By Marcus Tang
Present day Singapore has achieved much while we celebrate SG50. A significant moment marks how a small trading port has upgraded to a modern city. No mean feat for an island with no natural resources.
Our cultural diversity plays a part in which many nationalities co-exist in one small tiny island. Food from different cultures also unite us in a way, such that eating is also part of our Singapore culture as we debate which type of food we identify as a Singaporean dish? Most of us are Chinese, some Malays, some Indians, some Euroasians, some Perankan. We do have some values that are quite similar, like taking care of our elderly, family members loving each other, hospitality to our friends and guests. Food, other than for eating, serves different purposes.
Topics about the style, taste and flavor of food allow us to discuss and mention each culture’s unique method of cooking, ingredients used, and preparation methods. I enjoy trying the different varieties of food. Flavors such as spiciness, hotness, sweetness can be found in Singaporean food. We learn each culture’s dishes, share and proudly blog about it. In every country, racial discrimination does occur but the issue is in the measure of degree of the differences.
Food does affect an economy as it depends on each family’s spending when dining out. The problem lies with the location of dining. In a viable economy, more citizens are willing to dish out an expensive choice of food both on normal and special occasions. Whereas in a downturn, hawker food would be seen as a better alternative.
It is a basic necessity to consume food, so lowering the cost, transport and laboring of raw materials naturally falls on the government. To balance a healthy growth, income and food expenses is best to be on par, so that every citizen has a chance to enjoy the fruits of their labour. We cannot bear to see some seniors eke out a tough living just to have a meal on their table or even eating other people’s leftovers. It is a good gesture that the government is giving out food and transport vouchers to offset the higher cost of living.
However, it might not be the best solution as costs will keep rising if not controlled. The middle and high Income earners will continuously have to subsidize them in the form of higher income tax.
Perhaps more markets, hawker centres or food courts should be built at different locations for convenience as well as to lower the rental of each stall. Self-employment is also created with such stalls. Improving the image will aid the mindset of the stall owners. Eventually, long-lost tasty food of each culture might be brought back to life as interest is created and the legacy can be passed down to future generations.
What is lacking in our society is a unique identity, to inform other nations that this item originated from this small, little island and it belongs to us. For example, sushi is linked to Japan, kimchi is linked to Korea, MacDonald is linked to the United States.
In approaching another 50 years, hopefully we could still see our favorite char kway tiao or rojak, which we can still recognize as a Singaporean food.
This essay was submitted for the “My Singapore, My Future” essay contest organised by The Opinion Collaborative Ltd, in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of Singapore’s nationhood.
Comments from the judges –
“Probably the most novel topic addressed, and perhaps the topic closest to our hearts.”
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About The Opinion Collaborative Ltd
The Opinion Collaborative Ltd (TOC Ltd) is a social enterprise registered with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority under the Companies Act. TOC Ltd is interested in the development of the online media sphere in Singapore, with the view of promoting an open and diverse media environment that values the constructive collaboration of ideas and views. It aims to do so by supporting websites that seek to enlighten readers and provide diversity of opinion, so as to ignite passion and responsibility in nation-building.