Superdelicious Singapore

Having an awesome time eating with Hannah! Bought some Birkenstocks a moment ago, very comfy choice! But now for a little overview…

Flight uneventful, sat next to two nice Welsh film producers returning after a month in Argentina and Australia shooting a film about a Welsh guy who moved to those places then died in the war in France. Food terrible. Flight slightly late, so made it onto train at about 11pm, watched ‘be alert’ video at all the stations. Checked over shoulder for John Howard.

Met Hannah at Paya Lebar, caught a cab to Serangoon Gardens, just around the corner from her house. Went directly to Hawker Centre (Chomp Chomp), totally buzzing with people still at 12am, where Hannah went off foraging – brought back sugar cane juice (supersized!), Chinese satay (you know it’s Chinese b/c both chicken and pork – Malays don’t do pork due to Islam) and sambal stingray – yum! Finally to Hannah’s to bed at about 1am (4am by my body clock).

Lovely humid sleep with fan blowing hair lightly all night. Slept in, restlessly, ’til 8:30am, showered and downstairs for a glass of water kindly provided by Minh, Hannah’s housekeeper, and five minutes’ wait ’til Dawn, Hannah’s friend, arrived to collect me. Lovely girl, Dawn, very friendly, fun and interesting (English and drama teacher). Walked directly to different hawker centre for best brekky ever – chee kueh (pickled veg & fried garlic on rice cakes) omigodthatwasdelicious, chee cheong fun (fat rice noodles layered with salt/sweet sauce & chili sambal on side), and ‘carrot cake’ (no carrot in sight, something to do with tapioca and dark sweet/salty sauce – super yum!), the ubiquitous sugar cane juice (so refreshing!) and finished with soya bean tau hway (sweetish silken tofu goodness). And then it was 10:30am. 😀

Off for a wander – bus to outer suburb to check out the non-touristic Singapore – got 3 t-shirts for $30! 😀 Back in to mall central in the centre, wandering forever underground, escaping the humidity and heat… got Stuart a book, me a book of Singaporean poetry, and the kids a ‘Cooking Asian food for kids). Grabbed a pork floss bun with chili for a snack – omigod that’s good too! Then time for lunch. Sakae Sushi – where the sushi cruises around you on conveyor belts! You just grab what you want and they count plates at the end. Excellent!

Now must stop blogging and get back to eating – kaya toast awaits!

Cosmopolitanism and original sin

I’ve been working recently on cosmopolitanism – particularly investigating its relationship to foodscapes and foodways. It’s led me down a nice genealogical path right back to Kant, who I’ve yet to properly read (thank you Wikipedia!), not to mention the Greeks, whose word it is originally. I’ve just finished typing up my notes on Bruce Robbins’ “Comparative Cosmopolitanism” (1992), which does some very similar work to what I did in the first draft of the paper I’m delivering in India next week, but with far greater sophistication and depth. It will tie in very nicely to said paper.

The thing I’m really interested in this second (don’t blink or you’ll miss it), is the criticism of the knowledge of the cosmopolitans – Hage comes to mind in particular with his discussion of Heidegger’s argument about the ‘discourse of value’ – that is, those doing the valuing are in the position of power that allows them to value those who ‘exist’ to be valued. In Bell and Valentine’s (1997) chapter on food consumption in communities, the authors define cosmopolitanism as involving “the cultivating of ‘globalised cultural capital’ as a form of lifestyle shopping which, crucially, involves possessing considerable knowledge about the ‘exotic’ [or] ‘the authentic’” which they point out is often referred to as a “colonisation or an intellectualisation of popular culture” (135-136). Robbins offers a clear defense for the knowledge of cosmopolitans ‘to educate future citizens of the world’ rather than ‘future policemen of the world’ (he’s writing about America just after the ’91 Gulf War). But what about the ‘naysayers’, those who object to cosmopolitanism on the grounds that it is elite, based perhaps on assumptions around Bourdieu’s study of distinction and class boundaries maintained by the cultivation of particular knowledges?

What struck me was an issue I’ve had with the Adam and Eve story for a very long time. As the story goes, Eve led Adam astray, overstepped her human boundaries set by God and was tossed out of Eden for it to a life of toil and mortality. What did she do? Was it that she disobeyed God? Perhaps. Was it that she sought knowledge from the apple? Was it that she was curious? Were these her sins? Arguably, it was all of the above – and the fact that she valued knowledge over obedience is one for the philosophers to nut out. (And we shall here entirely ignore the spineless Adam’s ‘she did it’, which appears to have done him or his kind little good anyway, and makes me suddenly wonder whether he even took a bite, but I’m just being cheeky now.)

In the past, a primary concern I’ve had with this story is the other major ‘punishment’ for her ‘sin’, which was to endure pain in childbirth, which, interestingly, is because of those damned big heads of human young, chock full of readiness for knowledge. I will maintain my position that it was this Judeo-Christian story that led to millenia of Western women to think the pain of childbirth was a punishment, and that as soon as medical advances made it possible to avoid this punishment and growing secularism made women increasingly comfortable with saying such things as “we don’t ‘deserve’ this pain”, we had an epidemic of high intervention childbirths with a slurry of unfortunate side effects.

But I digress, because today I’m annoyed at this story as it seems to recur in the arguments against distinguishing oneself with knowledge, as though knowledge is somehow ‘bad’ or even ‘sinful’. If I may be provocative, it sounds like the Christian Right trying to shut down dissent again – which sounds suspiciously like what God was doing back there in Eden. Hm. Perhaps I’d best stop there, before somebody notices I’m not a Christian. Also, before I’m accused of defending ‘elitism’ uncritically, which is not my project. Of course, I don’t have to defend anything, since I’m just talking to myself here anyway…

Hey, another funny thing just occurred to me (I’m a bit slow sometimes) – to get the knowledge, Eve had to taste the apple. Is taste the original sense? Or is it just foundational or essential to identity making practices? Not that the Bible is the definitive authority on such things, of course…

In the beginning

I can’t believe I’m doing this, but welcome to my blog. I suspect I’m just talking to myself, which is kind of what I want from this experience. Finally, I’ll have a reflexive space to type that goes everywhere I do – who cares that I work on four different computers? With this blog, my, my netvibes page and, I have all the information I need as long as there’s internet. And where there’s power…

Mostly I just want to muse about food, identity and place here. Sometimes I may end up off topic, need to rant or report to myself on things I shouldn’t forget. This could be fun…