A Collection of
Childhood Snack Memoirs by MessyMsxi
MALT CANDY by Oscar Ng
I used to look forward to the street operas in the early 80s, where street hawkers would come around for the crowd. With just 20 cents, I could buy my favourite â€œmai ya tengâ€? (malt candy) that resembles the taste of honey. It is sweet, sticky and resembles the taste of honey. The malt is usually rolled onto a pair of wooden skewers, allowing us to stretch it until it turned pale. To us kids, the voluminous swirl of the malt candy makes us think that there is alot of it! The malt candy was shared among siblings so that we can each have a stick without fighting. It is the cheapest compared to other elaborate designs. The shifu could actually draw on a marble slab with melted malt, presenting the candy in graphics of dragons and other popular toons. These ranged from 50 cents to a dollar each. Us kids would be careful not to our dresses with stain the malt candy. Otherwise, we would receive scoldings from parents, and have that candy banned. There were innovative changes to this malt candy in the late 80 s and early 90 s where smaller portion of malt is wrapped in a plastic pouch with a stick. It became more popular as you might find a coin reward concealed in the selected malt candy. Yes, real coins from 5 cents to 50 cents! I doubt parents would allow their kids to try ever it in this era, haha!
ICE BAG by Pauline Tan
In my childhood days, I lived in a village. I walked to and from school. Some days, on my way home, I would buy an “ice bag”, without my mother’s knowledge, as I had asthma then and the cold “ice bag” might trigger an attack. The “ice bag” was about the size of my palm. Each bag was filled with yummy colourful frozen liquid, and tied at the top with a rubber band. It came in different colours and flavours: pineapple flavor with bits of pineapple (yellow), lime flavor with a white sour plum (green), sour plum flavor with a red sour plum (light orange) among others. They were all homemade by the vendor. Each “ice bag” was sold for 5 or 10 cents each. My favourite “ice bag” flavor was sour plum. I would purchase an “ice bag” with my classmate who was also my neighbour. Sometimes, the delicious “ice bags” would be sold out by the time we reached as they were all purchased by our other schoolmates. After purchasing an “ice bag”, we would bite a corner of the plastic bag, and suck the sweet content within. The heat from our hands would melt the ice, and as we walked home under the sun, we continued sucking on the sweet and refreshing snack, cooling ourselves while enjoying it. Occasionally, if we were lucky, we would get two sour plums within one bag and that would make our day!
SUPER LEMON SWEET by Andrew Tan
One of my favourite childhood snacks was the Super Lemon Sweet. The sweet comes in a small yellow wrapper. It is a round sweet coated with super sour powder. Once I popped it into my mouth, the super sourness would hit me, and I could not help but wince. It is so sour that I usually have to take it out of my mouth for a while before popping it back in again. Once the powder layer is gone, the sweet becomes nice and sweet. It is this contrast of sour and sweet that made this sweet appealing to me and my friends. Sometimes, my friends and I would eat it together and play a game with it. We would pop it into our mouths at the same time, and see who could keep it in their mouths for the longest and without blinking. It was fun to eat the sweet; and brought back sweet memories of my childhood to me.
CIGARETTE GUM by Yvonne Tham
It is interesting that my most memorable childhood snacks were inspirational for me. Whistling was an art adults around me did with ease. I however, needed the help of the “whistle-candy”. A hard candy shaped and hollow like a life-buoy, its flavours, despite all its pastel pretences, were sickening sweet. But it allowed me to produce a perfect, clear whistle. And that was enough for me. Like the “whistle-candy”, the “tattoo gum” was available everywhere for a mere 10 cents. It beat all its fancier American competitors not only by staying chewy longer, but also by its promise of defiance. When we applied the underside of the gum’s wrapper on our slightly damp arm (or forehead, depending on how defiant you really were), we got an instant tattoo in fuchsia, blue and red. After tattoos, smoking was the last frontier. They mimicked cigarettes in form and packaging. A white, menthol-flavoured gum took the place of tobacco. The “cigarette-gum” gave me and my cousins the greatest thrill to be holding this forbidden commodity between our fingers or lips. Yet even though the anti-smoking campaign was nowhere near today’s fervour, I soon learned that cigarettes could kill when I accidentally swallowed a piece of “cigarette-gum” one day. These snacks allowed the child to play out a fantasy — to be a hooligan; whistling, getting tattoos, and smoking, one of which demonstrated the fear of death to me.
PEANUT BUTTER by Ellice Tan
Once my parents were making a snack, which just consisted of plain bread with margarine and Skippy peanut butter. I would usually be given only one slice of bread folded into half and they would have two slices. I was probably around three or four then but I always wanted to do what the adults did, ate what the adults ate.
I didn’t know what “slice” meant so I told my dad- with hand actions in tow- that “I did’t want my bread like that (hand rolled up in a fist) but I want my bread like like that (clapping my hands together)”. He was amused by my description and laughed. I had to endure a few re-enactments to other family members after that but I got my bread the way I wanted.
BISCUITS by Jacqueline Ng
The tale of a 26-year-old: “six months as a six-year-old” My family and I migrated to Toronto, Canada when I was young. One summer, my grandparents flew over from Singapore to visit us. I was six. When they left at the end of that summer holiday, I left with them. Somehow over the course of that summer, my parents had decided that a move back to Singapore would be a better option. No one tells you about the emotional baggage that manages to sneak its way across geographical boundaries to the other side just when you thought you were getting rid of any and all that you had accumulated in Singapore. Life on the other side wasn’t always better like people thought. But what did I know? I was six. I can’t remember the farewell at the airport in Toronto. I can’t remember arriving in Changi airport. I can only remember my grandparents’ house and the time we spent together. The afternoons watching WWF with Grandpa and special nights staying up past midnight with Grandma watching funny Chinese movies on TV and eating instant noodles with sort-of poached eggs as a post-midnight snack. I also remember that my grandparents didn’t speak English well and I couldn’t speak a word of Mandarin.
I entered Primary One and the canteen was one of the best places because the canteen = recess = playtime. The canteen was also one of the scariest places for me, because my Mandarin was not up to scratch. The most cruel portion of the canteen experience? The canteen uncles and aunties who were all Chinese-speaking. And it wasn’t their fault as it's just the way things were but I felt trapped and lost. I couldn't approach them to order food or drink because I didn’t know how to. I believe I didn’t have anything to eat during recess for some time due to my pride and fear. I just told everyone I wasn’t hungry. The drink stall was the least intimidating and ordering Coke or Sprite was something I easily picked up. While ordering drinks became easier, buying food was still a huge issue. The most frightening was the Chinese noodle stall. There were so many options but there wasn’t a menu so I felt helpless watching people order their mini bowls of noodles. I gave up hope of ever ordering from the Chinese noodle stall and decided to observe other girls ordering from the neighbouring stalls. After another period of time, I came to understand that the biscuit and snack stall Aunty was a quiet one. And because biscuits didn’t really have special names like noodles, you could just point to whatever you want, Aunty tells you the price, you pay, get your change back from Aunty and sit down at a bench and eat it. It seemed simple enough. So one day, I plucked up courage, went to that stall and pointed to this particular bag of biscuits, and the Aunty said the price in
Mandarin, “san mao”. I panicked. I didn’t what that meant at all. I froze. And then the Aunty said “terty sen terty sen” irritatedly and I finally started breathing again. I paid up and sat at a bench and had my first self-ordered food. I felt so proud of myself. I didn’t know why I picked that particular bag of biscuits but I liked it from the start and felt comfortable with it. So the next day I went back and bought the same pack. And the next day and the next and the next; I repeated the process. Soon enough, the Aunty came to recognise me and always spoke to me in English. In a way, I guess my childhood snack was one of comfort and courage. You may have questions in your head after hearing my story. But what do you know? I was six. I was six and didn’t understand the concept of time. I was six and living in the present with grandparents who loved me more that I can ever know. I was six and I had no doubt that someday in the near future I would see my parents. And what do I know now? I am 26. I thank God for those six months where I grew closer to my grandparents and how that special love and respect still remains till this day. And I know with absolute certainty that meaningful relationships that stand the test of time are the ones that truly matter.
SUPER RING by Kai Lim
My favourite childhood snack, hands down, would be Super Ring from Oriental Food Industries Sdn Bhd. I actually took the effort to track down the maker on the internet for this writeup, so you can bet your sweet and salty tooth that it holds a dear spot in my psyche. Some say it’s akin to a pirated Cheezel. I say it’s more than a Cheezel will ever be, at a fraction of the price. It’s bite-sized, and the nuclear orangey, deliciously savoury yet slightly sweet goodness will stick to your teeth and linger for a long time. And as far as I know, nobody bothers to rinse it out, savouring the afterglow of a well designed snack. A typical memory of the snack is refusing to share it (even till today) and feeling immensely upset when the orangey rings of my favourite magical psychotropic dwindles to nothing.
BUBBLE GUM by Ken Choo
I remember the bubble gum: they came in small blocks of colours, with a transferable tattoo on the inside of the wrapper. The flavour was unforgettable and one of the tastiest you could find as a child. Naturally it was ridiculously sweet, but hey, we were kids. When we were kids, we weren't allowed to eat much candy. So a bunch of us had saved up some pocket money from school and bought some of this bubble gum from the shop downstairs. We were chewing it, blowing bubbles (hey, it was called bubble gum right?) and running around as kids do, when suddenly one kid bumped into another's bubble. The gum burst and it stuck all over the kid’s hair. We all tried to help him get it off his hair, because we knew that if he went home and his mom saw the gum, then we would all have been busted for having candy. No matter how hard we tried we couldn’t get it off, and it was getting even more stuck into his hair. So we did what we could do as kids. We cut off the gummed hair and tried to pretend that there wasn’t a big bald spot on our friend’s head when we went home.
Published on Jun 13, 2014
MessyMsxi brings to life childhood memories of nuclear-orange Super Rings and sour lemon sweets in a series of whimsical illustrations.