Food for thought

One of the favourite topics when eating out and in, with family or friends, the favourite topic of conversation to help the chow go down is? Food!

Where one can get better or equivalent food, the prices, memorable meals.. oh the reminiscing can go on and on so much so that when we talk of past and future eats, we can quite overlook what we are eating at present!!

One meal that’s often reminisced about whenever me and the group who dined at Gunther’s (recorded in an earlier post) eat together is the fabulous brunch we enjoyed a few years ago together while holidaying in Bali.

Oh, my, the egg benedictine, one of us will recall. Others will chip in about the bread, the bacon and ham, the coffee, the fruits, the beach, the laidback atmosphere on Ku De Ta in Seminyak on a hot sunny Sunday.

And all the bargains as the beach hawkers come right up to our table to tempt us with their artistic and colorful wares.

Nothing brings back good memories as evocatively as a shared meal thoroughly enjoyed but in recent years, I notice that some friends have this tendency to bring up less happy food-related pictures whenever we  break bread together.

Take for example when Mrs Seow and I were gorging on expensive all-day breakfasts at Riciotti by the Singapore River on Aug 19. And greedily eyeing all the scrumptious cakes in the chiller next to our table all the while, as I bit into my poached eggs on a bed of spinach supported by cibiatta bread while she tucked into her scrambled eggs with crabmeat.


poached 2 perfection

poached 2 perfection



“I must tell you something absolutely heart-breaking,” she said in between bites, now that we had gotten the gossip abt a mutual friend living 10,000 km away out of our system.

“Who now?”

“You know I always shop at Cold Storage at Parkway, while waiting for the boys at their enrichment classes?”

Yah? So? And it came out. As Mrs Seow was at the check-out counter, there was a commotion behind her, with a man in a windbreaker jacket holding on to a grubby elderly woman and shouting at her to empty her shopping bag.

At first the woman protested but because the man was so fiercely insistent, she complied. Her bag contained mostly rubbish, discarded wrappers and tissues; there was a Gardenia bag and what looked like mouldy bread slices (according to Mrs Seow) in it and yes, a bar of chocolate.

The man demanded the receipt for the chocalate. The woman cldn’t produce it but insisted she had paid for the chocolate. The verbal struggle went on a bit.

Then Mrs Seow intervened. She picked up the tab for the chocolate. End of episode.

“You should have bought her other foods,” was my comment, at the end of her story.

“That’s what my kids also said.”

Yet I understood why she didn’t do more. In such distressing encounters, it is only too easy not to want to get involved. I call it the doubt paralysis syndrome. What if the old woman is a regular shop-lifter? What if she refused to be helped? What ifs ad infinitum. Then the chance to do anything at all would have passed.

Even when one does get involved, it is only too easy to do just what is needed to resolve an ongoing situation. Because doing more could mean  starting an ongoing engagement that might demand more of what one is prepared to give, whether in time, emotion or money.

Nowadays, topics like this sad encounter at Parkway Parade has become quite common meal-time conversation.

Yes, Singapore is a very rich nation but like all rich nations, it doesn’t mean that everyone is a clone of Warren Buffet. Go to any Swiss train station and you’ll see what I mean.


2 thoughts on “Food for thought

  1. Yes, reality bites!! Singapore has such a wonderful image here. All the Chinese sing her praises…so successful, so prosperous, Lee Kuan Yew so smart unlike whoever-is-PM-in Malaysia etc etc etc… But then there is none so blind as they who will not see and since their minds are made up to see nothing but the bad in their own country, that is what they will see…and end up frustrated and miserable! It’s a vicious cycle and they will feel the brunt of their negative feelings.

  2. Sibu Pacik: I hope I haven’t created the impression that S’pore isn’t as good as some Chinese Malaysians think it is. In general terms, I think they are not wrong to think so. But like all rich countries, we do have our share of the poor. And being poor in a rich country may be worse than being poor in a poor country. I think many people in China and India are now discovering, and I’m talking of hundreds of millions over there.

    To conclude, let me quote you a good piece of advice which my mother’s geriatrician gave me, when I was evaluating the danger of mum going for a major op. Dr Angel (yes,no kidding that’s her name) told me: Danger of a stroke on the operating table is abt 2%; but to the person it happens to, it’s 100%.

    So, sure, there are few poor people in Singapore. But for the poor in Singapore, there must seem to be many.

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