Firsthand is a new content pillar by Mothership, featuring in-depth articles and videos about people in Singapore and their stories.
We'll explore issues that matter by experiencing them for ourselves, gather expert opinions, and hear the perspectives of young Singaporeans, to present the points of view that matter, firsthand.
I was in secondary school when I fell in love.
As with every good romance, I can't pinpoint the exact moment that a passing acquaintance turned into infatuation.
But I remember exactly what drew me in. The perfect balance of cheese and barbecue sauce; the crisp tortilla chips; those indulgent chunks of fried chicken.
And yes, I'm talking about the Cheesy BBQ Meltz.
In my humble opinion, KFC's magnum opus: its greatest triumph, and its greatest tragedy.
A constant amid chaos
These days, the Cheesy Meltz is a seasonal affair. It comes and goes every year or so, never precisely the same as before, like an ex-lover you can't quite let go of.
But once upon a time, the Meltz was a permanent fixture on the menu.
As a secondary school student, I used to eat it multiple times a week. After school, my friends and I would go to the neighbouring Singapore Polytechnic, where we would descend on their liberal selection of fast-food offerings (aka, McDonald's and KFC).
Laugh if you will. But for someone accustomed to the comparatively drab offerings of the school canteen, this was positively ambrosial.
More often than not, we would opt for KFC. And each time — unless there was a seasonal menu item, another one of my weaknesses — I would opt for the Cheesy BBQ Meltz.
Although haters over the ages have lambasted the humble Meltz as an overpriced wannabe quesadilla, I beg to differ.
It's delicious and not too filling, even for the untried teenage-girl stomach.
It's not expensive as an a la carte option.
Finally, it's carbs, protein, and vegetable (or fruit, I guess), all wrapped up in one perfect, wholesome package.
Seriously. What more could you ask for in a fast-food item?
Good things don't last
Alas, good things never last on this blighted planet.
Around a decade ago, KFC decided to take the Cheesy BBQ Meltz off its permanent menu, for reasons I do not and will probably never understand.
Fortunately, I had moved on to junior college by that time — which, among its numerous flaws, lacked proximity to a KFC outlet — and was spared the worst of the devastation.
It took me a while before I even realised it was gone.
The first time KFC brought the Meltz back, I thought that the dry spell was finally over.
Only for them to remove it again.
Eventually, it dawned on me that this was going to be the status quo from now on.
The new normal, in Covid-speak.
This unending game of tug-of-war was to be my new life.
And things would never again be the same.
The lady doth protest
That's not to say I didn't push back.
With no one else to take out my angst on, I turned to the Colonel himself.
The villain in this story which had removed my beloved wannabe quesadilla in the first place.
Whenever I had a craving, I would post Instagram Stories and relentlessly tag KFC, demanding that they bring the Meltz back.
Case in point:
And on a few occasions, like when I missed the 2022 Meltz season while overseas on my honeymoon, I threw a borderline tantrum.
In my defence, being hangry is a real thing.
This was in September 2022, after the Meltz sold out in an obnoxious 16 days after its release:
A month after my Instagram tantrum, in October 2022, the poor beleaguered social media executive manning KFC's Instagram account took it upon themselves to respond.
He/she promised the Meltz would return, quote unquote, "reaaal soon".
Turns out, that meant a year.
Exactly 12 months later, in October 2023, I got another message from KFC:
Of course, I marked it on my calendar — as you do with these important dates — and when Oct. 25 dawned, took it upon myself to order it for lunch.
What a glorious day that was.
Gone, but not forgotten
I'm on my third Meltz this season. While my friends and colleagues have remarked that it doesn't taste quite the same as before, I don't think that's a bad thing at all.
Sure, it's not the exact same Cheesy BBQ Meltz I so adored in my youth.
This year's edition has chunks of Zinger chicken instead of regular. And a few years ago, they swapped out the BBQ sauce with chipotle mayonnaise.
But I think that it's just a sign of growth: like me, the Meltz has been around for a while.
For better or for worse, it's changed.
I get cravings for the Meltz, just like how I'm occasionally hit with pangs of nostalgia for the past.
But just like how my 26-year-old self is physically and emotionally unable to put up with the sh*t that my 16-year-old self did — that secondary school drama, the rollercoaster of highs and lows and emotions and angst and joy and delirium — I'm physically and emotionally unable to eat fast food in the quantities that my 16-year-old self did.
So I guess I've grown to accept the Meltz, in all its capricious, flighty transience.
After all, even if it did come back on the menu in its original form, I would only be able to eat it so often before my stomach goes on strike; all the probiotics and po chai pills in the world can't compete with the insurmountable problem of an ageing stomach.
Still, when it does come back — and I hope that it does come back, once it inevitably leaves again — I don't think I can stop myself from indulging a bit, hang the calories.
I mean, philosophising aside. It's just a damn good snack, okay?
Top image by Ilyda Chua and KFC Singapore