Discovering Singaporean identity through cooking and cuisine
While eating is a universal experience, for Singaporeans it carries strong national connotations. The popular Singaporean-English phrase "Die die must try" is not so much hyperbole as it is a reflection of the lengths that Singaporeans will go to find great dishes.
In Eating Her Curries and Kway: A Cultural History of Food in Singapore, Nicole Tarulevicz argues that in a society that has undergone substantial change in a relatively short amount of time, food serves Singaporeans as a poignant connection to the past. Eating has provided a unifying practice for a diverse society, a metaphor for multiracialism and recognizable national symbols for a fledgling state. Covering the period from British settlement in 1819 to the present and focusing on the post–1965 postcolonial era, Tarulevicz tells the story of Singapore through the production and consumption of food.
Analyzing a variety of sources that range from cookbooks to architectural and city plans, Tarulevicz offer a thematic history of this unusual country, which was colonized by the British and operated as a port within Malaya, but which is without a substantial pre-colonial history. Connecting food culture to the larger history of Singapore, she discusses various topics including domesticity and home economics, housing and architecture, advertising, and the regulation of food-related manners and public behavior such as hawking, littering, and chewing gum. Moving away from the predominantly political and economic focus of other histories of Singapore, Eating Her Curries and Kway provides an important alternative reading of Singaporean society.
"An engaging study that draws from a rich and previously unstudied repertoire of Singaporean history. Tarulevicz provides a valuable framework for understanding how a diverse migrant society can use food to map a sense of collective identity."--Mark Swislocki, author of Culinary Nostalgia: Regional Food Culture and the Urban Experience in Shanghai