Diner en Blanc will be taking place next Thursday at a secret location and even though there has been a lot of positive buzz and general excitement, I am somewhat disturbed upon finding out that fellow blogger Daniel from DanielFoodDiary.com has been asked to
modify remove his blog post in which he has suggested some local food (which are white, to suit the all-white theme of this event) to bring. Specifically, his suggestion of soybean pudding aka tau huay is deemed by Diner en Blanc organizers to be “not up to par” with the event’s upscale nature.
Whoa. Are they implying that tau huay is too low class to bring to and be eaten at Diner en Blanc?! There has got to be a misunderstanding and some serious miscommunication here.
What is tau huay?
It is soybean pudding. I dare say it is the Asian equivalent to panna cotta, but it is made from soy milk that has been curdled and processed to yield its gelatinous texture. Tau huay is eaten as a dessert, traditionally served warm with boiled peanuts and ginger simple syrup, or chilled like a pudding. Tau huay is a very modest dessert that has a long history in Chinese culture and back in the days, it was sold by food vendors traveling on foot or bicycle. In modern Singapore context today it is sold in many hawker centers. The most notable hawker stall vendor of late in Singapore who has popularized this well-loved dessert for the younger consumers is Lao Ban Dou Hua and it has been so well-received that one should expect a very long queue outside the stall just to buy a serving of this delicate, mildly sweet, protein-packed dessert.
I understand that the organizers of Diner en Blanc reserve the right in keeping the event classy, and due to its humble nature, tau huay might have been seen as an inappropriate food item to be present at the elegant mass picnic. But I personally feel that there is no logical justification to classify a food item as low class and therefore banning it from the event. Given that Singapore is the first Asian city to be hosting such a grand public party and the event itself is a mass gathering of people who celebrate food, I am of the opinion that all the more local food with heritage and cultural value should be regarded with respect and appreciation.
I am a lover of food and I don’t believe that anyone should impose a class system on what we consume. We eat food that we enjoy eating, regardless of how much it costs or our social status. No matter how wealthy we are and how much we can afford, take for example when we are sick and not feeling well, the food we Asians usually go for is a bowl of congee (simple rice soup made of rice grains and water simmered over low heat; incidentally also a white food item). We enjoy it because it is simple, meaningful, and it makes us feel better. There is nothing wrong with that and I don’t see how congee, again as an example, would be considered low class just because of its humble nature. Sure, you can dress it up with fancy fixings such as scallops or premium fish slices, whatever… And in the case of tau huay, it can be served in a pretty ramekin, crystal goblet or whatever. It is up to you and your preference, but my point is it would be wrong to classify it as low class. Or any class, really. To be able to sink our teeth into any food that we emotionally connect to, be it simple tau huay or fancy congee, as long as we enjoy and respect the food that we eat, this is a blessing not to be taken for granted. I can eat foie gras with a shiny silver fork in a swanky Michelin-starred restaurant or be gnawing on scraps of duck meat off a bone with my hands at some dingy nightmarket… Who are you, or anyone, to say that one food is of a higher or lower class than the other? They are all equally delicious to me and I enjoy eating them, so there. Ghetto-fabulous, baby. Don’t slam the food, please.
Back to Diner en Blanc. I think the organizers have already set the ground rules as to how food should be presented during the event, by stating that attendants should not be eating food off paper plates and such. That I understand, as there is a certain image of exclusivity and elegance that Diner en Blanc wishes to convey and I am all for it. This is not a nightmarket or street festival after all. Being a visual creative type and a branding professional, I 100% agree that presentation and desired event theme must always be cohesive and kept consistent as much as possible, yes. But it is unclear why certain food items are allowed or not allowed at Diner en Blanc, and the way some are class-ified as “low class” sounds condescending to me. Sadly, there hasn’t been any clarification from the organizers. The debate is no longer about food, but about whether the line of cultural respect has been crossed.
I have been informed that the latest development in this incident involving Daniel’s blog post is that the organizers have decided to uninvite all bloggers from the event. From what I heard, the Diner en Blanc organizers feel that there is little value in inviting bloggers because they do not regard social media influencers to be that influential anyway. Everyone on the social media invitation list, specifically bloggers, has been nixed. Except for me. (._.)”
Whaaaaaaaatttt??? Uhm, I… I…
Tsk, I have been singled out as the only blogger who can attend Diner en Blanc. AIYAH! Am I supposed to be happy and feel privileged that the organizers regard me/my blog as “high class” and I have somehow made the cut to attend the event while the rest of invited bloggers got dissed? Right from the very beginning, I am thankful for the invitation and still genuinely flattered by the organizers’ high regard towards me (they have very kindly publicised and linked my Pinterest board to this event on the Diner en Blanc Singapore Facebook page— merci bien; Diner en Blanc London has also been repinning my pins, hi guys and thank you!). I am excited about this event and for the opportunity to experience such a grand occasion in Singapore. However, in regards to the tau huay blog post incident, there is something about the way this matter is being handled as well as certain principles that do not sit quite right with me. Attending Diner en Blanc as a sole blogger, after knowing that others are no longer invited, puts me in an extremely awkward position. And even though I am generally a neutral person who minds her own business, I am compelled to put in my two cents regarding this matter and sorry, I must decline this
My blog bio reads:
An influencer on style and well-being of today’s modern woman, Moonberry faithfully journals on chic, glamorous, luxe yet unpretentious living with authenticity and substance. The Moonberry Blog, winner of the 2011 Singapore Blog Awards (Best Beauty Blog) is a candid lifestyle blog on art & design, fashion & style, food & travel, beauty & wellness, with a dash of sass coz ya know, once a New Yorker, always a New Yorker.
Uh huh, I love all the good things in life. The chic, the glam, the luxe. The bling-blangin’ baubbles, the trendy designer wares, the exotic vacations, the couture dresses, the penthouse apartment, etc. I have also had the good fortune to spend my formative adult years in a hip-and-happening metropolis called New York City — big city, bright lights — and acquired many valuable life experiences (read: not over the top certainly, but I’ve gotten by just fine and dandy for many, many years). People usually don’t understand what I mean when I say we should all strive to live authentically and this is what I mean: No matter what lifestyle you choose (which generally is a good comfortable one for most people; hey, who are we kidding here?), just remember to take a step back from time to time, be grounded and have some empathy towards those who may not have the same good fortune as you. I frown upon those who live pretentiously, and get so seduced by the glitz and glamour that they forget about the real world. The real world as in, beauty and happiness are not neccesarily defined by monetary currency or material acquisitions. Doesn’t matter whether you are born with a silver spoon or you’ve busted ass working your way up. Be humble, be kind, be generous as much as you can – especially the more well-off and comfortable you are in life.
So in summary:
1. I feel that this tau huay matter is attributed to a grave miscommunication and to a very large extent, a cultural misunderstanding, which can be resolved amicably and not tarnish the joyful intent of this event. Daniel is a Singaporean blogger who is passionate about food and he freely shares his gastronomical experiences with the public. I know that many readers find his blog to be a useful reference online on what and where to eat in Singapore. He has made a list of suggested white-colored local Singaporean food to bring to the event out of good intention (and to celebrate Singaporean food culture proudly), certainly it was not meant to “cheapen” the Diner en Blanc event.
2. It is a shame to exclude Daniel as well as other bloggers from Diner en Blanc Singapore because of a misunderstanding like this. Having lived both overseas and presently in Singapore, having a long history in (plus personal and professional interest towards) social media and online marketing, I can affirm that social media in Singapore is extremely different than how it is anywhere else in the world. It is not wise to undermine the broad reach and dismiss the influence of social media in this country. Many smart local marketers have long jumped on this bandwagon reaping social media’s benefits and advantages to give their marketing initiatives an edge in order to get one step ahead of their competitors.
With all that said, what are your thoughts on this incident?
Tau huay too low class for an upscale event such as Diner en Blanc = a cultural blasphemy?
Singapore bloggers are not to be taken seriously because they do not have adequate social media influence… agree or disagree?
PS: I know I don’t usually write such a long wordy post and readers of this blog are generally more accustomed (maybe even prefer) my posts with pretty photos and whatnot, but I do live by certain principles and people who know me well in real life aren’t strangers to me expression my opinions vocally. If you have taken the time to read every single word I’ve written in this post, thank you very much and I hope I haven’t scared anyone off. If I have, well…. too effin’ bad! Heh. Keep. It. Real.
UPDATE: I have been booted off the Diner en Blanc guestlist as well, so I am now also officially UNINVITED from the event. C’est la vie!