My Ah Mah (paternal grandmother) was the third wife of a Teochew merchant. Although he was told in China that he would never have heirs, she bore him six sons and eight daughters, thus gaining favour as his favourite wife.
She was mistress of the house, but being a Nyonya, her pride was in the products of her kitchen. Cooking in her time was a labour-intensive affair; she had many servants at her beck and call, but her daughters and daughters-in-law were still expected to help out in the kitchen from early morning.
Ah Mah donned the t’ng sar (long blouse) or the newer styled kebaya (lacy blouse) top with colourful batik sarongs (tubular skirts) all her life, accessorising her outfit with pretty Nyonya belts and linked brooches.
She took special pride in maintaining her home, which was beautifully laid out with hardwood benches, armchairs and tables with decorative inlays of mother-of-pearl. The bedrooms were furnished with elaborately carved and gilded furniture.
About the Author
Harriet Lim was born in Singapore but grew up in Penang, where she enjoyed the mixed traditions of her mother’s Cantonese origin, her father’s Anglophile ways and her paternal grandmother’s Nyonya heritage. The book affords an intriguing glimpse into an opulent past. The author hopes that her illustrations will help kindle a greater interest in Nyonya culture, and keep it alive for future generations.