Bird’s Nest Soup

September 27, 2009

This was written fairly soon after my father arrived at Changi and appears among a number of notes about local Chinese culture, including references to such miscellaneous topics as ablution ceremonies, feuding, green tea (easily recognized by its “peculiar smell” and “said to give much energy”) and Chinese cigarettes.  The cigarettes were said to be “good for the teeth” though he was doubtful about that given that “most Chinese” seemed to have poor teeth.

Later in the notes there would be a much more detailed recipe.

Bird’s Nest Soup

This is a great delicacy amongst the Chinese but is very expensive.  Buying by bulk, the birds’ nests cost as much as 12 dollars a kattie (1 1/4 lbs). The nests themselves are very small & are made entirely of the birds’ saliva. Before they are served as food the Chinese keep them in a certain way for a certain time to “season” them.  The nests are said to be a good ‘pick-me-up’ for enemics (sic).  They are great blood restorers.

(Book C, page 116)

Green Frogs

September 16, 2009

Both before he was captured and during his first months at Changi, my father made frequent notes about the food eaten by the local Chinese, Indian and Malay populations.  It is not clear to me how he gained this information after his capture though there was a good deal of freedom of movement during the early weeks at Changi and from what he told me there was always a level of contact with local inhabitants.  That was how he obtained his writing materials, for instance.

Whether the dishes he noted were at all representative I cannot say.  It seems to me that his selection probably tended to the colorful and exotic, at least from his perspective.  But that would have been natural enough.

Here is a dish eaten by the Chinese in Singapore, though the recipe is a little short on detail.  It was probably written around May or June, 1942.

Green Frogs

These frogs are about 1 1/2 inches long and occur fairly commonly in Malaya in flat grassland which is low lying and although subject to periodic flooding does not remain waterlogged for very long.  The frogs are nocturnal in their habits.

The frogs are eaten chiefly by the Chinese population and parties of men go out with torches at night to collect them.  About 200 of the frogs make a meal for about 4 people.

Only the hind legs & portions of the rump are consumed.  The frogs are cut up when they are alive.

The method of preparing the frogs is uncertain.  The result, however, is said to be very similar to young pigeon.

(Book C, page 230.)

As was noted on the next page, both wild and domesticated pigeon were eaten.  Wild pigeon were “commonly shot” in Malaya while domesticated pigeon were killed after they had left the nest but before they had laid their second batch of eggs.  Wild pigeon were “excellent prepared as pigeon pie.”

First notes on Oaken Grove

September 5, 2009

My father finished his monograph on Oaken Grove in 1997.  Understandably, it took him several years to organize the data he had collected over a lifetime.  However, he wrote his first draft in Changi during the spring or summer of 1942.  He would  write several more drafts before he was released.  The drafts are very similar to each other and anticipate in remarkable detail his final introduction to the monograph half a century later.  I do not know what was going through his mind as he wrote them.  Perhaps with a little time on his hands he thought he might as well get down to it. But as suggested in my first post on Oaken Grove, below, I can’t help thinking that there was a lot more to it than that.

The map and cross-section shown in the extract is titled: Map 1 (a) showing the chief physical & geographical features of that part of the Middle Thames area occupied by the Heronries.

Entrance to Oaken Grove

as it is today