Drinking milk in a toddy shop…..
My late father was wise. He had his own simple rules on bringing up his children. Simple and graphic rules which have stuck in my mind despite my age having crossed the 5 decade barrier a few years ago.
And one classic rule was the …….“Even if you drink milk in a toddy shop…..”
Toddy is no more the commonly understood drink it once was. I suppose there would be plenty of youngsters today who have never seen a pot of toddy in their lives.
“The partly fermented sap of the coconut palm (COCOnSu cifera), called toddy in Malaya, is a popular drink among certain sections of the population in south-east Asia and among the natives of the central Pacific Islands. The methods of obtaining toddy from various species of palm have been described in detail by Gibbs (1911) and by Browning & Symons (1916), so that only a brief account need be given here.
The young inflorescence is tightly bound with twigs and beaten with a weighted wooden mallet, morning and evening, for a number of days. When the inflorescence begins to ooze its sap, the tip is cut and the sap allowed to trickle into an earthenware pot. Owing to the yeasts and other organisms already present in the used pots, alcoholic and other fermentations begin immediately. Each morning and evening a ‘tapper’ climbs the tree to collect the toddy, and at each visit he shaves off a fine transverse section of the inflorescence so as to leave a new oozing surface. The fermented toddy, which is milky in appearance, is brought to the Government toddy-shops for sale within a few hours of collection.”
A toddy tapper doing his thing. Note the collection pots that are still on the tree. Source: Flickr
Not far from where I grew up in Penang, there was a toddy shop. The fermented toddy, whilst looking like milk had a powerful foul odour. And it was a common sight to see many of the port workers and labourers staggering out drunk from this toddy shop most evenings. Being called a “toddy drinker” was a grave insult beaten only by being labelled a “toddy drunkard”.
And my late father’s saying……”Even if we drink milk in a toddy shop…” meant crime by association.
Even if we had the noblest of intentions and drank only milk in a toddy shop, we would still be labelled as a toddy drinker or worse a toddy drunkard. So we should just stay away from places like toddy shops. Of course this also extended to a number of other places, like where the young men of those days would gather to play cards or just talk shop. I should not even be seen there…period.
Maybe sayings like this still have their usefulness.
Many are the young of today who gather at shopping complexes and “happening places”. I am sure most of them start off with innocent intentions of having fun. Until the crime by association starts. Some of these kids end up trapped into the world of cigarettes and drinks and maybe even worse, drugs.
I don’t know how I would be able to bring up the issue of toddy with my children. They’ll probably look at me as if I had gone unhinged. At least I have been allowed to hammer home the dangers of smoking to them.