Dinner Time Talk

Clarke Quay in the day

Clarke Quay at night

Students chat heartily over McDonald value meals as they get together after a day of school and extra activities. Just a stone’s throw away, clusters of people spill out of Pasta Mania and Thai Express in queues. One floor up, Crystal Jade Palace is filled with the tinkling of Chinese cutlery and conversation. And while a romantic candlelight dinner for two unfolds beautifully in a cosy Italian Restaurant nearby, families and friends dine casually but equally comfortably in food courts and hawker centres. Some simply enjoy warmth of a home-cooked spread. People from all walks of life gather for dinner more than just the rudimentary purpose of filling the stomach and relieving hunger - birthday celebrations, wedding banquets, class get-togethers, family gatherings, dates – the list can go on and on.

Students at Mos Burger

Socialisation among Singaporean’s is commonly observed over the most “important” meal of the day. The familiar saying that breakfast is the most essential meal to start the day is definitely a mere saying to us Singaporeans. For the majority, breakfast more often than not a “grab and go” affair. From my observation, most students who are fortunate enough to have a “grab” at this first meal of the day munch on bread in plastic bags on the way to school. This is nothing unusual to us. Even after half a day of labour, many choose to wolf down a Subway sandwich or some takeaway with eyes still glued to the monitor in that lonely office cubicle. Speaking of rushed meals, I remember having my recess food in just 20 minutes before that good old bell went off again.

Being thought to be time-orientated multi-taskers, Singaporeans generally do not have the luxury of enjoying fellowship in socialising during meals. This could be why it seems that we place more emphasis on the last meal of the day. Well, at least the last for some. Dinner becomes a leisurely activity where people get together in various social groups. I look forward to dinner – less time constraint, more good food. From my mother’s kitchen to the most high-class restaurant in town, dinner seems to call for a wider spread. Also evident is the increased amount of effort that goes into the choice of cuisine for dinner. My personal view is that people feel temporarily relieved of their day’s dose of stress and many look on dinner as a kind of deserved reward for a day of hard work. Eating in itself can serve as a very relaxing, stress-relieving activity. Dinner, being at the end of the day is all the more a pleasurable moment to savour.

A family enjoying dinner at night in Chinatown

For these very reasons I guess, dinner becomes a social tool in our society. We often receive invitations to grand Chinese dinners at restaurants where couples celebrate marriage. Occasionally, we attend class gatherings with BBQ on a cool breezy evening at East Coast. Chinese families coming together for a scrumptious reunion dinner is a yearly affair. And of course, we certainly love the indulgence of buffets together – the more the merrier. Just pause a second now to think about the last time you found yourself having a BBQ or reunion dinner in solitary. It is highly unlikely that a recollection as such even exists. And even if it does, it wasn’t exactly much fun was it?