Singapore is a country of diversity, especially when it comes to food. We accept all kinds of food. Chinese, Malay, Indian, Japanese, Korean, Italian, Spanish, etc, and the list keeps going on and on. We accept so many new forms of food as they come in, allowing for them to even fuse with what exists locally to form an amazing, mind blowing hybrid that we wish we created sooner. This is something we pride ourselves with. We claim to be the food capital of Asia, maybe even the world. There is no cuisine that you cannot find here.
But this incredible array of option allows for people to have preferences. Some of us prefer Japanese over American food. We have our own reasons for not preferring the flavours and aspects of American food. Could be too oily for us, too many strong flavours, too crispy and whatever other reason you may have; simply put, you don’t like American food. It almost as if you have been born to not like it, it just doesn’t float your boat.
However, in a country as dense as Singapore, it isn’t shocking to see an American food outlet right next to a Japanese one. We accept it with no questions asked. They both exist harmoniously next to one another. Attracting the people that desire what they can provide; that specific cuisine. We respect this diversity immensely. We do not see people protesting this diversity, we do not see people setting up entire Facebook groups dedicated to shutting down anyone who supports American food and run any form of business that promotes it. In fact, we celebrate it.
We do not let our cultures or religions influence this respect for our food culture. Many people living in this melting pot of a country have dietary restriction due to the cultures they identify with. Muslims can’t eat pork, some Hindus avoid beef, some Buddhists are vegetarian, and so on. But we do not see Muslims and Hindus coming together trying to shut down the American restaurant because they serve beef and pork. They understand that it is not meant for them and avoid it. Instead, they go to an establishment that caters to their needs and restrictions. We respect that everyone has different preferences and we do not try to shut anyone down for having consumption habits that do not fit our own.
We also trust all restaurants to regulate themselves, to ensure anyone who visits the establishment is kept safe. Food has the potential to kill, as shown by our recent hawker-food-poisoning incident. Regardless of the cuisine served, food is a consumable product; it goes in our bodies and wreak havoc if not handled properly. But we do not see members of “anti-American food” groups stomping in trying to intentionally find flaws within the American restaurant and report it. Instead, we allow them to self-regulate, trusting them to do their best and trusting consumers of their food to report anything that may cause harm to other members.
We sure as hell do not stop any food establishment from advertising their existence. You can see ads for so many Western restaurants and cafes. There are even classes on how to appreciate and consume the food. Review sites that tell you the good and bad; essentially teaching you how to appreciate the food and focus on the positive aspects of it. And if for example a Chinese restaurant messes up and it becomes a national headline, we do not immediately assume all Chinese restaurants are bad. We don’t let that one incident define that section of the food industry; we view it as an outlier. We acknowledge that most other businesses are trying their best to be the best form of themselves they can be. So, the 1% can’t possibly represent the other 99%. If that was the case, then all cuisines would be bad.
And most importantly, we do not outcast or alienate anyone who appreciates cuisine that we can’t. We don’t insult, criticise or label them. We know everyone has different pallets and different preferences. Even though I may not understand why anyone would like eggs, with corn starch and oysters, I do not cut anyone out of my life because they enjoy it. It’s just who they are and I understand that is just a small aspect of their identity. I care and love them for who they are, not the expectations that I have of them.
We, as Singaporeans, practice this every single day. We walk into malls with restaurants of all types, sizes and cuisines. Never once judging or excluding the consumers of their food. Yet for some reason, we can’t translate that same attitude towards love? Give the LGBT community the right to co-exist, without letting our personal cultural backgrounds affect them, to self-police, be made known, accepted and, most of all, celebrated. Do we really want to say we chose food over love?
*This post was submitted to us by a contributer who wishes to remain anonymous.