What do you remember about 1998? This is not a trick question.
One of the best years of my life, spent in probably my favourite academic institution of all the ones I've attended from kindergarten to postgrad. I have no idea about its quality now. I think what I enjoyed the most about matric year was finally being able to study in English. Having so much more time to spend with friends; meeting new faces other than the ones I'd seen for the past five/11 years in school. Being the class maths guru, literally, especially if you speak BM. Being told off by my mum for hanging out with the boys too much (even though I hung out with the girls plenty, too). The invention of "hobbying". The frighteningly campy hot-dog-and-burger man at the stalls that eventually got torn down and turned into Asia Cafe.
It wasn't a completely fun year. I remember a lot of travelling between Singapore and KL. I remember being sent off shopping with my grandma as soon as the chemo needle went in my mum's arm. I remember once driving my parents on the North-South Highway in rain so heavy that we felt as though the car wouldn't move forward, and I wondered what my parents were thinking, letting an 18-year-old behind the wheel of that car in that weather. I remember the rest stops and the unheard-of requests for soft drinks, because they made the nausea go away.
And I remember 1998 as the year Klang Valley people discovered potato bread.
It was launched by a certain French hypermarket, and to say the public went crazy is a misrepresentation. They didn't go crazy; they slipped into some strange parallel existence where potato bread was the only thing they wanted, and they would go to any lengths to obtain it. Queues formed at the bakery section, as though the 3x3 blocks of buns were being given out free. Quotas of two loaves per person were imposed because customers had started buying them by the trolley. My family, which was then 75% bread enthusiast, felt quite a sense of achievement whenever one of us had the patience to battle the masses and get our supplies in.
All this I remembered on this past Saturday, a particularly cold and wet one on which I'd spent too much time walking the city streets. What brought on the ten-year-old memory of potato bread? My present, 2008 experience of potato bread. To be precise, as Thomson and Thompson would say, the potato and sour cream loaf I'd spotted in the window of a bakery my cousin introduced to me recently. It called so loudly, I had to take it home. That is the downside to walking around the city well past lunchtime.
I'd expected something like that potato bread the men and women of old fought for: fluffy, yet moist and slightly dense compared with regular bread, with a fragrant sweetness hanging about it. This loaf was nothing of the sort: it was indeed potatoey and sour-creamy, and altogether savoury, complete with bits of chopped herbs embedded in it. And unlike the old-time potato bread, which had potato kneaded into the dough, this had whole chunks of the tuberous stuff that fell out when I tried to slice the loaf. I am not complaining about those chunks; I love the taste of potato in just about any form and for me, stumbling mid-bite upon a smaller piece that escaped the knife gives me a kick similar to finding that your appam had not one but two banana slices in it.
Yes, folks, this is how Ren spends a Sunday night: blogging about potatoes. But how I spent Sunday day is a different story entirely.