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Worms, maggots and mud

Photo credit here

It's hard growing up in a foreign country.

I went through that almost my entire childhood. Oh don't get me wrong, I love the UK and I would never trade my childhood there for anything in the world.

It's just that it tickles me to reflect on some of the things that my sister and I (and a few of our other Malay friends) would do just so that we wouldn't get singled out.

One very funny example just recently cropped up in my head, and I knew I had to write about it immediately. In the UK we would have the option of taking packed lunches from home or eat catered lunches called 'school dinners' or 'din-dins' there, though I don't know exactly why lunch was called dinner... it still leaves me baffled to this very day. Having school dinners was sometimes a challenge for us Muslims because we can only eat Halal of Kosher food, and so it was the usual custom that we bring our own lunches.

When the bell rings, you walk out of your classroom, single file, and walk together to the Dining Hall. Students on school dinners would be seated at one set of tables and students bringing their own food would be seated at another set, so as to ease the distribution of food.

To this very day I can remember I can remember two incidents that would be forever ingrained into my brain. First, during a particular lunchtime, I caught a glimpse of my sister's friend Liza sitting down at the table, but with nothing on the table. Upon closer inspection, I saw that she was holding her lunch (packed in a Tupperware container) very tightly on her lap, hiding it from view. Next, I saw her eyes rove about, making sure that nobody was watching her. Then, as quick as lightning she would dip her spoon into her Tupperware, quickly shove the food into her mouth, and tear away the spoon as fast as possible to destroy the evidence.

She was eating fried rice. Dark brown in colour. Little grains of rice, probably looking like newly-hatched maggots - to her.

I was amused.

But I wasn't that better myself.

My mum (bless her heart) would pack us sandwiches. Sometimes it would be cheese. Sometimes it would be peanut butter.

And sometimes it would be serunding daging.

Now, anyone who is familiar with serunding daging would be familiar with the heavenly taste of the dried beef and exotic flavours of its spices. However, to an English schoolboy, it would look like worms and mud...

So whenever I had a serunding sandwich, it would be my turn to do the disappearing act!

Funny, really, when I look back now...

Wonder how my kids are going to fare with their worms, maggots and mud in New Zealand.


Cat-in-Sydney said…
Dear Father Of Biscuit,
NZ is very multi-racial now. People are used to Asian food as well as the halal concept. Please email us so we can pass you contacts in that matter. So, North or South Island? We've been to both. Any chance of transit in Sydney? purrr...meow!
Abdullah said…
Hi Mother of Cat,

It's good to know that. Contacts over there would be very helpful indeed. It's going to be South Island. I'll be doing my PhD at the University of Canterbury, in Christchurch.. kinda funny considering I did my undergrad at the Canterbury Christchurch University, UK...

Would hope to be able to get to Sydney one day..keeping my fingers crossed!
Ozzie said…
sigh.... fond memories.... i remember a daft friend who threatened to report my parents to social services for starving me during ramadhan. and the school was full of malay and pakistani muslims!!!

in my case, i was never one who did the disappearing act. i made do with the vege burgers and fries - my dinner lady (you're right. why dinner ah??) was a converted muslim. but when i brought the trusty tupperware i would try to share my 'local' food with my frens. alas...the cekodok pisang my ma tapau'ed' for me was met with horrific looks... she brought in burnt round pancakes!!! and my pulut durian caused me to have lunch with fellow malaysians on a bench by the field during mid winter - we got thrown out of the dinner hall - no one could stand the smell!!!

ahh.... waht fond memories...
Abdullah said…
Sue - Pulut durian??!! Hahahaha!!! That's one for the grandkids I bet!
Cat-in-Sydney said…
Christchurch? Very beautiful place. Check my entry - I Have A Dream Too - sometime May/June 2009. We were there in autumn. No coincidence - the place is so...English. Loads of Thai restaurants and a mosque too. Very beautiful place. Left my heart there. purrr....meow!
ChUcK SaGaCiOuS said…
are u leaving for NZ?..
when is it?...
percicilan said…
We were supposed to be in University of Canterbury in Jan 2007 and all we needed was to get on the flight and go. But a decision made within 48 hours landed us in Malaysia where my mister did his post grad here instead. We could have been neighbours there, heh. :P
Razee Salleh said…
Hi Abdullah,

Funny stories you have there.
I heard from someone that Halal meats are easier to find in NZ than in OZ. It is said that almost 90% of all their meat for export is Halal (I could be wrong here though), so at least getting Halal meats would be possible.
Cat-in-Sydney said…
Dear Father of Biscuit (and Br Razee Salleh),
Mate, u can't compare OZ with NZ. There 340,000 Muslims in OZ compared to 50,000 in NZ. However, in both countries, it's not enough with just a Halal word or logo displayed at a butcher or restaurant to accept that it's truly Halal. Locals would ask - "who's your meat supplier" instead of "is it halal?" There are so many independent halal certifiers in both countries that only those in the know would be able to separate the wheat from the chaff. Some fellow Muslims, unfortunately, would do anything for money. One similarity though - abattoirs are either export only or domestic only - which means the exporters' products are not for domestic consumption at all. Each category would adhere to different sets of rules.
Father of Biscuit, please email us catinsydney[at]gmail[dot]com for more info re Christchurch.
Razee Salleh said…
Hiya Cat-In-Sydney,

Love the fact that there is a staggering difference number so muslim sin NZ vs OZ. You were very right about the fact about the 'Halalness' of the slaughtered meats. Then there is also the recipes which may require the addition of non permissible ingredients. As a chef, this is often the lynchpin in determining whether the dish is Halal or otherwise.

Thanks for the tips, I am sure it certainly help many who find themselves in those shores. Love the fact that I can learn something new everyday. :)
Razee Salleh said…
Hiya Cat-In-Sydney,

Love the fact that there is a staggering difference number so muslim sin NZ vs OZ. You were very right about the fact about the 'Halalness' of the slaughtered meats. Then there is also the recipes which may require the addition of non permissible ingredients. As a chef, this is often the lynchpin in determining whether the dish is Halal or otherwise.

Thanks for the tips, I am sure it certainly help many who find themselves in those shores. Love the fact that I can learn something new everyday. :)
Abdullah said…
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