s muruku and traditional indian sweets. Traditional Indian sweets are very nice to eat you know? Very sweeeettt! Now no chance to eat oredi, unless i go and get it myself in Brickfields.

    Rose… yea, you’re right. Malaysia is no longer safe like what it used to be.
    🙁 even at the place I live, there are robbers/housebreakers/rapist. I heard of some cases in my condo told by some of the RC members I hang around with sometimes.

    Chit, that’s so nice of you to share your food with the neighbours. Aiya, don’t expect so much from the elderlies la. they’re probably too old to return your favour. 😀
    When am I going to change my foodies? LOL. I share them every now and then with the kids next door. But usually give them desserts, sweets or ice cream sticks when their parents are not around. Haha.

    Pete, you’re so lucky to have such neighbours. Only one of my neighbour is friendly. The rest…. i can’t even talk to them because they do not understand what I say. ( they are middle east people) 🙁

  6. roses says:

    rapist?!?! that disgust me the most…if u have read an article on The Star last sunday, our country’s rape cases are so shockingly high that it should be death mandatory for those bastards…

    well, u gotta be careful ANYWHERE around Malaysia. i told off a backpacker when i was on a 5hr bus ride the other day, “when u backpack in malaysia, u gotta be careful esp gals..they dont care whether u r white/black or tourist/local, they can even rape their own grandkids”
    it was a SHAME………….i am suppose to promote malaysia but a lady gotta do wad a lady gotta do—-

  7. cleffairy says:

    You’re right, rose…really, really right! Actually, to me, death punishment is not enough for these bastards. You ought to make them approve the ‘castration’ bill. I’d really like to see these creeps become eunuch. See how they can rape summore lah. *snarl*.

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