Take a Deetour

"I write to find out what I think." - Joan Didion

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Mum-mum Meme

Here's one from the scrumdidilyumptious Skrat.

For a girl whose first words were mum-mum (baby talk for food), it's no wonder this meme's been especially fun to do. Only thing is, it kinda took on a life of its own and I ended up with a little more than the specified "Five childhood food memories I miss (or don't)":

  • Something mom used to make for us when we were little: Make a little well in a plateful of steaming hot rice, crack in a raw egg and stir it all up with sesame oil in soy sauce and pepper - mmmmmmmmmm!

  • Maggie mee. Chicken flavour. First thing I learnt to cook. Been making and eating it since I was 6. Who can forget the TV ad of school kids climbing up the steps singing “Maggie Mee, fast to cook, good to eat”? A little later on, a staple during midnite feats at girlie sleepovers. My friends taught me different ways to cook instant noodles, like cracking an egg in, then separating the noodle/ egg mixture from the soup and seasoning it with ketchup and chilli sauce (see also FRIENDS).

  • When I was about 5, I remember going for a daily “joyride” with my neighbour Ruth. She was a year older and was already in Primary 1. I’d hop in the car with her and her nice uncle (who had a '70s 8-track cartridge player in his car), who’d drop her off at MGS (then at Mt Sophia) and give me 10 cents to leap out and buy a take-away bag of “birds’ nest drink” from the auntie who had a stall just outside the school. It really was just cold sugar water with bits of jelly floating inside, but yum! Then I’d leap back into the car, waving goodbye to Ruth and then Uncle would drop me off back home.

  • The BEST, and I mean BEST, mee pok you’ll find in any school tuckshop. Our daily ritual was to get it dry with chilli and extra fishcake & fishball, eat the noodles, leaving the liao behind. We’d then carry our bowls of wonderfully soy/oil/chilli-coated fish cake/balls back to the Ah Chek. He knew the drill. He’d ladle out hot soup into our bowls, to which we’d add more soy sauce, lard and giant dollops of his super hiam chilli. Mouthwateringly, tear-inducingly shiok acid soup! SCGS Alumni, you know what I’m talking about.

  • Contraband french fries. The tuckshop Makcik wasn’t allowed to sell us unhealthy food, but we created such demand, that she’d sell her greasy, soggy, salty “fries” in little packets from under the counter, with a shifty eye on the lookout for marauding teachers. 9 years old and we were already experts in espionage!

  • We loved food so much, the year we discovered boys (1986), we developed code names for boys according to their attractiveness: Tunafish sandwich = Not great, but will do. Taco = Quite tasty, Hot! And so on the list went.

    (see topmost photo) dinnertime @ grandpa's - he custom-made the little wheely table so we'd have our own eating surface.
  • Buddy Buddy in Serangoon gardens was a wannabe fast food joint that had Fred & Barney from The Flintstones as its copy-right defying mascots. Fried chicken and hamburgers from there were our Saturday staple dinner, when we went to stay over with Kong Kong P. He used to pronounce hamburger as “ham-ber-Jers, bless his cotton socks! He’d also mix us Campbell’s cream of mushroom and chicken soup to eat in front of the telly, when stuff like Magnum PI and Simon & Simon were on.

  • Next morning, we’d be treated to chicken curry puffs (the deep fried kind with a hard boiled egg and chicken chunks inside) after Sunday School from Sputnik Eating House in Serangoon Gardens. Better than Old Chang Kee, any day!

  • Kong Kong & Mama’s soft boiled eggs (everyone who grew up here seems to have a soft-boiled egg story!). 
Served up in their little shot glasses with soy and lots of white pepper.

  • Watching Kong Kong make thick, strong black coffee the traditional way. i.e. using that thing that looks like a sock. Mama and Kong Kong would keep their sweet black coffee in a thermos with a cork stopper, which we all could pour and drink anytime we liked.

  • Walking with Kong kong to the coffee shop to buy lunch, then improving on the hawker food by tweaking mee pok with extra vinegar and sesame oil, mixing chicken rice with a careful concoction of dark soy, till the rice turned uniformly black (see also BIG BROTHER, BAD HABITS).
  • Condensed milk sandwiches. Another bad influence from my brother. We’d steal the gooey milk from a jar in the fridge, smother slices of bread in the stuff and cram it all into our greedy mouths before mom could yell at us (see also BIG BROTHER, BAD HABITS).


  • Look at 'em at their wedding dinner in 1971 - they love a party and a glass of red (or 15)!

  • Mom and Dad make a lethal combination. Dad loves to eat, mom loves to cook - funny, since she didn't even know how to make a cup of milo when they were first married. My parents learned from each other and still throw the same crazy parties where the old folks get pissed and someone always drags out the guitar for a loud oldies singalong. Get a load of their funky festive headgear. I spent a lot of of childhood feeling very embarrassed. Haha.

  • Growing up, family time meant food, food & more food. The house was always full of friends and relatives sharing the good times, taste-testing new dishes, experimenting with new recipes.

  • Thursday night family dinners were also pretty elaborate affairs. When Dad and bro were not arguing and I wasn’t sitting there wishing I was somewhere else, the meals cooked by mom were phenomenal. Usually flirtations with “Western-style” cooking. Full roasts – especially chicken, beef and pork with crackling. Or, we’d go with dad to the Daimaru supermarket to get fresh take-away sashimi for dinner. Mom and Dad would encourage us to try everything, including urchin and sake. Which leads me to…

  • Wine (& other alcoholic bevs). Dad’s life-long passion and the elixir I’m named after. My first taste at age five set me off in fits of giggles before I passed out. Actually, not much has changed!
  • Fine-dining. From Steak Tartar to Fois Gras, Mom & Dad treated us to a childhood of culinary adventures. I remember loving the whole ritual of going out to dinner, dressing up and feeling terribly grown up. Of course, having to endure 5 hour-long dinners, never-ending sets of cutlery and unpronounceable menus by candlelight, was the catch. Anyone else remember L’Escargot at the now defunct Imperial Hotel, Restaurant de France at Le Meridien, Latour at the Shang, Harbour Grill at The Hilton, Baron’s Table at Holiday Inn?

  • Chicken rice, eaten Kor Kor style, which he learned from Kong Kong KC. Mix rice with soy till black, peel skin off chicken and hang them off the side of plate. Eat everything, saving skin for last. When plate is clean, slurp up skins one by one with great relish, heart attacks be damned!

  • Hawker Centre Ritual. After eating, we’d pour leftovers (food, drinks & all) into a communal bowl and smoosh everything together, giving the mess different names, trying to out-gross each other.

  • This one’s warm & fuzzy : Milk from school. My bro used to bring his little packs home to freeze. Later, Mom would snip the frozen packet open and he’d share some with me. It was our own version of ‘ice-cream’!

  • I Tag...
    My busy busy friends who probably won't even have the time deal with a meme:
    Peekabooboo Duckling Adventures
    Tim O
    Toothless Monster
    Yummy Mumster
    And anyone else who wants to do this (just let me know, so I can read your version!)

    One of my fave cook books based on childhood memories and family history is beautiful, engaging and quite simply delicious – Falling Cloudberries by Tessa Kiros.

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    2 humps in my highway:

    At 1:31 am, Blogger Skrat said...

    you meme has managed to warm my heart and made me laughed out loud as well! I too love those curry puffs with the hard boiled egg wedge within the filling....no curry puff is perfect until its got the hard boiled egg! OH, yes and of cos i know Latour at the Shangri-La hotel, i got massively drunk (more than one occasion) and embraced the beauty of nicotine while on my training there!! Im surprised you guys eat chicken rice like the Hainanese do, loaded up with lots of dark soy sauce! The ONLY way to savour a deliciously greasy plate chicken!! rice

    At 11:23 pm, Blogger JellyGirl said...

    oh my goodness I only just saw this meme tag! I will get to it soon, I lurve talking about FOOD!


    humps in my highway

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