Florentine tarts for my brothers

Don’t ask me how, but my husband was looking for some kids video for our daughter on Youtube a few days ago when they stumbled on Bohemian Rhapsody. And since then, the Queen anthem has been playing in my head on repeat. I first heard it when I was a kid, and I thought it was just the weirdest song ever. It had these grown men singing like fat operatic divas about some juvenile murderer telling his mother to carry on without him. Then, he goes on a full-on tussle with the devil, roping in everyone from Galileo to Mama Mia.

Now, as an adult, I think the song is pure genius. I don’t think there’s a better song that so effectively straddles ballad and hard rock, a cappella and melodrama, heaven and hell, poetry and high camp, and makes you wanna head-bang so bad. It got me thinking about the music that I grew up on. And it was an unusual one — based plainly on the fact that I have three older brothers.

With three boys in the family, I had no chance of growing up on Barbra Streisand. Instead, it was a daily dose of Blondie, Pink Floyd and Supertramp. To this day, Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road still has the power to fill me with inexplicable melancholy because my second brother P played it for 4-year-old me before he boarded a plane for Singapore, leaving me behind in Malaysia (our home then).

Years later, when my brothers went to study in England, my musical palate took a seriously obscure turn. I remember one summer when they returned, their room started blasting the strangest, hippest, happiest sounds I’ve ever heard. The band was Madness, and it was only in recent years that I could identify their music genre as ska. (I was beside myself when I saw its frontman Suggs host a travel show on TLC recently. “You’re still alive!” I thought happily.)

Along with their shaggy hairdos and cool, tattered T-shirts, my brothers unknowingly introduced to me the best of 80s Britpop. When my third brother H announced once that ABC’s The Look Of Love was the most awesome pop song ever, I couldn’t agree more, and sometimes still do. Even one-hit wonders like Kajagoogoo and Nik Heyward felt achingly edgy because their brand of synth-pop was so new and exciting. And thanks to my eldest brother A, I knew every damn song on Spandau Ballet’s True album by heart because he returned to England after forgetting and leaving the cassette tape in the car. Too young to buy my own music, I had only that to listen to for absolute months.

Yesterday, it suddenly occured to me that I’ve never wished my three brothers Happy Father’s Day. To me, they are my brothers first and foremost, not fathers, even though they have been for many years. I would bake them something if we were all in the same country. But since we are not, I can only send them this virtual Florentine tart – an absolutely delicious treat I made using a recipe from Australia’s Junior Masterchef. (http://www.masterchef.com.au/florentine-tartlets-with-frangipane.htm) It is crunchy, soft, flaky and gooey all at the same time. For those of you who saw the episode on TV, the delighted look of the judges’ faces when they bit into the tarts was genuine — because I had it too.

So these tarts are for my three brothers. Because while my school friends had their childhood soundtracked by the benign likes of Abba, mine — thanks to my brothers — was soundtracked by Freddie Mercury, that peacock-strutting, buck-toothed Indian who is the biggest rocker who ever lived. Now who’s got a cooler childhood?