Of Opinionated Lists and Misguided Quests For The Best

opinion

Photo credit: Google search

“Is it good?”

The obligatory, superficial, and heavily opinion-laden question at the tip of one’s tongue whenever an acquaintance reveals that he/she has dined at a particular eatery or eaten something new. But then again, does someone else’s opinion really matter? Are his/her taste buds, dietary preferences, and expectations an accurate reflection of mine? Is your definition of “good” the same as mine?

Needless to say, we each have our own preferences when it comes to food. Loving, understanding, and appreciating food goes way beyond the often one-sided and heavily opinionated “food review”, ratings (e.g. stars and/or scale of 1-to-5), and obsessing ourselves with Top 5/Top 10 and Best-of-So-and-So lists; so much so that what we fail to understand and appreciate is that each cook has their own rendition of a particular dish. But fret not, as a plethora of food offerings is readily available within this little island nation; and there is bound to be something that suits everyone’s palate.

Using Chicken Rice As An Example

Stall A has their own recipe for Singapore’s self-proclaimed national dish, and have a fiercely loyal following. But does that make its chicken rice any more superior (or, inversely, sacrilegiously inferior) than the one being offered by Stall B; who, like their opposite number, has their own recipe and queues that stretch as far as the eye can see? Whose chilli sauce is better? Whose chicken is corn fed, and whose isn’t? Blah, blah, blah…

Why can’t we be open to different tastes and interpretations instead of being self-appointed virtuosos of ranking and labelling houses of gustatory and multi-sensory pleasure?

In a similar case, Steak saw Mark Schatzker being chided by an interviewee as being foolish when the former revealed that he was in search for the “best”/”perfect” steak in the world. Instead, the former briefed the author that each cut of steak from a different species of cattle has its own characteristics. That acted as a wake up call and Schaztker, almost immediately, changed some of his approaches in subsequent encounters with steaks and the different species of bovine.

Of Opinionated Lists

Additionally, in the case of obsessively revering the ever-popular lists of places that – usually in someone else’s opinion, again – are worth making a pilgrimage for; there can never be a single mass-appeasing one. At best (no pun intended), they only serve as a guide and/or opinion – no matter who publishes them. This makes it rather unsurprising to see disagreements surfacing in the comments section of almost every article that is dedicated to Top/Best-of-So-and-So lists.

“Why isn’t Ah Seng’s listed in here?”

“How could you have forgotten Makcik Minah’s stall?!”

“No, no! Johnny’s doesn’t even come close to making it in your list!”

In a sea of over five million people (or over seven billion, if you’re talking about the global population), it’s a monumental task to please everyone. Heck, even my tastes differ from that of my family members. I’m pretty sure you get my point by now.

Appreciate, Not Judge

In the end, nobody can rightfully stake a claim to be the benchmark or industry standard for any particular dishes. So, why bother obsessing yourselves with such lists and opinions of others? Try giving a hundred cooks the same exact ingredients and ask them to whip up a plate of fried rice; and you would, without a doubt, get a hundred different interpretations of the dish. If tasked to judge; I would, instead, choose to savour and thoroughly enjoy each and every single dish as a showcase of the said cooks’ unique rendition of fried rice; as opposed to subjecting myself to be tortured by having to select a solitary plate to label as the “best”.

But then again, this is just my opinion…

A Food-Loving Nation’s Dilemma – Everybody Suffers When Landlords Become Greedy

Photo credit: ieatishootipost.sg

Yet another impending closure of a local eatery at the end of this month has left a very bad taste in many mouths. Nasi Padang River Valley is yet another Singapore eatery that has fallen victim to the greedy-landlord-syndrome. Word is out that the money-infatuated landlords have increased the stall’s rent by 300%. Yes, a ridiculous and eye-watering three hundred percent. This brings about a relatively shocking and disgustingly crude illustration about living off others – quite literally.

So, without the financial means to meet that absurd figure, it will mean that over half a decade of food and memories looks set to be gone – all because of the landlord’s unhealthy desire and obsession of what can only be described as monetary glut.

Someone Needs To Step In

Echoing famed Singapore food campaigner KF Seetoh, I believe it’s about bloody time somebody steps in to quell this madness of unwarranted rent increases that verges on bullying and a just-because-I-can attitude exhibited by landlords. Though agreements and discussions between landlords and tenants are usually deemed private, something urgent needs to be done to curb such acts of blatant profiteering at the expense of people who are just out to earn a living. Additionally, it doesn’t take a marketing or finance graduate to see that the trend of increasing rent costs would open the floodgates to many more copycat landlords who will mete out similar demands to their tenants; often under the (groundless and copycat) guise of “increased costs of utilities and such-and-such”. As a whole, F&B businesses in Singapore (from hawker stalls, to coffeeshops, and even “hip” and “high-end” restaurants) are lamenting the increased (and continually increasing) cost of rent.

What Can Be Done

Lines need to be drawn to demarcate and distinguish areas of real estate pertaining to food and beverage (F&B) businesses, away from residential and commercial sites. “Market forces” and other related jargons should not affect the former’s territories. The authoritative body in charge of overseeing this should be helmed and run (a.k.a. taking full responsibility) by an entity – and people within the entity – with prior knowledge and understanding of the needs of F&B establishments, coupled with powers related to the well-being (as a whole) of the areas under their purview. For a start, urgent action must be taken to address and subsequently suppress the current state of uncapped rental hikes and spikes.

The establishment of such an association would be highly beneficial, reassuring, and encouraging to both current and potential individuals or small businesses to want to improve on and/or initiate their own F&B establishments. By knowing that one of many financial-related issues is taken care of, this would then allow them to concentrate better on their core offering of food, among other underlying factors. Additionally, it would solidify the country’s claim to fame of being a food haven as concrete and serious.

Alas, all this depends, on the current government and the respective authoritative bodies – a factor that KF Seetoh (and many other Singaporeans) can relate to; because “it always starts and ends with them”.

Related reads:
It’s Time To “Take a Break”
High Rents Hit Small Businesses
A Food-Loving Nation’s Dilemma – Another One Bites The Dust

Deep Fried and Sugar-Dusted

After much rolling and folding…

Puff Pastry Cronut – Attempt #1

Wait, am I even allowed to use that C-word?

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Food For Thought

Photo credit: Eater.com

The prize for “One of the more thought-provoking food-related books I’ve read (so far)“, definitely goes to Jay Rayner’s A Greedy Man In A Hungry World. While Mr Rayner has his fair share of supporters and detractors, it is worth noting that he narrates the topics in a casual and entertaining approach – almost never forcing anybody to agree or disagree with his views. It serves as a great read for those who are for or against the whole idea of locavorism, eating food labelled “organic” (and other similar food fads); and an even better read for neutralists or the generally food-curious.

Has anyone out there read the book? Please feel free to share your thoughts and views.

Last Order

A little morbid, but moving.

12 Pictures Of Death Row Prisoners’ Last Meals

(photos by Henry Hargreaves)

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