I had been thinking…what was probably my first impression of Japanese food which I’d gotten to known when we were young? Was it sushi? Was it sashimi? Hmm,I don’t think so… Was it Katsudon or Oyakodon? I think I only got to know about these in my late teens. So what was it exactly?
I vividly remember 2 programmes that were shown when I was young, a time when NHK invaded our local TV. It was 阿信 Oshin for the adults, especially mothers and grandmothers who would pause amidst making family dinner and become all thoroughly absorbed into the life of the little Japanese girl in this Japanese drama epic, only to return to the stove and vegetables all teary. For us kids then, it must have been Doraemon, that big-headed blue creature which I only got to know as a cat very much later. Japanese popular culture seem to be particularly fond of cats, albeit somewhat physically challenged, since Doraemon is without ears and just when you thought that was weird, Hello Kitty doesn’t have a mouth. Jokes aside, Doraemon was so immensely popular at that time with every boy and girl was able to hum the theme song despite not knowing a word in Japanese. And of course with Doraemon, dorayaki became also widely known to us as a popular Japanese snack. But it was only until much later that we’d gotten to know what it tasted like!
The first pound cake I’d tasted was a Sara Lee, and I’m pretty sure its the same for many of you. I remember having cravings for it when I was young, often picking up a loaf which was baked in tin foil from the frozen food section of a local supermarket and pestering my mum to put it into her shopping basket. This usually proved futile as the loaf mostly got sneaked back into the chiller compartment, but once in a very blue moon, my mum’s stance would soften and accede to our persistent pleads and protests and concede defeat. Then it is up for us to bicker on which flavour to bring back home. Our default choice is chocolate swirl, as we get the best of both worlds, i.e. rich buttery layers interlaced with ribbons of chocolate. A single loaf would usually last us over a couple of days, and sometimes a week if my sister and I have enough “determination” to prolong the “days of savouring pleasure”.
Over the years, we eat it less and less, probably weaned off the craving or perhaps because the spectrum of choices broaden over time. But Sara Lee pound cakes earned a special place in our hearts, being a “childhood delight” and often the central theme of several acts of child’s play, signing makeshift pacts and treaties to restrain each other from stealing bits of cake from the refrigerator without the knowledge of the other, drafted from torn out pages of school exercise books, to lil’ games like whose cake slices contained the most streaks of chocolate swirls. Totally silly and bewildering now in retrospect but its these little moments of pleasure that help fuel and formulate the most powerful memories which we cherish as time goes by.