20.7.06

Flogging (or not)

While this blog has not metamorphosed entirely into a food blog, I've noticed that people are starting to come up to me and say, "So what's a good place for _____ food/for _____ occasion?"

I don't even know why I blog about food so much these days. Am I just giving in to my inner Singaporean? Is it because Singapore culture has, over the years, become somewhat inimical to the discussion of anything real or thoughtful, so the only thing we can talk about is food? Or is it that now I have the income and autonomy and free time to hunt down more interesting places to eat (and then blog about it)?

It's true that there are more Nice Places to eat in Singapore. The funny thing is that the more you go to these Nice Places, the more they all start to look and feel like each other --- even while some nevertheless serve Extremely Nice Food.

And then I came across this Anthony Bourdain quote in The Tyee's report on the launch of Bourdain's new book:
Food is the new porn. People go to restaurants the way they used to go to movies. And they go to one restaurant and talk about the last one they were at. Restaurants are also about a nesting instinct. People associate food with home and want that feeling. Then there's the fact that watching people cook on TV is satisfying. And through all of that, people are getting more sophisticated about food.
Let's see how my experience checks out against that quote:

Food is the new porn.
Uhhh ... I guess for some people ...

People go to restaurants the way they used to go to movies. And they go to one restaurant and talk about the last one they were at.
I definitely go to fewer movies than restaurants and I'd have to say, choosing between having a Nice Meal in a Nice Place with friends and/or family, versus going to a Nice Cinema to watch a Nice Movie with them, I'd probably choose the meal.

And yes, the more restaurants one goes to, the more likely it is that one will be forking into one's pretty appetizer while saying, "Oh, but have you tried the absolutely delectable _____ over at ____?" Though I generally try not to do this because it's potentially bad form plus I'd rather enjoy the meal that I'm having rather than to reminisce (or complain) about meals long digested and expurgated from my alimentary system.

There is a really good reason to talk restaurants in Singapore, though: The turnover rate in the food & beverage business is, as I imagine it is in any other major city, extremely high, so it's helpful to trade tips about which places aren't open anymore or maybe have lost their sparkle, or which new restaurant really is worth trying out. This also applies to hawker food stalls, which may fall victim to not only the whims of its clientele (or lack thereof) but also arbitrary decisions from on high to move out because the space (rather than the food) has outlived its usefulness.

Restaurants are also about a nesting instinct. People associate food with home and want that feeling.
Certainly. As a bad cook whose mother is a good one, I'd be the first to admit that sometimes at the economy rice stall, all I'm trying to do is assemble a meal that reminds me, however faintly, of Mom's cooking.

The kind of TLC that goes into the preparation of Nice Meals in Nice Places, however, is a completely different flavour's than Mom's. It's more clinical, somehow, and certainly more deliberate.


Crab starter at Majestic Restaurant
Taken and uploaded by Ms. Marly

I ain't complaining about it. It's just not quite what I'd associate with "the nesting instinct" or the feeling of being at home.

Then there's the fact that watching people cook on TV is satisfying.
Well, up to the point when I feel really inept. For instance, I enjoyed Jamie Oliver more when he was trying to reform school lunches in the UK than when he's pottering around his kitchen at home.

And through all of that, people are getting more sophisticated about food.
Perhaps. I know that it makes me more fussy about food. I know that I refuse to eat conveyor belt sushi anymore (unless it's 100 yen a plate, like the neat place where Terz and I had a late-night meal in Kyoto) and I'm extremely particular about which Japanese restaurant I eat in Singapore. Ditto Middle Eastern food (just 'cause good Middle Eastern is so hard to find here). And Italian. And good salads. And ... er, it's a wonder I find anything worth paying more than $5 for anymore.

Anyway, all this is by way of working off my angst from thinking that I might have to attend a restaurant opening tonight all by myself. Restaurant openings can be fun --- hello, free food and wine --- but nosso much when one is flying solo. Fortunately, I remembered at the last minute that a colleague is friends with the restaurant owner, so I cajoled her into going with me, which meant that I got introduced to the owner, soaked up some mellifluous Italian being spoken all around me in between introductions (the colleague is Italian) and enjoyed some all too delectable food and wine.

So now the angst is well gone, and I am way looking forward to trying the restaurant's menu proper (tonight was an official launch, which means they served largely canapes and finger foods) --- not to mention that I had the opportunity to properly chat with the Italian colleague for the first time in the four months I've been on this job and she gave me the dirt on all the real Italian places to eat in town.

This blog is not becoming a food blog. Really.

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