Where We Ate, Where We Eat Now: Another Singapore Story

Synopsis
Some time in the middle of 2006, a chicken rice stall in an old Sennett Estate shophouse just off Upper Serangoon Road lowered its shutters for the last time. No doubt, it would probably mean little to many but for many patrons of that stall (including me), its closure was many things. For patrons, it meant the disappearance of excellent homemade chilli and savory kampong chicken not to mention rice carefully soaked in the right amount of oil for the right amount of time. For the congregation of a church nearby, it meant the disappearance of a convenient source of food as well as a gathering place after church. For me (the director of this slideshow), it meant the disappearance of what up till then I had taken for granted as a familiar, seemingly eternal and memory-laden place in his life. Food spaces, like many other spaces in everyday life, inevitably become entwined with individual biographies. Everyday life makes these spaces (which suggest utilitarian functionality) ‘places’ or spaces which become laden with individual or collective memories and meanings. Talking about places in a sense, becomes a way of talking about history, about life as it is lived. It is an unfortunate consequence of modernity that the physical dimensions of ‘place’ are no longer stable. In our modern era (and particularly fast-changing Singapore), we no longer speak of stability of physical places. Rather, you often hear the discourse of ‘urban renewal’ and ‘development’. The chicken rice stall I used to eat at is one such ‘casualty’ of our obsession with development. Where the shophouse once stood is now a widened outer lane of Serangoon Road. The physical dimensions of ‘place’ are evidently no longer stable, they can be torn down to make way for modernity, for development, for novelty. Stable ‘places’ can therefore only exist in individual and collective memories. The object of this slideshow is therefore an attempt to recapture those lost food ‘places’ and an alternative history of Singapore through memories (mine and those of others) associated with these lost and current food ‘places’. It is also to account for the feelings of nostalgia that we as Singaporeans (and possibly all moderns) feel, caught as we are in a sea of changes.

 

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