Monday, September 1, 2008

Salty, sweet and Sonny

We're more than half way through our vacation in Pa's hometown - and it's given us the inspiration for an interesting, multi-year experiment, with Sonny as guinea pig.

While it's good to be revisiting one's own stomping grounds and breathe in familiar (if rather dust-laden) air, food is very much of the equation too. Sampling the local cuisine is a must. This may seem rather unnecessary to those with only a passing acquaintance with Singaporean and Malaysian cuisine, since many of the dishes have the same name, are cooked in broadly the same way and even seem to taste the same. But Pa's always insisted on the sweet/salty distinction as a distinguishing factor: A given food item (char kuay teow, say) will taste sweeter in an eatery in Singapore, and be saltier in Malaysia. But could it be that this is so only because Pa spent most of his formative years north of the Causeway, and so has had his taste buds trained in a certain way?

Mum, born and bred in the Republic, doesn't necessarily disagree with Pa's taste observations, but thinks he insists on it rather too much. Appealing to Pa's mother, brother or sister-in-law won't work either, since they are adults too. But Sonny's senses are uncontaminated. So long as we shuttle between Malaysia and Singapore with some regularity, exposing him to a range of foods, he'll be able to form his own opinions - and, in time, deliver his verdict on the salt/sweet rule.

Some might find all this plotting vastly premature, since Sonny is at the moment imbibing only milk, mum's milk and more of the same (as commented on in 'Our milk connoisseur'). The plan might even be held to be a symptom of the sort of hairsplitting that keeps political relations between the two countries perpetually a few speeches' away from a confrontation. Shouldn't we be stressing how similar the two nations are, instead of underlining differences even in food and drink?

Thing is, Sonny's been showing himself a right fussy eater, with distinct preferences as to how he prefers to be held while snacking, which breast he prefers and so on. In short, he might just be a food critic in the making - and keeping him in training to solve the sweet/salty conundrum might launch him onto the path of success. Who are we to prevent bar him?