Obituary – Eddie Chin
We regret to advise of the passing of Eddie Chin on August 19th, 2017 in Toronto, Canada. He was predeceased by his wife Nora.
Unfortunately, we do not have details of his funeral or his memorial so forgive us if any information provided here is incorrect.
His siblings are Nellie (Jamaica) Rene "Mae" Lyn (Miami, deceased), Tyrone (Jamaica, deceased) and Geoffrey (Toronto).
The family lived in Newton Square in the early days and own a wholesale on West Street called Nelson Chin & Co.
Eddie was well known in badminton circles while he lived in Jamaica.
Father Donald Chin You OF
We are all aware of the extent to which the CJ community is spread around the world, but one of us living in Brazil and now calling himself Brazilian and speaking Portuguese as his first language is quite a stretch.
Introducing Father Donald Chin You OF.
THE JAMAICAN CHINESE SHOP COUNTER
-By Norman ]Gwee Loong] Hew-Shue
This titled counter was much more than a place for namesake money counting. In my experience growing up behind one, I have seen it used variously as school bench for learning; for youth counseling; judicial arbitrations; medical examination or consultations; and also sadly as a defensive barrier. It will be necessary to describe the setting, that is the shop proper, to appreciate this multifunctional utility.
The Chinese Jamaican grocery shop is a landmark institution of Hakka migrants that took the intrepid step of leaving Mainland China for an alien Caribbean life, and was then a viable livelihood requiring less communication beyond the bantering of commerce, and early pioneers were rumoured to use a stick for customers to indicate wares. It evolved due to climactic, practical security factors into a structure a description of which would be nostalgically similar to readers’ from a similar heritage.
Built-in varying proportions of concrete, wood zinc-clad roof or fences it was surrounded by a piazza elevated from the street to guard against seasonal tropical rain flooding. At Rosemary Lane and Barry St (my birth-home), the shop was elevated about 2 feet on a stepped slab. Living quarters were either upstairs or adjoining accessible by a separate entrance.
Hakkas [‘Guest people’] tend to fortify their buildings, as they are intrepid sojourners into new unknown territory. The large doors were usually of metal -clad wood of folding panels or leaves. The last door was often designed to join with and close off the counter during opening hours. These doors were secured by large bolts, braced by heavy wooden bars spanning the leaves and topped off by flat-spring alarm bells.
One side of the shop usually abutted a street or lane, and had a small window for tanker hoses re-filling drums of kerosene oil, fuel used for cooking and lighting. This fact dictated the layout of the shop, as the oil and other malodorous commodities would be stored at this end followed by the more staple and necessary items near to the till and then the more uncommon or exotic items in showcases at the far reaches of the shop. The counter thus was dictated by the commodities served and formed 3 distinct sections to be described as A, B, and C
Section A had the kerosene, coconut and sweet oils; mackerel; red herring; bars of brown soap; saltfish; and other odoriferous commodities on shelving or floor near this better ventilated windowed-end. Next to that were the loose chemical stuff such as fine and coarse salt; baking and drinking soda; straw dye for staining floors; "Oxford Blue" cubes for bleaching. This was colonial times with various systems of weights and measures- liquids and grains shared common gills, pints and quarts. The tinsmith was a busy man supplying us with these measures, funnels and the long kerosene hand-pump.
The adjoining counter usually had one of two scales, the other for the flour and "dry goods" area. Underneath were associated items- barrels of mackerel; pigs’ tail; salt pork and newspaper for wrapping fish. The outside front usually was covered with ad -posters stapled by salesmen. "Sunlight soap powder-bring some light into your wash” and also an access door for large goods or barrels.
At a distance that was deemed safe from absorbing these odours and near to the central till, were flour, sugar; salt; cinnamon sticks, senna; cocoa; and other plant barks or products. The till itself is centre stage with the Four Ace and other cigarettes; lighter fluid, flint and other frequently demanded items. Also here are the various business books, including those for credits, which indiscriminately used has been the bane for quite a few businesses. A "Ready Rekoner" might be there in later years supplanting the son pan or abacus of the older generations. My dear father, "Foreman" would be standing there with one foot on a barrel in his homemade underpants clicking away at the abacus.
Biscuits, Cheese Crunchies and Crackers sat besides macaroni and other pastas. Along with Excelsior crackers in long cardboard boxes hot from off the truck. Also in this area would be the hand -cranked black pepper mill. Under the counter flour and cornmeal were poured from their sacks into barrels with lids to keep out rodents. Next came the fridge with all its associated contents -Anchor butter; drinks; Kool-Aid, suck-suck. Earlier generations had a literal icebox supplied with a block of sack -cloth and sawdust -covered ice from the ammonia reeking ice-factory on Harbour and Gold Street.
A glass case often on top of the counter, displayed bread, ginger-bun, bulla and other baked goods would be next along with the candy jars- Paradise plum; Bustamante backbone (a extremely hard confection named for a previous PM) mark the end of section A.
The counter now changed from heavy planks, sturdy enough to withstand the shock of the saltfish machete, to glass cases to best display the wares of section B. These contained items such as Jiffy dyes of enchantingly named shades- Post Office red; Emerald and Leaf green; flashlights; "Okapi" knives from the big one with multicoloured handle to the small one shaped like a key; Needles, thread & sequins.
Various bagged goods built our muscles with flour at 100; granulated sugar 110 and dark sugar 210 lbs. These were secured by machine stitching that started the right way allowed the stitches to be unraveled with one pull, similarly the tin of Cheddar cheese require know-how to extract the contents.
Depending on its size of the shop the counter usually makes a 90-degree turn at this juncture.
The rest of the commodities in section C are the less requested stuff- stationery (no envelopes to be sold after 6:00 o'clock) brushes; medicinal preparations from Britain or her colonies -Kaufmanns Sulphur Bitters; Phillips Milk of Magnesia; Canadian Healing oil (good to cure fowls of cold) or Scott’s emulsion which we enjoyed drinking were stored here, as was fine and coarse brooms.
The country shop was different in that its provisioning went beyond basic food and staples in having haberdashery, bar, hardware, and the occasional gas pump.
This then was the generalized format of the Ham tew Pooh or Hakka grocery around the all-important counter serving the various following roles:
This is its obvious and primary intended use, but was a place of cultural exchange between East and West, of colourful Jamaican and stoic hardworking Hakka societies. Most of these provisions were sold piecemeal at low profit, and instilled and preserved the Hakka work ethic to the younger generation of thriving on adversity and drudgery.
For me behind the counter provided a front row seat as it were, to the rambunctious, humorous and titillating aspects of Jamaican culture. In downtown Kingston particularly, this provided an insight and opened -mindedness in the ways of the world as to be shocked-proofed like a Bulova watch.
From the safety or vantage point of the shop counter would be variously observed: the frightening John Koonu dancers at Christmas time; women fighting and stripping each other in middle street or Water Commission men battling a manhole overflowing with raw sewage. From happy prancing Christmas revellers to the slow crutch-assisted gait of a Kendal train crash survivor, there was a never-ending drama
My second shop on Barry St and Maiden lane was opposite to a large bustling ‘house-of ill repute’ that supplemented my education immensely in the ways of the world. This was in the pre-independence days when Kingston was a port of call for the Royal Navy. “Come on baby Let the good times roll” by Shirley and Lee, a frequently played tune from the bars jukebox became a theme song to my voyeuristic education.
Behind the counter could be a hard school and most of us disliked the duty, given the bewildering English monetary system of pounds, shilling and pence, however it was an also a good school for entrepreneurship, ginialship and anancyism. One day a little boy from down the lane asked for quarter lb of Anchor Butter. I made the mistake of giving him the butter first when he disappeared with flying feet in a record dash that Bolt has yet to match, down Maiden lane. I was handy and made small cardboard airplanes to display in the glass case, boys grabbed them up for 2/6 each but I didn't capitalize on it.
One day a very young pretty girl turned up with the other "sport girls". My father known for his benevolence saw and sent for her. Forgetting all about the shop he quietly questioned and spoke to her, offering her financial help. She listened demurely, on the other side of the counter. After a few days she left as suddenly as she came, hopefully to better prospects.
My father was versed in herbal medicine, and occasionally at quiet times for those customers who asked, he would place their outstretched hand on the counter unto his seat pillow while intently concentrated on the nature of their wrist pulse. Once a teenaged fair-skinned daughter of a customer had a large eyelid boil and was due for surgery at The University Hospital in a few days. My father gave her mother some of the tarry Gowh Yuk, [which might have had atropine of belladonna as its active ingredient- learnt by centuries of empirical use,] with instructions to apply it as hot as bearable. The boil burst, drained, healed, and surgery appointment cancelled to their undying gratitude.
Occasionally, father, being probably viewed as an unbiased party, might be asked for his decision in some dispute between customers.
A Japanese sea captain came into the shop one night, and although their languages were quite different, by shared written characters on the shop counter, my father and he struck up some understanding which ended in his inviting us and guests to tour his ship. Several neighbouring shopkeepers and families [including yours truly] went down to one of the Kingston wharves and up rickety gangways and were treated to sights including looking down into the immense gaping cargo-hold.
Shop work had its perks, including access to promotional material for prizes. Such as when Coca Cola offered a free ticket to the local Gaiety Theatre if 5 marked bottle caps was uncovered. We would check the cap opener under the counter every 5 minutes for unwanted stoppers. I developed an early fondness of reading, by going through stacks of newspaper stored under the counter, intended for wrapping, looking for the comics and the exploits of Garth, Phantom, Garth, or Mandrake.
The counter was also the place to exchange gifts at Christmas and other times, which includes mangoes or other fruits from “down the country” from thankful customers for ham, stouts and even chickens from my father.
As the socio-economic climate changed, spurred on by political rhetoric, so too did the counter. It had always provided a physical barrier to the occasional hostility, but went from fully opened to ones with grilled bars. Later mesh was added and possibly bulletproof glass. Later on certain politicians portrayed the Hakkas as being similar to colonial exploiters. This and senseless violence lead to mass exodus, as is the Hakka wont. Those Han Chinese coming to Jamaica now, do so seemingly purely for big business conglomerate ventures rather than for better lives and settlements for themselves and family.
Some time ago I asked friends to take pictures of my shop but was told that the area was too dangerous being now called “Tel Aviv.” Which says it all re the changing times, since Jamaicans have a knack for giving apt names. But regardless, my spirit will always be there as my dear parents would spoil me rotten in their love and although we were not wealthy, I lacked for nothing and it is due to them I have this detailed recall of these fond times, May they rest in truly deserved peace.
If anyone have pictures of their shop inside or out, could you share with me firstname.lastname@example.org or website. Thanks
YOUNG NUKE (TEE YOUNG STYLE)-(MUTTON & LIME LEAF)
Submitted by Chefboog's Lue Tenn
A few pre-tips:
I hope you have access to the various ingredients.
You can use the 'dried' lime leaves, but the 'young' fresh leaves are best.
And the mutton should (preferably) have the skin on. [Be sure to get all the meat from the same carcass, as different age animals have differing cooking time, as you certainly don't want to end up having some breaking apart while some are tough]
Other basic ingredients are:
Bat guck (star anise)
Seow fwee (anise) ; (substitute FENNEL)
Mmm Heung funn ( 5 spice powder)
Fresh ginger root
Caution: Go easy with the Bat-guck & 5 spice powder .....these are strong spices.
1. CUT UP MUTTON TO CHOP-STICK SIZE
2. SEASON WITH THE FOLLOWING: GARLIC, SOY SAUCE, (little) 5 SPICE POWDER, STAR ANISEED, ANISE AND [generous portion of] SLICED GINGER.
3. ADD SOME OIL IN A HOT WOK, STIR-FRY SEASONED MEAT TO BROWN.
4. AFTER BROWNING, ADD LIME LEAVES, SOME STOCK OR WATER, REDUCE HEAT AND SIMMER TILL TENDER.
(Stir and add more liquid if necessary until tender)
5. ADD OYSTER SAUCE TO TASTE AND THICKEN LIQUID TO DESIRED GRAVY CONSISTENCY WITH CORNSTARCH/WATER MIXTURE.
Another meat kind that can be cooked in the same manner: Rabbit
Sea turtle flipper
Remember that this type of dish normally calls for meat with the skin on.
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