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Personal Politics of Food


Beep.. Beep.. Beep 

Seven AM was displayed on my alarm clock.


I felt so unmotivated to wake up for classes. I looked at my phone and realised it was a Saturday.. phew.


My housemate, Amanda, sleeps in the room next to mine. I wonder if she’s awake? I walked out of my room only to find the apartment feeling calm. It was too quiet. In my head, I quickly concluded that Amanda was still in her bed. I walked to the kitchen and thought to myself, why not cook some breakfast for the both of us? I opened the fridge to see what we have. Eggs, mayo, cabbage, sausages. Those were the only things that caught my eye. 


I thought of making eggs at first but maybe eggs were just too plain and simple. So I came up with a brilliant idea to prepare a petite bento instead. It’s so much simpler than it sounds. All I did was crack some eggs onto the heated pan, stirred lightly, and made the final touch with all the necessary seasoning. The trick was to season the dish while the pan was heating up. The last step was to cut up some cabbage. I did just so and arranged everything neatly in a bowl. It really was a piece of art!


I knocked on Amanda’s door and she came out lightheaded.



“Morning, what?”

“I made some breakfast for us”


Amanda always sounds grumpy in the morning, typical night owl behaviour. I explained the ingredients that I used and that it was a Japanese dish.


“Oh cool, let me wash up for a sec” 

“Alright, I’ll be waiting”


I waited for Amanda at the dining table while taking some pictures of the food that I’d made. As soon as she sat down, we started eating.


“You like it, Amanda?”

“It’s okay. It just feels like regular eggs and rice but just more pretty” 

“…What? All of it tastes the same to you?”

“It’s just food. At the end of the day, it goes in your tummy.”


I was shik shak shocked. I wondered what she actually thinks about food. Does she not care about what she eats? Maybe that explains all the times I saw her eating burnt toast for breakfast. I really wanted to know her opinion without sounding so impolite. I sat my spoon down next to my glass gently, not trying to make a sound. I looked up and we landed eyes on each other.


“What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you eat?”


Amanda, with her mouth full of breakfast, responded.


“Well, like everyone else. I eat to have energy to do stuff throughout the day. I mean, isn’t that why we eat?”


Damn, okay. Honestly, I’ve never perceived food like that. It’s true that food gives you energy but I’ve never really made the link everytime I ate. I paused for a moment and asked myself the very same question. 


“Interesting, I’ve never thought about it that way. I’ve always looked at food in a whole different light, it’s kinda like art to me.”


Amanda leaned towards her chair and looked at me with an intense gaze as I continued to talk.


“Think about it, when you mix all those flavours and textures, it’s like painting with taste. Let’s take a Malaysian dish as an example, Ikan Tiga Rasa. The term tiga rasa refers to the 3 different flavours – sweet, sour, and spicy. It’s amazing how they all come together to create a new sensation. Now that’s something that sticks with you forever.” 


Gosh, thinking about it was making my stomach growl. Amanda was nodding her head as I continued with my analogy about food.


“I get the same feeling when I’m trying a completely different cuisine from another country. I get a spark of excitement just out of seeing how different places use the same stuff we do but in totally unexpected ways. A majority of people in the west use cooking cream to make dishes like pasta and soups, right? In Asian countries, most dishes would substitute it with coconut milk, cashew paste or even condensed milk. I guess it mostly depends on the influence of our ancestors, how they lived and the resources that they had at their time. Can you imagine that to this day, people still preserve their culture through cuisines. That’s just amazing!”


I got a bit excited talking about food and my tone went up a bit.


“So, whenever I eat out, I would explore new places and order something that I’ve never tried before. It’s not just about filling up, it’s about that kick that you feel the moment the flavours of a cuisine feels absolutely foreign to you. Going out with friends makes the experience much more fun. You get to order different things off the menu and share the experience together. It’s even more fun when..”


Amanda snapped and interrupted me with a sinister smile.


“Is that why you always complain that you’re broke? haha. I see you go out every weekend”


Ouch, rude. I get it, I’m just a university student with little to no source of income but she didn’t have to call me out like that. I maintained my calmness and just laughed along. It felt like I needed to be the bigger person here.


“Well, a slight loss of money is largely compensated for by happiness. It’s not just about eating food, babes. It’s more about catching up with whoever matters to you and just enjoying the moment.” 


“I see”


I’m pretty sure for a moment, Amanda side-eyed me. There was an awkward silence for a moment. Then, Amanda looked at me and started talking again.


“You’re open to eating anything right? So, what’s your favourite food?”


“Hmm.. Good question. If I were to list them out, it would be a very long morning.”


“Name one. Your favourite of all time?”


“I would maybe say chicken porridge. I love to top off my hot bowl of chicken porridge with condiments like fried onions, boiled salted eye and anchovies. It feels comforting especially on gloomy days. What about you, then? Is it Mac & Cheese? You always have it after a stressful exam.”


“Yeah, true. I do eat it almost every dinner too, haha. You said you love chicken porridge but I don’t see you eat it as frequently as me and my Mac & Cheese?” 


“I don’t know. I’m not the type of person to eat the same meal for days. I feel like we’re not actually seeing eye to eye. Isn’t it kind of funny how we started talking about our favourite foods and suddenly ended up on comfort foods? For instance, my ultimate comfort food isn’t the same as my number one favourite dish, you know? It feels like we’re mixing up two totally different vibes. Maybe we should backtrack a bit and chat about what each of us really means by comfort food.”


“Well you do have a point. It’s just that both my comfort food and favourite food are the same thing.”


Thoughts filled my head for a while, I guess what Amanda said can also be valid. No one was right or wrong about what a comfort meal is supposed to be. I guess Amanda just loves a familiar territory, something that she’s used to. That explains a lot about her personality. She’s the type of person who would not socialise with new people very much. I guess she feels the same way about food. If you think about it, it’s sort of hilarious. I never thought that people’s attitude towards food might be a window to understanding their general personality. Ha, I should change my career path, from engineering to psychologist!


As for me, I’m more of a risk taker. I like being adventurous and discovering new things. I’m always up for a hangout or a party. Café hunting? Count me in. Your boyfriend’s friend invited you to karaoke but you want me to accompany you? Might not know him but I’ll be there with you alright. I love living life fearlessly.


I was getting bored at this point and wanted to change the topic. We could talk about our classes but that’ll ruin both of our moods on a Saturday. Deep down, I still wanted to know more about how Amanda actually reflects on food, then I remembered, holidays are coming up in a month. I still have no idea what she has planned. Maybe I can try to make a link between holiday trips and food. That’ll widen my eyes more on her perspective.


“Any plans for the holidays, Amanda?”


“I think I’m going to Barcelona again. It’s a nice place.”


And again, I was right. She always went for the one she’s familiar with. Nothing new, nothing special. The next trip to Barcelona would make it her fifth trip! Barcelona was nice but what more could she want from it?


“Ah cool.. I’m planning to visit Poland. I heard it’s lovely there and really cheap. I can’t wait to try all of their specialties”


“You did some research before buying tickets there, right?”


“Well, I was thinking that I would explore the country when I’m there, you know? I don’t like any spoilers.”


And that was true. I’d rather be amazed when I go there than finding everything out before even stepping foot there. 


Amanda bluntly said something that brought down my hope.


“Seriously? Don’t you know that Poland is a christian majority country? You’d barely find Halal food there?” 


Oh. My. God. 


I must confess that I did not think about that. How could I be so stupid? Maybe it’s time to realise that the world doesn’t revolve around me. Amanda might not be muslim but she has always been open about my dietary restrictions. She knows what I can and cannot eat. To this day, I’m still impressed that she remembers and respects it.


I saw Amanda taking her phone out of her pocket and typing something on Google. As soon as she finished, she pointed her phone towards me and I looked at the screen.


[ 98.5% of the population identify themselves as Roman Catholics in Poland ]


Amanda was right. I tried to think positively but deep down my heart was breaking. I was so excited to try something new. I felt devastated that I’d miss out on discovering potential exotic dishes. I should start searching halal stores, it’s impossible that there aren’t any. Well, I guess that’s the back up plan. Kebab shops are usually the typical halal place to eat in most European countries. If you’re lucky, you might even find a halal korean place. Thinking back, I can replace my gastronomic enthusiast self and benefit from my time in Poland by doing other things. I mean, there’s loads of other stuff I can do. Skiing, shopping and hiking. I’ll skip food hunting for this one. 


“Looks like I have to stock up on instant noodles this time around. I guess I won’t be able to eat anything there unless it’s kebab, haha. That would be fine but other than that I think I’ll survive on eating instant noodles for dinner. Simple, easy and saves my money too”


“Goodluck with that. I’m sure you’d still have a great time.”


As the dishes clinked and our breakfast conversation faded into a comfortable silence. Maybe Amanda had a point about going to places she’s familiar with. At least she’ll know all the best places to eat that meet her standards every time she goes there. I couldn’t help but marvel at how food, something so basic and universal, could reveal so much about us. From Amanda’s undoubted love for the familiar tastes to my insatiable curiosity for the unknown, our culinary preferences mirrored our own approach to life itself. It was obvious to me that every meal is an opportunity, not just to get rid of my hunger, but to explore, to connect, and to grow.


So, as I plan my possibly noodle-filled adventure in Poland, I’m reminded that it’s not just about the places that we’re familiar with or the new territories we dare to explore but the experiences we share and the stories we gather along the way. Food, in all its simplicity and complexity, is a journey. One that I’m eager to continue, with or without instant noodles in my suitcase.


I just realised we’ve both finished our meals. Amanda offered to do the dishes and I’ve never been happier. For context, I really hate doing dishes and Amanda doesn’t really mind. In a way, no matter how different our personalities and our beliefs about food, we still complement each other nicely.