Singapore is a country of diversity. Religions, cultures, and most of all food are celebrated for their diversity and the experience and wonder that comes with each. There is a clear recognition that diversity makes Singapore a stronger country. It is premise that individuals and institutions actively support and at times are call to defend. So far, I have not seen anyone that is exempt. The one good news is that when someone slips up, there is room for an apology and moving on.
I have come to see the room we give each other as mutual. If others are aware that I have a preference for vegetarian food, they go out of their way to accommodate me. I have discovered that there are lots of options, especially if one is open to untraditional vegies! At the same time, the culture has gently invited me to be as open in return. It is an invitation that initially caught me by surprise. What would I allow to be cooked in my kitchen? What would I eat if someone offered to share one of her/his delights?
I am haunted by the simple truth of an Elder’s voice across the generations. “If a nonbeliever invites you to dinner and you feel like going, go ahead and enjoy yourself; eat everything placed before you. It would be both bad manners and bad spirituality to cross-examine your host on the ethical purity of each course as it is served.” (1 Corinthians 10.27) It may stretch my boundaries but am I called to do?
While I have had some successes, it is a mixed outcome. I confess that there are some dishes I have not accepted. On the other hand, I now know I enjoy high quality durian in season. Additionally, there are several seafood dishes that make my favorite list.
In my Singapore experience of religion, culture, and food, I have come love the space others give me. I hope that I am able to give each as much space in return. It is a community that has much to share.