Why doesn’t 7-Eleven use its old slogan ‘It’s a store and more’ anymore?
It’s so distinguished and humbling in a know-your-roots way. As I pull up in my Blue SG electric car to the neighborhood outlet, I could hardly recognize my old haunt. More space between shelves, semi-warm lighting, more gourmet brands, keto snacks, tempeh chips, the type of salads you have to shake with the dressing and even sake in a glass can? Every day we stray away from financial freedom.
While I do admit that during my last outing to this hallowed ground I was merely a low SES, struggling with my measly S$3,500 salary, Uniqlo sale-items-only wearing man, public transport-taking, gets excited at limited edition McDonald’s meals kinda person. These days, I even have a membership to the gym (Anytime Fitness), own a pair of Lululemon pants, frequent conveyor belt sushi joint Sushiro thrice a month, and take the train only four times a week.
But I am not like 7-Eleven. I have not strayed away from my roots. Every time I see that goofy green-orange-red logo, I feel nostalgic and humbled. And these days with all this retrograde or Gatorade happening with the celestial planets, I’ve been thinking of my past a lot. This is why I’ve decided to arrange an all-out 7-Eleven romantic dinner for me and my keto partner. See, I do have a knack for romance.
Where nostalgia and practicality meet
Some of my friends say, “Hey man, why don’t you just buy from hawker center if you so budget this week.”
To that I say, “Hey boys why don’t you mind your own business, it’s not my fault I spent so much going late-night hotpot twice a week since payday then take Grab home ok.”
Deep in my god-fearing heart I knew 7-Eleven would never disappoint me – and my partner – and upon seeing so many keto and special diet options, I was excited for the romantic night to come.
I caress the glass of the pao and siew mai glass box and remember how those little bites have brought me so much joy and sustenance back when I was a nobody. I let my fingers linger on the blistering hot glass while my eyes start to water as I see the coffee machine. It is no secret that I place 7-Eleven coffee on a pedestal, I don’t need no barista’s strong tattooed arms crafting leaves and flowers on my coffee!
But something is missing. I look at the coffee machine and the hot racks of food and realized: there is no Slurpee machine. My head hurts like it does when I get a brainfreeze from my green apple and cola concoctions.
Even the soundtrack in 7-Eleven is pure nostalgia. “You’re insecure,” the disembodied voice sings. Harry, Zayn, Niall, Liam and Louis gang up to call me out. I clenched my fist and whispered, “One Direction you will not gaslight me, not today.” A man in chef’s whites saunters in a gives me a look.
Maybe it is my fedora, maybe it is because I’m holding eight nuggets on a stick and an overflowing coffee cup while whispering One Direction lyrics. Do not perceive me, chef man. “What is a respected culinary person like him doing in 7-Eleven?” I asked myself. I must be in the right place.
I decided to peruse the ready-to-eat microwaved meals for its stellar chef collabs. After a quick but thrilling spin in 7-Eleven, manage to scramble together a three-course romantic meal, all cold, dry, sealed-tight and pale, just like my soul.
The chef leaves with a canned coffee and box of plasters. Interesting, but somewhat poetic…
“It’s forty dollars?” I thought to myself as the steward grinned and proceeds to give me a 10% off no questions asked. A 10% discount? What? Does she think I’m still a pleb who needs it?
Despite that, I thanked the lady and trudged away with two poly bags to find out that my nugget skewer had perforated through my feeble wispy carrier.
Oh, the experience has begun! I thought to myself excitedly as I skipped out of the store.
A Moveable Feast (literally)
I set up my dinner-for-two on my Castlery coffee table so we could be cozy and watch a Brooklyn 99 marathon together. FYI we are so Jake and Amy IRL. My partner raised their eyebrows. “We’re sitting on the floor? Is it a Japanese meal?” they ask. I did a side smirk hoping to appear mysterious although I sensed a slight worry when they saw that I hadn’t bust out the Mosaique au 24 Hermes tableware. But why would I need to use a S$330 plate when 7-Eleven cuisine comes self-contained?
Starters and Snacks
I know how my partner is particular about tableware so I have a trick up my sleeve for the charcuterie course.
As they are on a keto diet, it means that there are (quite) a lot of food that they can’t eat. A keto diet involves consuming a very low amount of carbohydrates and replacing them with fat to help your body burn fat for energy.
All I know is they eat a lot of chicken – fried, deep-fried, sous vide – so I decided to make a chicken platter on the most beautiful plate we own. I really know how to put the ‘cute’ in charcuterie.
It wasn’t hard to find keto-friendly things in 7-Eleven. I found a very delicious ketogenic snack (it’s on the label so I can show it to my partner that it’s 100% legit) that pretty much was fried chicken skin and there was also a very pale, very pasty-looking chicken breast meant to be served ‘chilled’.
I know, I know, boneless chicken breast sounds hardly appetizing and uncool compared to thighs and wings but this lil’ white meat patty tastes better than it looks. Marinated with dubious “herbs and spices” presumably the very same ones that got us colonized, the meat is brined perfectly and sous vide before becoming vacuum packed and distributed to every 7-Eleven.
I said we wouldn’t be fancy, but I couldn’t resist gold cutlery to match the gold trim on my Harry and Meghan commemorative plate. My partner seems happy – I have heard no word or sound escape their mouth during this course. There has been no eye contact as well. I hope they get the symbolism behind the chicken breast with chicken skin together, a metaphor that I will always be there to keep them warm and feeling protected.
A non-keto man like me needs some heavier stuff so I packed on some sausages, nuggets and the famous 7-Eleven onigiri.
There was a sad selection of the triangle rice balls lined up and I eventually settled for the Grilled Salmon as I was craving for some umami. But I was unaware of the frustration that was to come.
I can never seem to get the instructions right and struggle a bit with the assemblage. It had three tabs that I had to peel off in sequence but it never folds perfectly. It felt like i was fumbling with a rubix cube that had layers of an onion.
Then after an intensive battle of nori, you’d think the work paid off but the bite was desert dry. All my saliva got sucked up, there was not even a hint of sauce.
Was this Onigiri symbolic of our relationship? Are we broken at its core? I spat it out and chucked it away in secret, refusing to face the disappointment.
The Main Course
After a tremendous start to this romantic dinner, I timed it so meticulously that by the time we reach the mains, Brooklyn 99 was at its wedding episode. Oh, the look on my partner’s face when I brought out the mains – it was so full of love and gratitude.
For mains, I got the Tandoori Chicken with Tomato Basmati Rice, supposedly considered a “quality meal” by celebrity chef Arifin who owns Indian-Italian restaurant Bacos in Tekka Place.
Although there was also the much-talked-about 7-Select Butter Chicken Biryani (they only had one left), there was just something about that separate packet of mint chutney that caught my eye. At this point, the universe willed me to make the choices.
I was right. The tandoori meal was exquisite. The fragrant smell of the microwaved spices wafted across the room as I bit into the soft and moist chicken pieces. The chutney added the appropriate mouth-feel textures that meld perfectly with the basmati rice that was fortified in tomato and other spices.
My only gripe was that the rice could use a little more kick as the tomato and spices weren’t spread evenly across.
For my keto darling, I went to the corners of Italy to get her a Frittata Breakfast, a collaboration with Andes (the halal counterpart of Aston’s). Alas, here is where I made a boo-boo – potatoes and beans are not keto.
The frittata itself was nothing like the ones I have sampled in Naples on my Italian summer holiday. A good frittata consists of fresh, creamy, fluffy eggs, savory asparagus, parsley and of course pecorino Romano. This one had none of the above. Mi scusi, my love.
Drinks and ‘zerts (dessert)
Mistakes aside, I made some good choices when it came to the drinks. I was proud I managed to walk away from the reliable strong zero beverages and the BTS-themed coffee. BTS is a group whose work ethics I admire a lot.
Initially, I wanted to surprise my partner with a slushie for shits and giggles but failed to locate a Slurpee dispenser in the 7-Eleven (basically it did not exist). In the end, I settled for some coffee and cup sake which kept all of us happy.
If you are familiar with 7-Eleven stores in Japan, then you would know how amazing its ready-to-eat selection is, especially the dessert. Lucky for us, some of these products are also available in Singapore.
Reminiscing my own recent trip to Japan during Sakura season (where I met a lot of Singaporeans, in fact ⅔ of Shinjuku Gyoen were Singaporeans looking at Sakura blooms), I picked a Matcha cream puff to end the meal.
First impressions were a bit sketchy because the puff appeared moldy but after the first bite, we realized it was because there was so much filling that it was starting to seep through the pastry.
The peach-sized cream puff is super stuffed with a matcha cream that is bitter with a slight floral lilt which also tastes like downing a creamy cup of tea at the end of the meal.
Again, with my impeccable taste I pulled off a great meal and I’m sure my partner appreciates it too. I haven’t seen them since they excused themselves to the bathroom where I heard some talking and sobs. I’d be moved and in disbelief too if I knew I didn’t have to be chasing Michelin-star restaurants and food reviews on those food blogs for my next perfect date. (‘:
Le Cheap Gourmand is an original Coconuts Singapore series offering grandiose high-end reviews of food you can afford. Got an idea about something we should pursue? Tweet us!
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