It was very interesting to see how many of you love Hello Kitty…and even more interesting to learn that most of you love the little white cat because it brings a nostalgia for good childhood memories.
The only memory I have as a child with Hello Kitty is a little red metal case a church lady gave me on the day my family migrated to Singapore.
I was 4, and it was at the Seoul Gimpo International Airport. My brother (who was 2 at the time) got the green Keroppi case. I had the red one with a big Hello Kitty face. Since my brother was so young at the time, I took over his green Keroppi case, too.
I don’t remember much about that time. All I remember is tears and hugs. And lots of grown-ups fawning over us. I enjoyed the fawning, but not the tears, because grown-ups crying is just annoying.
Plus, I was excited. I knew something big was ahead of me. I’d never heard of Singapore, but my parents told me it was a tiny island far away across the ocean, where the people spoke many different languages and ate a lot of bananas.
“Omma, Abba, hurry, hurry!” I yelled impatiently, marching in between the adults and tugging at my parents’ hands. “We’re gonna miss the plane!” I insisted with all-importance.
Fast forward 10 years: my family and I are in the airport again, this time at Singapore’s Changi Airport, again surrounded by tears and hugs. We were about to board a one-way plane ride to America.
The situation was very much similar to that when I was 4…but this time, my parents were the one to tug at me, and I was the one crying, because I couldn’t bear to leave my friends. And instead of pure excitement, all I felt was pure fear.
I was afraid of entering an entirely new environment, surrounded by the Ang-Mohs (“white devils”) who looked so big and beautiful on TV. I was afraid of all the drastic changes awaiting me, the unfamiliarity and the discomfort of being a “new girl.” And most of all, I was afraid of all the undesirable possibilities that I couldn’t help thinking would happen in big, fantastic world that was U.S. of A.
I imagined being mocked and hated by the “popular kids.” I imagined crime and drugs and rampant sex. I imagined racism and religious intolerance. I worked myself into such a frenzy that I couldn’t sleep the previous night of school, and then for the first few months carried a picture of my Singapore friends with me just so I could prove to people that I did have friends.
(That’s me in the middle looking all pompous, 6th grade in Singapore)
Pathetic, huh? But that was really how I viewed myself back then: a pathetic, flat-chested, bare-faced FOB from Singapore. How different that mindset is from my confident, enthusiastic 4-year-old self!
I think the biggest reason why my childhood days bring such wonderful nostalgia was my childlike innocence. I wasn’t experienced enough to doubt myself yet; I wasn’t street-smart enough to doubt the world; all I had was absolute trust and confidence in my parents to provide and protect me.
Because of that, I had a genuine curiosity for new things. When I met new people, I didn’t instinctively judge them because of their appearance or manners; I didn’t know how to stereotype. Thus all I really did was observe people.
Perhaps that’s why we learn the most when we are kids. We don’t judge; we observe. We don’t expect; we anticipate.
Sigh. When did I lose that? Now, at 23, I instinctively doubt myself before I even try something new, I get uncomfortable with changes and unfamiliarity, and I try to control things instead of letting them guide me. The result is just unnecessary angst, struggles, and disappointments.
>So. My question to you guys is…how do we recover back our childhood innocence? Or is it to be lost forever? Let me sleep on it…and I’ll get back to you on that.
Meanwhile, let me just share with you something I have re-discovered from my childhood days: Sardines.
This is so long ago. I don’t even remember when exactly I had sardines, but as soon as I popped a can open and tasted the sweet, tangy, and fishy tomato sauce, flashes of memories hit me in a rapid series of snapshots: sardine and rice with fried egg in kindergarten; sardine sandwiches at church picnics; sardine pastry puff by the massive public pools.
God, it’s been a long time. And god, it’s so freaking good. Can you blame me for rushing back to the store and stocking up on 5 more cans (especially when it’s so damn cheap)?
The quickest way I’ve had it is to just slap it between two pieces of sliced bread with cheddar cheese, but I decided to start a new sardine memory by creating my own dish with it. And because I’m awesome, I shall share it with you:
1 cup white long-grain rice, soaked overnight
1 clove garlic, minced
1 onion, sliced thinly
1 zucchini, diced or sliced
splash of soy sauce
chicken broth (as needed)
1 can of sardines with chili-tomato sauce
handful pitted green olives, chopped
1 cup cheddar cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 hard-boiled egg, sliced
Cook garlic, onion, and zucchini in a pan or skillet with a splash of soy sauce and some of the sardine tomato sauce, until almost cooked through (soft stage).
On a separate small pot, cook the soaked and drained rice in chicken broth. With a fork, flake up the sardines in the can, and then pour the whole thing into the rice. Add the green olives.
Continue cooking, and adding chicken broth, until the rice soaks up all the liquid and is cooked through.
Get a baking dish, spray with with PAM. Pile the onion/zucchini mixture on the bottom, then layer the rice/sardine mixture on top. Sprinkle generously with both cheeses.
Bake/broil the dish at about 475 degree Fahrenheit for about 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and toasted. Serve with boiled egg on top.
I know sardine is kind of stinky…but this dish smelled wonderful baking in the oven. After all, what smells better than cheese broiling in tomato sauce?
I went with cheddar cheese and Parmesan cheese becaue they have a sharp, bold flavor that will hold well against the strong taste of sardine, but I think feta and mozzarella cheese would work well, too.
I usually don’t like hard-boiled eggs, but in this particular dish, I thought it would work better than a runny egg.
But I didn’t mind the hard yolk, because I made sure to cook it until it wasn’t all the way hard. There was still some moisture and creaminess retained in the yolk, and when smashed and mixed with the rice, it was really, really good.
It was about time I used green olives. I’ve had that jar forever. I don’t usually eat olives, nor did I grow up eating olives (I always picked them out of my Pizza Hut super supremes), so I keep forgetting to use them, but I knew their salty, briny flavor would be perfect in this dish with the oily sardines.
Question: when you eat casseroles, which part do you eat first? For me, it’s the vegetables, then the cheese, then the protein, then the starch. The starch always soaks up the most flavor!
The best part about this dish is that I made enough for leftovers! I love it when I get leftovers. I’ve been a very lazy cook lately. Even cooking vegetables or an omelet is a hassle for me sometimes.
Okay, I don’t know how I got from the topic of Hello Kitty to my childhood to sardines. It’s been a long day. My thoughts are all over the place.
I actually made this dish more than a week ago. I’m eating ice-cream and dumplings for dinner right now. And I’m going to bed soon after I post this, at earlier than 7pm.
The 4-year-old me would be thinking, “Yippee! Ice-cream for dinner, and then lots of sleep!”
The 23-year-old me is thinking, “I need to eat more vegetables. I need to finish some work before I go to sleep. I don’t wanna go to school tomorrow.”
Once again. Same situation. Different mindsets. I’m still going to go to sleep right away. I’ve already eaten my damn ice-cream. The only difference is that naggy “adult” voice grating on my nerves.
I want to be 4-year-old again.
Question of the Day: What do you miss most about your childhood days?