“Have you eaten” or “Makan Sudah” in Bahasa Melayu is often heard from friends here in Singapore exemplifies the value of eating out to socialising and community building in Singapore. The cacophony of sounds from a smattering of Hokkein at the noodle soup hawker stall to Tamil and Urdu at the Indian Halal corner dishing out colourful rojak adds to the “Makan” or eating out culture which is central to the Singaporean ethos. A nation which is passionate about its food, takes eating out seriously as its running culture thanks to splendid NParks connectors.
A few weeks back Minister Mentor Lee passed away, and an entire nation grieved in collective consciousness. On the 29th of March i wrote on my Facebook Wall to capture the sentiment of the moment:
“Watching the State Funeral Service of Mr. Lee on Channel 8 (Chinese Language Station) in my packed local food court with kopitiam Aunties and Uncles whom I have known over years is a solemn occasion. Never felt so much a part of the community before. It is an inflection point and locus of convergence for the national ethos. A misty eyed rainy afternoon indeed. Farewell Mr. Lee #Sg #LKY”
“A full food court in standing ovation in mark a minutes silence with the National Pledge and Anthem was moving. National spirit is alive and kicking in this often chided concrete city where commerce takes precedence. Today is a different #Singapore .”
As the last line depicts, the food court plays a huge role as a common public space although intimate. This multi-racial society mingles and connects over Tiger Beer and Kopio in its food courts. In a busy city, where cooking the evening meal is an occasional chore, the Food Court plays a critical social lever in everyday lived experience.
Gluttons : Makansutra by the Bay, near the City Centre packages the food court in a very glam manner as does Kopitiam at the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, the upper social strata version though lacks the soul of Adam Road Hawker Center and its epic Mutton Soup or the Novena Food Court, which are social institutions of note.
All sorts of characters can be observed in this common place where all festivals and mundane evenings are panned out. The senses are overvelmed with the Chicken Rice and the Steam Boats and the energetic feel of a meal time.
The Kopitiam or the Food Court is a Singaporean Institution; with the qualities of the nation. Hygienic, Cost Conscious, Systemic and Multi-Cultural.
Now, Cheers over the Malted Beverage!