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Going back to basics: knowing where your food comes from 
11th-Aug-2010 11:38 am
Growing up in Singapore in the 80s was one of the richest times for all-round learning. I might be biased in this, but it was a time of percarious yet harmonistic balance between the old world and new.

And nowhere was this more evident than in the food culture. Besides being a melting pot of the region, we accepted cuisine from far beyond our shores. We not only embraced the steak, but we sucked it in and made it our own. Go to any hawker centre and you'd find a stall, serving a fillet steak or chicken chop, smoothered in savoury gravy and served with coleslaw, baked beans and a slice of garlic toast. Not entirely authentic and sounds more like a big Western breakfast, but by god, we loved it!

Singapore still had a small agricultural sector in those days. My dad would occassionally drive the entire family to a farm as a day trip. I remember being intimidated by towering hogs, their front trotters perched on the tops of their stall wall and grunting for their lunch as the farmer walked by pushing a wheelbarrow of slop. Another time, it would be a chicken (eggs and meat), quail, frogs or vegetables. I am now infinitely thankful to my dad, for having the forsight to take us before it all disappeared in my teen years.

Sunday mornings was my mother's time to shine. Supermarkets and wet markets co-existed in harmony, offering very different products, but it was the wet markets, which were the best fun. The assault of smells from fresh hebs heaped together next to stacks of vegetables would mellow the pungent stink of live chickens awaiting their death in crates. The tiled or concrete floor would be slippery with murky water and I would curl my toes in my flip flops with every step to avoid getting them wet (yes, silly, but I was a kid). The din of mothers and grandmothers bargaining with stallholders may have been fierce, yet it built a sense of community and was all part of the fun. And you couldn't get fresher or cheaper anywhere else.

But gone are those days. Gone are most of the farms and today, many families opt to shop in sterile supermarkets for convenience.

This isn't happening only in Singapore. It's happening everywhere, as population grows and farmers become displaced by population shifts and large corporate farming organisations. I feel a little sorry for the generations to come, who have little opportunity to experience this exchange between nature and man. They now live bundled in cotton wool and behind a glass screen - increasingly experience retarded.

So while many kids begin to evolve into the American children Jaime Oliver met in Huntington, West Virginia on his Food Revolution quest - unable to distinguish tomatoes from celery, I draw hope that the inherent human desire to discover and create will override any cultural trend towards laziness to simply accept what is offered for convenience.

My hope for the next generation is that they go back to basics to rediscover the simple joys of knowing where their food comes from - to become as inspired and as inspiring as the Aussie kids on the upcoming Junior Masterchef.

Oh, and let me put it out there that I would adopt any of those kids on that Junior Masterchef show in a heartbeat. If all else fails, I'll 'grow' one myself. (^_~)-☆
11th-Aug-2010 03:03 am (UTC)
That is sad! Egg.. SALAD! ahah.

Junior Masterchef is going to be the best thing ever! I wish my parents had let me do stuff that age~
11th-Aug-2010 11:40 am (UTC)
I almost cried when that episode aired. And then I remembered my young cousin who couldn't say what sounds animals make at age 5 (ie. duck=quack, chicken=cluck, etc) and when asked where chickens come from, she answered 'the fridge'.
11th-Aug-2010 01:23 pm (UTC)
I know my kiwi fruit comes from New Zealand... but beyond that I have no clue. Could be out of a plactic box in a lab so as to never have known the touch of real soil for all I know.

Edited at 2010-08-11 01:24 pm (UTC)
12th-Aug-2010 12:04 am (UTC)
There are kiwi growers here in Australia too.

I reckon it's better to purchase as much local produce as possible and not out of a plastic bag. It will be in season, fresh and have a smaller carbon footprint compared to stuff that has to be shipped/flown in.
12th-Aug-2010 03:33 pm (UTC)
This is true, but I haven't found a local grower of kiwi fruit yet. ^^;
11th-Aug-2010 02:05 pm (UTC)
It's a good thing we have a garden! We're growing our own tomatoes, fennel, zucchini, cucumber and artichokes. Unfortunately we weren't very successful with the cucumber and artichokes thanks to the GREAT British weather! And I've started looking at where things come from even in the supermarket cause it makes such a BIG difference if it comes from one place or another. And I'm really glad Jamie Oliver does what he does even though his own countrymen aren't as enthusiastic.
12th-Aug-2010 02:23 am (UTC)
Lucky you. My veggie garden is a hodge podge collection of pots on our balcony, since living in the city means having a garden on our salaries is not an option.
12th-Aug-2010 08:35 am (UTC)
This is exactly why I want to grow a garden with Noah! Nothing is better than growing and eating your own produce :). At least we live very close to a huuuuuge amount of farming, so we can visit with him some time.
14th-Aug-2010 03:28 am (UTC)
Agreed on all counts! Fresh out of the ground and off the plant cannot be beat.
14th-Aug-2010 06:25 am (UTC)
Yeah! I've been known to eat freshly picked veggies I normally wouldn't touch such as zucchini. And it's just so satisfying to pick produce for yourself even if it isn't from your own garden.
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