Latest TODAY column: Practise safe and responsible dining
Singaporeans must be careful not to ape the West. We need to choose the dining that is suitable for our climate. Just because Westerners like to dine al fresco does not mean it is appropriate for us too.
Singapore climate is very hot, you know. Just because it is al fresco does not mean the food will taste any better. There is no correlation between sitting outside and good quality food.
Practice Safe and Responsible Dining
I told my wife earlier this week that for the Thursday Hari Raya Puasa holiday, I would like to sleep in a little, given that we did an early morning Zoo thing on Tuesday’s Deepavali holiday.
By the way, Happy DeepaRaya to all readers. May you have a great holiday week celebrating your festivals, and may shopping malls one day decide to even put up decorations for your festivals, instead of a very early Christmas tree. Yes, West Mall, I mean you.
So in bed I blissfully lay, thinking to myself how wonderful it is to be able to sleep in late. Unbeknownst to me, my wife was already up and standing by with my 2-year-old boy, waiting to unleash the Hound of Morning Light upon me. She took one look at her watch, decided that it was late enough, and let go of Isaac, who promptly leapt into my bed, and jumped onto my fragile body like he was Zorro and I was his horse, Zero.
Several “Papa”s and some trampoline action (my body being the trampoline) later, and also a request for me to sing the song “Hot Potato”, expressed by pushing my hands together, I got the hint, and woke up.
My wife can be a very cruel woman. Ok, I get it, you and the kid inside you are hungry, and you guys want to have breakfast.
I was thinking of driving the family to town via Nicoll Highway, then started to wonder if the Stadium area is going to be blocked for the People's Action Party (PAP) 2005 Awards ceremony.
Oh wait, that’s on Saturday and Sunday. And today is Thursday, even though it feels like a weekend because of the holiday.
Wow, a PAP Awards ceremony. I wonder if legendary Taiwanese crooner Zhang Di will be performing there too. I heard he sang well at the Potong Pasir National Day dinner and also sang many praises of PAP candidate Mr Sitoh.
I thought of taking them to eat at Newton Hawker Centre, but then I remembered that it is now under renovation and is currently housed in a temporary location, looking just like any other hawker centre, instead of embodying the iconic Newton al fresco dining experience.
Al fresco, for those of you who don’t read French, means “no aircon” and “rain already will kena wet”, in Singaporean.
For some reason, Westerners like to dine Al Fresco very much. I understand that the outside tables can cost more than the tables indoors in some Western countries. In Singapore, the only reason you would sit outside is if you wanted to smoke.
Everybody else here would seek shelter from the balmy sun and the potential rain. Even more so if the indoor tables are in an air-conditioned environment. We Singaporeans love our aircon. In fact, we should invent a term for dining indoors with aircon, let’s call it dining Air Condo.
Besides, we as Singaporeans must be careful not to ape the West and its Western liberal ideas. We need to choose the dining that is suitable for our climate. Just because Westerners like to dine Al Fresco does not mean it is appropriate for us to. Singapore climate is very hot, you know. Just because it is Al Fresco does not mean the food will taste any better. There is no correlation between sitting outside and good quality food.
Sitting outside to eat opens you to the unpredictable elements, like the rain, the sun and bird droppings. Inside is safer and cozier. Sure, when you are sitting outside, you can smoke and you can look out for the parking auntie easier, but smoking is bad for your health anyway and not putting a valid parking coupon is cheating.
See? Sitting outside can lead to this kind of unhealthy and criminal behaviour, so it is best to Air Condo than Al Fresco, I feel.
Of course, you are free to choose what you want to eat and where you eat. Just remember to practice responsible dining freedom. Choose the right food when you dine and heed the stickers that compel you to “Ask for More Vegetables”, “Ask for Less Oil”, and “Ask for Less Taste”. Ok, the last one I have not seen… yet.
Dine with our national interests in mind, and don’t just Al Fresco recklessly.
It does not matter if reporters from other countries rank us 140th position out of 167 countries in a World Al Fresco Dining Index (I am not saying there is one, just hypothetically lah). They said we do not dine freely or openly enough.
Should we then be worried that tourists will be put off? Of course not, because our food still tastes good.
In the end, my family, three generations of us, made our way to Haig Road, where we ate at the famous coffee shop there. We chose a table indoors (of course), and carefully chose a table that was clean and not in the direction of the giant fan because my dad hates the wind blowing his hair messy.
The tables outside were quite tempting, but they were located on the road. There, giant trees grew to provide shade, but the trees’ roots had grown too large and pushed above ground, cracking the tarmac and creating uneven bumps on the ground, making some of the tables wobbly.
It would have been nice to sit outside under the shade of the big trees, enjoying the year-end breeze. But the sight of the ugly giant roots sticking out from the ground put us off, and we did not like wobbly tables or the possibility of being pelted with bird droppings.
So we sat inside the coffee shop to eat our breakfast. It was a little stuffier, but it felt safer inside. Isaac, my little boy looked outside with longing. Maybe one day, he will prefer to eat outside.
mr brown is the accidental author of a popular website that has been documenting the dysfunctional side of Singapore life since 1997. He thinks you should try the boneless Hainanese Chicken Rice at this Haig Road coffee shop, it is quite good and has hardly any bones, so it is nice and safe.