Friday, April 18, 2008

‘Sick’ foods

The other day, I was shopping with my family at NTUC Fairprice when my youngest daughter picked up a can of Jacob’s cream crackers saying that she loved it. “Hey; that’s called Sota-pang”, (or “soda” biscuit in Cantonese) I said. When I was young, we only ate that when we were sick.

“Oh yes. My friend’s mum told me the same thing”, she replied. “I thought it is called wheat crackers?”



Jacob’s cream crackers was a very well known brand in the old days. I bet my older readers can recall the iconic flat rectangular can of this brand. What I would like to know is whether their mothers also made them eat this when they were ill. I also vaguely remember seeing this tin can being used to keep donations during funeral wakes - anyone can confirm that?

Actually, I never quite liked it. I preferred biscuits which had sugary-cream in between the biscuits, such as the lemon puffs; which I still buy from the supermarket. Nowadays, such biscuits come in plastic packaging. When we were young, we would buy them by katis. The shop keeper would transfer them from a big tin can and wrap them in newspaper folded into a conical shaped.

Another ‘sick’ food that I can recall is Glucolin (glucose). This is a very fast to prepare energy drink which my wife and I also used to feed our kids when they were young. In Cantonese we call it Pu-to-tong (葡萄糖)。 I don’t think the packaging of this product has changed over the decades. It still comes in a circular blue tin with the glucolin packed in a translucent waxy paper or plastic bag.

Yet another one is Quaker Oats. Like the Glucolin, I think there is little change in the packaging of this product. The only difference is that nowadays they have a pre-cooked version where you simply add hot water to it. Like the cream crackers, I did not quite like this because it wasn’t sweet. What I would do is add condensed milk to it. Come to think of it, I suspect that for kids of my generation, anything that wasn’t sweet didn’t appeal to us.

The final ‘sick’ food that comes to mind is macaroni which is called Tong-sum-fun in Cantonese. Again I did not like it. But I do recall that in my secondary school days in ACS Barker Road, there was a stall that sold excellent macaroni. I blogged about it before here.

Anyway, as an adult I never liked the above ‘sick’ foods. I wonder if there is some psychological reason behind this; you know; like associating them with the unpleasantness of falling sick.

PS: For an explanation of why this is called ‘cream crackers’, and what the original tin can looked like, read this Singaporean blogger’s post about the Jacob’s cream crackers here.

29 comments:

peter said...

Chun See, you forgot to make babies healthy and strong, you give 1 teaspoon of "Fei Chye Suei" every morning after bath.

Lam Chun See said...

Yes of course I remember the Woodwards Gripe Water. But that is not a 'food' per se so I left it out. In fact I have an interesting story about that but I will leave it to Zen to share the embarrassing details.

peter said...

Actually the KLIM brand of milk had a second life-span. Have you seen the Chinese provision shopman use that as his "cash register? I saw the KLIM can was tied to a string which through two pulleys. each time, the shop-keeper made a deposit/look for change, he pulled the string and the 'cash register" was lowered. I think some mama shop-keepers also followed the Chinese provision shopman in keeping these tins but I think they use the big PLANTA margarine tin.

Those were the days before NCR or Olivetii cash register.

Actually when one is sick and you dont like porride, you cook this fragile-looking glass noodles. Cant remember the Cantonese name. "Kai See Mee"?

Lam Chun See said...

Hey Laokokok. If you are reading this pls note. For some reason, both you blogs have rejected my comments!

household name said...

If not having too bad a cough, we could dip our 'sick' cream crackers in milo. Yum...

Victor said...

When I was sick, my mum would sometimes cook macaroni. But sometimes she would cook another type of pasta that came in the shape of little 5-point stars. Anybody remember eating that? You can't find it anymore now.

Zen said...

Let me talk on the first item Jacob crackers which our mum would feed us when we were sick. We used to dip these crackers into either a cup of milk or milo to soften them before eating. The reason why crackers is considered such a good food for sick people is that it is easy to digest and in a way helps the sufferer to recover faster. I noticed one of our officers used to place some crackers in his brief case and I asked him why he needed to carry such an item. He told me that he was suffering from gastric and taking crackers with water can relieve him of the pain. It makes sense to me, since antacid containing sodium bi-carbonate, is a great reliever of gastric pain, undoubtedly the 'soda' biscuits can also perform this function equally well. Because of its dry nature, crackers in fact can absorb the excess gas in the stomach more effectively.

Brian Mitchell said...

Maybe its not so strange that you Singaporeans should share so many of the 'sick' foods as us Brits - yet again a relic of the old British Empire! My main memory of sick food was in fact a drink - Lucozade which is still around here in the UK and gives energy - I never drank it except when sick!

fr said...

I still eat cream crackers occasionally. I don't think there is any psychological reason why you don't like the 'sick food', probably you just don't like their tastes.

For me, my Mother usually fed me tung sum fun or porridge.

Thimbuktu said...

The Jacobs cream crackers and Quakers oats are 'health food' for the sick...not 'sick food' for the healthy ;)

When visiting friends or relatives who are warded in the hospital, these 2 items are favorite health food gifts.

If you dip the cream cracker in a bowl of hot Milo mixed with condensed milk, babies and old people (both without teeth) will enjoy them.

Zen said...

Brian - My wife once worked in Beechem, a British company which sold many food and beverage products, and one of them was lucozade, an energizing drink, which was very popular in HK but failed to take off in Singapore despite much advertisement. However Ribena was well received. I did asked the company to sponsor a few cartons of Ribena for my association sport event and the response from the members was good.

Tom said...

TOm said...
I can remember my brothers and sisters and I got sick, mother would take us to the Doctor, and he would prescibe Cod -Liver Oil it came in a bottle and we would get a spoon full each , it had a horrible taste, I agree what Zen said about Ribena Its good for you, Lucozade I believe it comes in different flavours, Like a orange taste.

Zen said...

Tom - Surprisingly cod-liver oil (the emulsion type) had a good reputation among my parents who on occasions tried to force us to take a spoonful of it. Naturally the kids, including myself, would give lot of excuses for not taking this aweful-tasting emulsion. One day there was a small commotion in the kampong. We, for the first time, witnessed an English man wearing a tie (accompanied by a translator) going around promoting the sale of cod-liver oil in capsule form. Scotts cod-liver oil brand (a man piggy-backed a man-sized cod fish behind his back) was the pioneer brand followed later on by Seven Seas version. I had an ex-colleage called Robert, who was as thin as a stick, suffered TB and was told by a TTSH doctor to take cod-liver oil on regular basis. Later he was cured. Some years back I heard someone calling me with a thunderous voice across the road, I turned around and saw Robert. He was now bigger than me running quite a successful maid agency. I suppose cod-liver oil had done something good to his health.

yg said...

those days when we were sick, it was either jacobs cream crackers dipped in ovaltine or porridge with preserved radishes that came in a small can.
when my own children were sick, we used to give them porridge with the same preserved radishes.

Aiyah Nonya said...

Once saw a patient on permanent tube feeding. On his bedside table it was cramped with biscuits and fruits.
So visitors should assess the patients situation before bringing those 'sick' food.

Just my thought for the day.
Have a nice weekend.

Zen said...

Peter - You mentioned that you were fed with 'kai see mee' which really puzzles me. What is it? I would like to make a wild guess to satisfy my curiosity. My answer is: 'fun si' a type of transparent rice noodle which
is still quite popular in fishball mee stalls, especially when a person is quite full, but still wants something light e.g. with fishballs soup. The hokkien people call it 'tang hoon' which imaginative chefs think of various ways to turn this humble noodle into something exotic - the fried version, or a vegetarian dish. This noodle acts something like a 'bridesmaid' that it is better cooked with other ingredients to stand out, rather than stand-alone.

edidas said...

I remember having nestum cereal as a kid and also buying biscuits from old provision shops with all kind of variety like rainbow topping biscuit and biscuit with jam filling. Chong Guan is one and still my favourite brandl. Cod liver oil was also something i liked when young. And that catchy "who is taller than who" commercial still rings in my mind.

fighting fit said...

My "sick" food was plain white bread. If luckier, then we had "sota pang". If our mother was sick--in fact so sick she couldn't get out of bed--we had plain white rice with a hard boil egg plus some "si yao" (soy sauce). Cos that was all we knew to cook.
Where was dad, you asked? At work lah--toiling to put food on the table.

Iml said...

My mum still has a plain cracker or two on days she is not feeling good. I like mine with butter and jam dipped in tea!!

Zen said...

My siblings and I used to drink Glucolin when we were sick as told by our family doctor who happened to amply stock this item in his clinic. Glucolin was actually plain powderly form of glucose, packed in a clear plastic paper wrapper, and placed into a sealed can (shown in the picture). Once I visited my sick friend hospitalised at TTSH and didn't know what to buy for him. I ended up getting him a can of Glucolin. I think this was a natural response due to drinking of Glucolin in my early years.

Grace said...

I never thought I'd one day be nostalgic, but yes, as I am aging, I find that I am looking back to the past.
Thanks for the memories. Yes, Woodwards Gripe Water(love the taste), and oats(I still cook that when my kids are unwell!) and I have a tin of Glucolin in my fridge as well for standby.

Victor said...

I remember Glucolin not so much as a "sick" food. I was always instructed by my mum to add a teaspoon of Glucolin to plain water which I fed to my little niece in a baby bottle. Reason? That seemed to be the only way to get babies to drink more water. (Babies are quite smart. If the water is unsweetened, they don't want to drink it.)

etel said...

Interesting.. I never knew that soda(wheat) biscuits are for the sick?! i wonder why??

Zen said...

Since Woodwards Gripe Water is being mentioned I would like to let 'the cat out of the bag'. This incident involved Chun See when he was a kid, but I was not around to witness the humourous on-going. My mum related to us that she found Chun See's face was as red as a cooked lopster and was worried what was going on. The embarrassing verdict: he secretly drank a sizeable portion of the bottled gripe water lying around which I believe contained a trace amount of alcohol. At that moment it was like Chun See a small kid practising 'drunken kungfu' - a movie made famous by Jackie Chan. I think Chun See doesn't mind his readers having a good laugh at his expense. No wonder Chun See doesn't like alcoholic drinks up to this very day.

Lam Chun See said...

One more detail. I actually climbed up a stool to reach the bottle which was on a high shelf! I think very young then; not even 5 or 6.

peter said...

Zen
Kai See Min = Min Sin (Mee Sua in Hokkien?). Kai See was the See Yap clan's name for this kind of noodle. Why call Chicken leg noddle, I dont know why.

Its true about Fei Chye Suei, I too drank more than usual (almost 1/2 bottle) because it was sweet. After that I became drunk....spoke nonsense...Hmm... I was about 4 years old then. My mother took me to a doctor because I was laughing non-stop and could not sleep. That was what my mother told me.

Can u remember the type of milk brands we used to drink? My time was Klim or Cow & Gate. My sister's time in the mid-60s was S-26.

Zen said...

Peter - Oh, I turned into a wrong direction from the 'noodle lane'. Anyway the cantonese has 101 ways of calling noodles. To think deeper into this topic of noodles, I believe the Chinese had long before the Japanese invented instant mee - the reason? I remembered my mum used to buy ready made mee, which was dried under the sun for a period of time in a gel-together lump(one handful), coated with a thin layer of powder, usually from Chinatown. The drying in the sun gave the mee a special crunchy effect(must be topped-up with pork lard), this would made mee lovers felt 'shioked' when chewing it. One had to just dip this mee into hot water and in a moment ready for consumption, and the texture is something like the present mee-pok. My brother David is so expert in cooking this dish - 'dried mee-pok' style that he wouldn't allow others, including his wife, to intervene when preparing his favourite dish believing that too many cooks would spoil the soup.

Momo said...

Loved this post and enjoy your blog. It is so much of shared memories here. I don't quite enjoy plain porridge which to me is sick food.

I eat soda-pia with a nice thick wedge of butter. Very nice.

Making a link to my blog.

Anonymous said...

Hi!
I thought that Jacob's Cracker are consumed by the 'better-off' family.
For others, it was usually those 'loose- form' from big biscuit tin or huge glass jar & packed into transparent plastic bag according to the weight requested.
Depending from which provision shop you get from, it's either Khong Guan or Thye Hong cream-crackers & plain or sugar-coated.

Maybe those that disliked the macaroni meal, were given the plain type. For me I loved it and it's very appetising, especially cooked with Bok Choy, those that have very white stalk & dark green leaves giving a sweet, crunchy taste and boiled together with some small anchovies
& soy sauce.

Maybe you missed out Chinese-barley(the Chinese type have more cooling properties compare to the Western type that are more heaty) water, for cooling and recovering from fever.
What about green-bean soup & at times mixed either with small sago pearl, sweet potatoes & the hand-made small rectangular pieces starch 'QQ'.

(Ah! what a privilege to be taken care of, without feeling disdain for the simple food.)
Ghost