Sometimes a simple dish or a drink can spark beautiful and wonderful memories. And this A & W root beer with ice cream sure brought back fond wonderful childhood memories.

Have you ever tried a root-beer float or “sarsi-float” before? It is made up of root bear and topped with vanilla ice cream. In Penang, we call it “sarsi”, or “sarsaparilla’ in Australia.

We used to have an A&W in Penang, Malaysia when I was growing up, but I have not had this drink for many years as we do not have A&W in Australia. However, when I was visiting my uncles and families in Vancouver recently, we stopped by for their burgers and, of course, the root beer float.

So what’s the big deal with this drink?

To many, it is an amazing drink for the summer, especially when you top it off with vanilla ice cream. I personally love sarsi. While enjoying the drink with my uncles and cousins, I shared with them that the last time I had this drink was with my grandmother, and that would have been more than 30 years ago.

My grandmother loved anything sweet and A & W root beer was one of her many loves; however, due to her diabetes, she was limited to only a few sugary treats.

One afternoon, she told me to take her to an A & W outlet as she felt like having a root beer. So I did! We sneaked out the back door and took a bus downtown to one of the few outlets in Penang road, at komtar. I remembered holding on to her hands as we “ran” across the bus terminal wearing her nonya “sarong” and beaded shoes.

When we entered the A & W outlet, we ordered a glass of root beer float with two straws; we both shared a glass. I could still picture her happy face, laughing and sniggering at the same time, filled with satisfaction from defying the “household” (like sneaking out of the house without telling anyone, and consuming something that was forbidden).

Once we were done, we walked slowly back to the bus stop and took the bus home with enjoyment written on our faces. But we knew what to expect when we got home. The look on everyone faces was enough to tell us that they were not impressed.

You see, they were looking for both of us and we did not have mobile phones at that time. They had to rely on physical searching and ringing (landline) friends and relatives to find out whether we had been to their homes.  Apart from that, all they could do was to sit patiently at home to wait for our return.

Both of us received a stern lecture about not telling anyone of our whereabouts, but deep down, we were happy and satisfied that we managed to sneak out and enjoy ourselves. We were happy even though we knew the consequences of facing everyone at home, and my grandmother had to double her medication for that day. Yet it was hard to wipe the pure satisfaction off her face.

When I finished the story, I had finished the whole glass of the root bear… but with my beloved grandmother’s memory intact. Even though I had no photo of that day to share, the memory was as clear as it was just like yesterday, as if she was there, sharing a glass of root bear and enjoying the company of her sons and grandchildren.

Enjoy your loved ones and make time to continually create beautiful and meaningful memories with them.