Traversing the relationship between food and place
For anyone who has lived in another country or explored local cuisine as part of travel, you’ll know that food and place are inextricably intertwined. It is as if the tastes, textures, and smells are woven into the landscapes, events, and people. Without the meal you ate and the memory of it, the vividness of the experience fades in colour.
This relationship between food and place is artistically captured in the concept of GastroGeography, a Singapore Biennale project by Mamakan Art Collective whose work draws connections between food, art, memory, history, and culture. In the context of Singapore, Gastro Geography shows that food is everywhere in nature if we only look for it; no easy feat for the untrained eye which is drawn to the looming glass buildings and hard asphalt around us.
Last Saturday, Tahnya and I attend “An Afternoon of Art and Food with Mamakan” at the Singapore Art Museum. Over two hours, the group presented a unique take on “Singapore food” by serving an 8-course menu built from edible fruits, herbs, and leaves (legally) collected from the city centre. Each course was accompanied by a story of source, heritage, and history, that provided context to the curious concoctions served.
These curious concoctions were all created with local ingredients and had equally as curious names like Laksa Pesto, Kayaventures Jam, and NoniCheese. The glass bottles they were served in emphasized the feeling of discovery and venturing into the unknown, which is accurate for many of us who have not eaten the treasures found outside of our local supermarkets.
It’s always incredible when you are introduced to flavours not yet tasted or are reminded that nature has the upper hand over processed, synthetic versions. Mamakan’s afternoon of food and art did precisely that.