Food has always been a huge part of my life but I never really knew why. What I meant was that I have never consciously thought much about it. I just knew that I enjoy food very much and have a strange satisfaction from it. Please don’t get me wrong, it is nothing to do with filling emptiness as the western world would put it. On the contrary, food in Southeast Asia helps in establishing social and kin relations. Something that I have forgotten until a friend reminded me this time coming home that food brings people together.
Yes, food in Southeast Asia are means to bring people together. How so? Southeast Asian enjoys having different dishes during an event or nearly any form of function. The idea of sharing those food somehow breach that differences. It bring ties between generations and within generations, this practice also include the ties between the living and the dead. For example, the Chinese often would pray to their ancestors by offering heaps of food and later cook the food to be eaten within the family and friends.
I often hear my western friends commented about Asian and their food. I think there’s a slight misunderstanding on this concept of food. Food in most Western world is about the means of filling their tummy but in Southeast Asia, food are means of communication. Just like having a firm hand shake, looking into one’s eyes when you talk, the peck you gave on one’s cheek; in Southeast Asia food are used to welcome someone home, to celebrate occasion, to say hello, to start or conclude businesses, etc. There’s also a saying a full tummy means a happy person or never leave your guest go empty tummy.
Food are not just a mere sustenance in my community but as means of interaction in both business and leisure social contexts. For that exact reason, whenever I come home, my friends and I always meet over a meal. Of course, the other reason is because I miss local food and I am spoilt with choices.
In this modern era of technology, I have also noticed a huge increased of food bloggers and often they are Asian. I wondered if there’s a correlation between the two. Perhaps! But I guess to know this, we need to do anthropology research. Psstt…I am not a food blogger but I do like taking photos of what I had tried, eaten and what I missed. It’s a bit like scrapbooking. These photos here were taken during this trip home.
So if you are ever in Southeast Asia – do give our food a try. You are missing a big part of the culture if you don’t. And if Southeast Asian wanted to introduce you to food and more food that you can take. It is not because they are being pushy but it is their way in inviting you into their life and culture. Please don’t be offended and reject their offer. Instead explain that you are really full from what you had earlier on and you would really like to try the new dish but can only try a bit. Sharing has never been a problem so asked if you can share with your host if you don’t mind it. Asking for another plate/bowl is totally acceptable for sharing.
Photos attached are everyday Malaysian/Singaporean dishes.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this post as much as I have writing it. Let me know what you think.