By The Way

Porridge, love and how to engage the mind: What politicians are talking about

The Straits Times looks at what politicians, and the politically related, are up to in this weekly series. PHOTOS: FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - The Straits Times looks at what politicians, and the politically related, are up to in this weekly series.

Budget meal full of love

Several of Singapore's finance ministers have raved about a special porridge cooked by Auntie Mei Jok, a staff member at the Ministry of Finance (MOF).

Ahead of his maiden Budget speech on Friday (Feb 18), Finance Minister Lawrence Wong posted a picture of the by-now famous dish that only those working on the Budget get to partake of each year.

Mr Wong, who was a civil servant before joining politics in 2011, said: "I fondly remember eating this porridge as a young officer working on the Budget many years ago. And now our team will have this same porridge before #SGBudget2022!"

Another minister who has tasted the dish is Second Minister for Finance Indranee Rajah. But it seems she prefers her bowl with less dough fritters.

She revealed that Auntie Mei Jok has been cooking the dish for the last 40 years, starting with simple rice porridge and adding a whole variety of ingredients to give it "delicious flavour, texture and healthy goodness".

"Just as these many different ingredients blend to make a nourishing pot of porridge, Budget 2022 is a culmination of many different ideas and feedback, all put together to bring Singapore forward, allowing us to meet needs and achieve our aspirations while keeping Singapore fiscally healthy," she wrote in a Facebook post on Thursday.

While the Budget speech is secret until it is delivered, the MOF is an open book on the legendary porridge's recipe. Besides pickles, spring onions and parsley, it is topped with century egg, ham, fish cake, and a substantial piece of dough fritter.

Love language

How do politicians here express and experience love? Their social media posts on Valentine's Day give us a hint.

Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies Heng Swee Keat and Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Nadia Ahmad Samdin shared pictures of gifts they gave and received.

Mr Heng showed just how sweet he can be, with a heart-shaped cake frosted with pink and red cream roses for his wife.

Known for his diligence, he had gone to a bakery in Bedok the weekend before Valentine's Day to pick up a "special order for the special someone in my life".

Ms Nadia got a bouquet of sunflowers, her favourite, from her husband and in return, declared her appreciation for him in a heartfelt post in which she revealed some of the things they do for each other.

"Love is an ironed dress so you can sleep an extra five minutes. Love is 10 of your partner's alarms in the morning, a scrambled egg sandwich left on the counter for your breakfast even on the days you feel unlovable," she wrote.

Others, like Jalan Besar GRC MP Denise Phua and Radin Mas MP Melvin Yong shared couple photos taken with their spouse.

Ms Phua and her husband gamely posed with palms together, their arms forming a heart.

While the pose prompted teasing by their friends, her declaration of love needed less prompting. She wrote: "I often quip that when it's time to go, I hope I'll die earlier than he does - else I'll miss him too much and life will be too hard."

Meanwhile, Mr Yong and his wife were like two shy students on a first date, arms barely touching.

Perhaps it was nostalgia: The couple met more than 40 years ago as primary school classmates and have been married for 24 years.

Mr Yong was more expressive in his Facebook post, writing: "Hopefully, we can have some couple time together before the day ends."

Then there was Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin, who declared that Valentine's Day "has never been a day I celebrate".

"It's just one of those things that never quite hit it off with me," he said, though the day after is a day he remembers each year.

Feb 15, 1942, was the day Singapore fell to the Japanese during World War II, which makes this year the 80th anniversary of its fall.


Looks like the Wordle bug is catching on in Cabinet.

This column had earlier reported that Mr Tan was a something of a Wordle addict, but it has emerged that Culture Community and Youth Minister Edwin Tong is another dedicated player of the daily word puzzle game.

Despite the heavy Parliament sitting on Tuesday, he managed to sneak in some time to guess the day's word, and did it within four tries.

His record as at that day: 28 correct guesses out of 28 games.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong might also be one of the millions of people around the world who take time out to crack each day's five-letter word.

In a Facebook post, PM Lee encouraged people to give it a go, saying that it is a "simple and fun way to keep the mind engaged".

Some of those commenting on his post recommended Nerdle, a maths version of the game to him, knowing his love for numbers. Others asked if he could come up with an algorithm to solve the daily word, citing the Sudoku puzzle solver he wrote some years back.

Parliament also got into the game, though not literally. It used Wordle's iconic grid format to announce and share the link to the Order Paper for Monday's sitting.

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