While eating is a universal experience, for Singaporeans it carries strong national contations. The popular Singaporean-English phrase Die die must try is t 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. 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 offers 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 ecomics, 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 ecomic focus of other histories of Singapore, Tarulevicz provides an important alternative reading of Singaporean society.
Nicole Tarulevicz is a lecturer in Asian Studies in the School of Humanities at the University of Tasmania, Australia.