Saturday, April 28, 2007

Of freedom and food

With the recent Singapore Day in New York ('s Top Excuses for NOT Protesting at 'Singapore Day' in New York is pretty funny) , noted that "According to the late, great [New York Times food critic] Johnny Apple, Singapore has the best street food in the world."

In a September 2003 review, Apple writes:

"FOOD is the purest democracy we have," K. F. Seetoh [of Makansutra fame] said as we dug into breakfast bowls of bak kut teh, a peppery, restorative Teochew soup of pork ribs, mushrooms and kidneys. ''Singaporeans recognize no difference between bone china and melamine.''

Slurp, slurp. Yum, yum. The clear, aromatic broth, full of tender, close-grained pork, perked up by herbs and whole garlic cloves, was cooked in a hole in the wall next to a busy expressway and eaten at a sidewalk table. Cab drivers, teachers and a few junior executives slurped around us. Bak kut teh is the city's preferred hangover remedy, and Ng Ah Sio makes the best, which is why Mr. Seetoh took me there.

He continues:

I THINK the knock on Singapore is way overdone. Sure, it's squeaky clean and modern, but come on: does anyone actually prefer the beggars, rubbish and shantytowns that deface many large Asian cities? Not the poor souls who live in them. It's plenty tough on miscreants, but hardly deserving of William Gibson's woundingly dismissive tag line, "Disneyland With the Death Penalty."

Under Goh Chok Tong, Lee Kwan Yew's successor, individualism has gained a little more breathing room. The longstanding and much-ridiculed ban on chewing gum has just been relaxed. Censorship guidelines are currently under high-level review. Nightclubs, once invisible, now throb into the wee hours. And the louchest of Maugham's or Conrad's characters would feel right at home in the seedy bars and brothels off Geylang Road, east of the city center.

Singapore: A Repressed City-State? Not in Its Kitchens was the last article that was published in the New York Times while Apple was still alive. In it he writes:

With the country’s basic manufacturing jobs shifting to China, the younger Mr. Lee wants to turn the painfully strait-laced Singapore into a relaxed, appealing target for tourists. The primary lure will be a $3 billion resort and casino ...It will offer not only extensive facilities for gambling, an activity dear to Chinese hearts, but also, like Las Vegas, a wide array of top-end dining spots, in a nation where good eating is a national pastime.

But Singapore already has gastronomic attractions aplenty. Start with its unmatched street food — chili crabs and chicken rice, laksa and satay and fish head curry — served in hundreds of hawkers’ stalls. Fast, cheap and delicious, its hygiene is certified by the ever-vigilant Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources.

As a friend pointed out rather humorously - who needs freedom when you have food?

Friday, April 06, 2007

Good Friday: Sunday's Comin'

Once again, my weak and wandering heart is reminded of just how much it cost. Just how much we are loved. And just how much we have to look forward to.

Come and see, come and see
Come and see the King of love
See the purple robe and crown of thorns he wears
Soldiers mock, rulers sneer
As he lifts the cruel cross
Lone and friendless now he climbs towards the hill

We worship at your feet
Where wrath and mercy meet
And a guilty world is washed
By love's pure stream
For us he was made sin
Oh, help me take it in
Deep wounds of love cry out 'Father, forgive'
I worship, I worship
The Lamb who was slain.

Come and weep, come and mourn
For your sin that pierced him there
So much deeper than the wounds of thorn and nail
All our pride, all our greed
All our fallenness and shame
And the Lord has laid the punishment on him

Man of heaven, born to earth
To restore us to your heaven
Here we bow in awe beneath
Your searching eyes
From your tears comes our joy
From your death our life shall spring
By your resurrection power we shall rise

by Graham Kendrick