Actually, I totally forgotten all about today’s festival until during lunch break when my colleagues were talking about the dishes they’ve prepared for tonight’s dinner spread. I didn’t feel like I’ve missed out on anything special until then. And to make me feel even sadder was when I read all the postings put up in Facebook today about this “bak chang” festival. Then I began to feel the loss of having to go home after a hard day’s work to a dining table filled with scrumptious dishes still piping hot and befitting the celebration.
When my mother-in-law was around, she’ll be the one slaving over the hot stove from morning just to ensure that she’s got all the dishes on time for us when we return home from work especially the soup as she would boil soup using only the charcoal stove not the gas stove or the slow cooker and her soup always turn out smelling so fragrant and without a layer of oil on top and yet so superciliously tasty!
A week before this festival, mother-in-law would first prepare all the essential ingredients needed for the “chung” and then just a few days before the festival, have them all wrapped and boiled ready to be eaten and given away.
I still remember when I was younger, my mum would be seated on the small little stool at the far end of the kitchen with a wooden pole hanging across 2 chairs for support. She’ll have those strings (not the raffia ones) hanging loosely on one end of the pole, a basin of soaked bamboo leaves on the floor together with a pot of the soaked glutinous rice and ingredients separately placed beside her. She’ll then scoop a tablespoon (approximately) of the soaked glutinous rice onto a triangular shaped cone (made from 2 bamboo leaves) leaving a hollow area in the centre which will be covered with those readily cooked ingredients and covered over with glutinous rice. My mum makes the nyonya style “bak chang” whilst my mother-in-law makes the local version.
I come from a family steep with traditions. Thus when it comes to festivals like today’s I could feel the emptiness and gloominess setting inside me as the hour approaches for us to go home today.