Memories of Party Spreads In The 1970s

By Sim Ee Waun - Thursday, Apr 04, 2013

Parties these days can be amazing affairs, with slick, professional catering, sumptuous venue options and even stores with all sorts of paraphernalia aimed simply at adding the bells and whistles to any occasion.
The ever changing Singapore lifestyle has become a sophisticated one for many and some things have been lost along the way. Perhaps it’s that touch of innocence, or homey, humble charms which were forgotten along the way as we pursue a glitzier, more glamorous lifestyle that some yearn for.
But we didn’t get here without standing on the humble but firm culinary foundations of our grandmothers and their moms, who in the 50s and 60s, had no recourse but to pluck, pound and cook their way over great vats of local food in order to throw a special ‘do’. While people weren’t as affluent then, there was much pride in home cooking, local cuisine and the joy of opening up one’s own house to guests, if for nothing else, but to have a good time. Showing off culinarily via household specialities passed down from generations was the norm, rather than emulating dishes concocted by renowned professional chefs half a world away.
The food was humble and homey, but no less enjoyable. Those who remember life in the 1970s would recall how every party seemed to require amongst other things, fried chicken wings, fried bee hoon or mee siam. Another steadfast item on party menus was the great vat of chicken curry made using freshly squeezed coconut milk and served with our local version of French loaf sliced at an oblique, as well as homemade spring rolls, mee rebus and lontong. If you could afford to throw a garden party, it was popular thing in the 70’s to procure the services of the satay man who would grill on the spot and ensure a steady supply for guests.
For the kids, there’d often be a platter of ‘Tulip’ brand cocktail sausages and pineapple cubes stuck on toothpicks, and the overly firm, brown rabbit-shaped jelly which was often presented by the hostess towards the end of the meal with some fanfare. If mothers had more time, they may also make coconut agar agar in cleaned out eggshells with a piece of peach stuffed in to simulate an egg, for the amusement of kids. If there was a birthday going on, the place to go for a special cake was Lana Cake House for her still-famous chocolate cake! And how about drinks? Orange cordial and rose syrup was de rigeur, while fizzy drinks like RC Cola and Kickapoo occasionally made their appearance.
Oh, how we are lost on those hungry years.

(from left) Curry Chicken, Fried Chicken Wings and Mee Siam (file photo: Makansutra)