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Lesson Number One: Food is the Only Thing

MALAYSIA | Thursday, 10 July 2008 | Views [534] | Comments [1]

One of my favorites... rendang ayam

One of my favorites... rendang ayam

The Malaysian culture revolves around food. I thought I understood this, but I was wrong. It is the single most important, and talked about, topic. My mother and her sisters can literally discuss the qualities and merits of certain cuts of meat for over an hour. I sat and listened to them talk about how to buy pork, how to prepare it, how to cook it, how to season it, how long to do this and that, and at what temperature, how other people prepare and cook it, how to eat it, how to enjoy it, blah blah blah...

You get the idea. Every conversation is bound to turn towards food at some point. If they aren't eating, they're planning the next meal, as well as the one after that. It's amazing the Malay people aren't all 400 pounds! But I realize that eating represents community, shared enjoyment and a love for what it reflects in one's culture. Mealtime is a joyous occasion not to be missed. As one Malay friend quipped, "Most people eat to live; we live to eat."

Another thing I have learned is that people eat dinner very late here. There is often tea or early dinner (with a variety of cakes and snacks) in the afternoon, followed by a later supper. I think we ate around 11:30pm last night. I was more tired than hungry, but I did what I had to do. I guess the moral of the story is that you need to pace yourself. Enjoy your favorite dishes but be sure it's in moderation, because you know there will be a lot more food coming.

You must excuse me, I have to go now, it's time to eat...




I find this particularly charming, as I also enjoy cooking, eating and socializing around a table. Perhaps I should try to locate a Malaysian cook book, or maybe just recipes on line. But, as with A Zee's "Swallowing Clouds," two millennia of Chinese tradition, folklore, and history hidden in language and food, perhaps I should throw the net more broadly.

  Paul Jul 14, 2008 3:09 AM

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