Socially distant greetings, fellow Snackstronauts. Your favourite gibbering fool is here again for yet another instalment of The Snackdown, Singapore’s premier (and some would say only) outlet for gibbering fools and food that isn’t quite food, but a mere approximation of it.
What I have on my plate (more accurately, the palm of my hand or small dish, because what sort of sociopath eats un-food from a proper crockery) this week is madeleines.
Well, not so much an actual piece of the French sponge pastry, but philosophical ones.
That’s it, the Snacktivist has finally lost what little is left of his marbles, gone fully round the bend he was already halfway round to begin with and other such utterances.
Sorry to disappoint you, but I still am (mostly) in control of my mental faculties, though I do tend to go on an annual leave of my senses.
Today, I want to tell you about French author Marcel Proust’s madeleines. Yes, it’s a little known fact, but the legendary author was a keen and accomplished patissier in his spare time.
Nah, just kidding.
More seriously, the notion of a Proustian Madeleine may be a relatively unknown expression in the English language, but in France, pretty much anyone who’s anyone knows what a Madeleine de Proust is.
What it is, essentially, is anything that reminds you of a happy memory from your childhood. It could be food, smells, places, objects, anything really.
So, on that rather philosophical, whimsical (and remarkably positive, wholesome) note, which is about as clean a break with Snackdown tradition as it gets, I thought I’d do something different even more different with this edition.
In that I will be crowdsourcing what the rest of my esteemed colleagues’ Madeleines de Proust are. More specifically, the snacks that recall happy memories of their mothers, which is fascinating, to say the least.
It’s the Snacktivist’s Voight-Kampff test, of sorts. Designed to provoke an emotional response.
Thankfully, I didn’t end up like Holden above, though that would be impossible, given none of my colleagues are replicants on the lam (that I know of, at any rate), guns are highly illegal here and more’s the pity, I’m not a blade runner.
And also because in these socially distant times, it would physically be impossible for them to take me out, unless they hired a hit squad that also manages to respect social distancing rules. Thank all that’s holy for that, because I’m fairly sure it’s been on their minds for some time now.
Norman Tan, editor-in-chief
From Kueh Lapis and Kueh Talam to the beautifully layered Lapis Sagu, my mother has loved them all. Their sweet-sticky aromas conjure up memories of chaotic pasar malams and me squatting by the toy stand; refusing to leave until my mom either bought me the toy I wanted, or more commonly, dragged me off kicking and screaming. Consolation prize? Coconut-covered Ondeh Ondeh.
10-word review: Clearly, he’s a man of old-school taste and discretion.
Best paired with: A cup of piping-hot, extremely sweet coffee.
Wayne Cheong, features editor
My mom made this peppery sweet beef patty dish that I've always enjoyed. They look like misshapen hockey pucks, but they tasted great. But the one thing that I took away from this is that while my mom doesn't eat beef she still makes it for us because we liked it: she made something that she cannot partake in but looking at our beaming and appreciative faces, I'd reckon, she took her pleasures in some other manner.
10-word review: Aesthetics aside, he clearly has no beef with the taste.
Best paired with: A brioche burger bun, cheese and a slice of bacon.
Eugene Lim, fashion editor
Cadbury chocolate hazelnut balls. My mother used to tell me how she had perfect flawless skin until she was 18. That was the year she started making her own money and spent it all on Cadbury chocolate hazelnut balls, ate too much of it that she started having massive acne breakouts. I remember her telling me this story, as I was gorging myself on an entire box of Cadbury chocolate hazelnut balls. lo and behold, I had my first massive acne breakout the next day. This snack reminds me that history always repeats itself, and I am definitely my mother's son.
10-word review: Putting the ‘yeet’ in yeet hei, chocolate-covered hazelnut style.
Best paired with: More chocolate-covered hazelnuts, because whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.
Asri Jasman, associate fashion editor
For me, it would be Kinder Surprise (when they were actually egg-shaped chocolates that were wrapped around a capsule filled with a toy). It was always a go-to whenever I get forced to go on a supermarket run with my mother. So that was my reward for coming along. And I’d finish the chocolates (I’d usually get three) in a matter of minutes.
10-word review: A kinder surprise would be reintroducing the old-school packaging.
Best paired with: Another toy inside, obviously. Because that’s the only thing better than finding one toy in a Kinder Surprise, like an egg with two yolks.
Celine Yap, watches editor
Cotton candy. It was at a funfair that I saw it for the first time, in the hands of another kid, and immediately I wanted one, but I had no idea how to communicate that to my mom, so I just pointed at it, and my finger went straight into that kid’s cotton candy. Yikes.
10-word review: A sticky-fingered child delivers sticky end to someone else’s snack.
Best paired with: Some water and soap… and some replacement cotton candy for the unfortunate victim.
Derrick Tan, writer
Preserved Mandarin Peel/Dried Guava. It was my first overseas trip via air travel. So these were fed to me when I was experiencing barotrauma for the first time to help me 'pop' my ears. Very tart and sour, but it totally worked.
10-word review: Under pressure, pushing down on him, on his inner ear…
Best paired with: A dictionary, because I had to look up ‘barotrauma’.
Joy Ling, writer
Dahfa dried fish snack. She introduced it to me when I was a kid, and I introduced oven-toasting it to her years later so it's still one of the snacks we'd share now.
10-word review: A toaster oven makes all the magic happen, who knew?
Best paired with: Breath mints. Lots of breath mints.