Of Opinionated Lists and Misguided Quests For The Best


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“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…


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One thought on “Of Opinionated Lists and Misguided Quests For The Best

  1. […] again, as I mentioned in one of my previous posts, tastes and opinions are all subjective. I can’t force someone to like something I like. […]

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