Careful Eating in a Food Paradise
By Eunice Lim, Singapore
“Eat more carefully and do not finish what you do not like.” – Mr. Jen Shek Voon, Founder Chairman of the Slow Food Convivium Society (Singapore)
Singapore has a diverse range of food and is often referred to as the “Food Paradise”. Numerous visitors all over the world come to Singapore, eager to have their taste buds tickled by the exotic delicacies available. Hawker centres, coffee shops, restaurants and fast food franchises will have you spoilt for choices. There is so much food waiting to be devoured. But Mr. Jen Shek Voon, founder chairman of the Slow Food Convivium Society of Singapore (SFCSS), advises that we are to “eat more carefully and not finish what we do not like.” Rather than promote wasteful eating, Mr. Jen is devoted to the slow food movement, which encourages careful consideration and knowledge of the food on the table, before actually putting it into your mouth. Good food is not only about food that is delicious, but also about responsible eating in the presence of good company.
When I interviewed Mr. Jen on behalf of Robin Wade Furniture, he defined Slow Food as an enjoyment of the slowness of time and the gaining of insight into the food on the table, for example how it is prepared. He also defined it as an exploration of the realm of the senses, in which the cuisine appeals to him and the wine that is selected to be paired with it. His definition rejects mindless wolfing down of food in record time and encourages us to indulge in the art of food and allow ourselves the time to establish a relationship with the food we eat. After all, you are what you eat. If a food is disagreeable for one reason or another, eating it would mean one eats for the sake of eating, and that alone is not sufficient reason to let the food become part of your body. What makes the SFCSS so special to Mr. Jen is the camaraderie that binds their members and friends together, a camaraderie that is connected to their sense of taste and enjoyment of all good food and wines. The SFCSS hosts a lunch for its members every last Saturday of the month. Not only are the meals they share memorable, but are carried out in the company of like-minded people.
In a global city like Singapore, Mr. Jen believes that it is important for us to understand where all the food and drinks come from, and what the sources do to help sustain the supply. Considering Singapore has few agriculture, aqua or viticulture, being aware of the origins of our food becomes doubly important. While the current SFCSS membership is vibrant, Mr. Jen believes that the concept of slow food requires time to spread. In its eleventh year, SFCSS currently has 75 members.
When asked to reveal what could be expected in the next lunch gathering, Mr. Jen replies that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Members pay an annual subscription fee of $120 Singapore dollars, of which S$100 goes to the International Office in Bra, Italy, for the payment of dues and the subscription of 3 issues per year of the Slow Food International magazine. Additionally, at the standard price of $150 Singapore dollars for the monthly meal, being part of the slow food movement here in Singapore does come with a rather hefty price and may not be for those on a budget. Even though you could buy 30 Happy Meals with $150 in Singapore, this monthly meal guarantees happiness too, albeit of a different sort. Instead of speed and instant gratification, the SFCSS invites you to immerse and indulge in the slow satisfaction of a quality meal, accompanied by merry laughter and conversation.
There is peace in knowing that the food on the table comes from clean and ethical sources. There is solace in knowing that in this fast food era, there is the Slow Food Movement to remind us of what it means to slow down our footsteps and appreciate the food we eat. Finally, it is the comfort of knowing these things that make the monetary price worth the paying.
Photographs and Pictures taken from Slow Food Singapore’s Facebook Page with the permission of SFCSS.