The Spice Of Life

Constance Singam’s memoir ‘Never Leave Home Without Your Chilli Sauce’ gives you a glimpse of her life through food

12/2/2016 2:06:40 PM
written By : Nithya Subramanian Print

So many of us have been influenced by Maya Angelou. Whether it is her poetry or social activism she has been an inspiration to many including Singapore’s leading civil society activist Constance Singam.

Right at the offset, she credits Angelou for giving her insight into her own interest in writing and cooking, who said, “Writing and cookery are just different means of communication.”

For Singam, too, food has always been about association, and even in her previous book, ‘Hallelujah! The Welcome Table,’ she chose recipes that had punctuated some key events in her life like the caramel cake her mother made the day she was expelled from school for not being able to ‘talk’.

Carrying that thread forward, her latest book, ‘Never Leave Home Without Your Chilli Sauce’, is a food memoir that traces Singapore’s journey towards its global character through the lives of one Singaporean family. “The book follows the changes that have occurred in the eating habits of my family through our migration from South India to Singapore and then to Australia where most members of my family live,” she said.

Singam’s love affair with food began with her mother’s Keralan cooking. For Constance and her family, a good meal is evocative. After decades of social activism, travel and kitchen mishaps, food is still able to transport her back to a time of street hawkers, wet markets and when spaghetti was considered strange and foreign.

In this memoir, Constance recounts the evolution of food against a backdrop of Singapore’s social fabric over the last 70 years. 

Launched at the Singapore Writers Festival, the launch event saw the presence of two doyens of Singapore’s culinary world – Violet Oon who runs the National Kitchen and Aziza Ali, the chef credited for opening Singapore’s first Malay restaurant.

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