Everywhere you look, there is bound to be something about food. Be it a campaign for healthy eating, or an advertisement for a new dining place, there is no escaping the image or idea of food through the media. This gives food great power - with all these mediums representing food, who would not be enticed to eat more? Even with campaigns for healthy eating habits, these encourage people to eat healthily but once again also emphasise food. Everyone needs to eat, but this calls into question the common phrase of eating to live, versus living to eat. Singaporean culture, especially, embraces the idea of living to eat.

Furthermore with all the media coverage on food, it is not surprising that so many Singaporeans enjoy a good meal. No wonder there is no lack of eating places here, all frequented by Singaporeans who know how to enjoy their food. With several television shows week after week, based entirely on eating, on finding the best places for certain kinds of food, who can dispute the fact that Singaporeans are continuously enticed to eat more? Newspapers and magazines devote sections to grading the quality of new dining places and eateries, and no lack of posters and commercials advertising food, there is no doubt whatsoever that Singapore advocates the eating culture. The Internet, also produces numerous Singapore-based articles, just by typing in the word 'food'.

Even in Singapore, where resources are limited, there is no limit to the amount of media coverage on food. In every form of medium available, there is bound to be some coverage on food.

Healthy Living

Slim is in, fat is out.

At least, that is the perception that everyone in modern society has. Beautiful equates slim bodies for women, and built-up ones for men so the myth goes. The media has indeed done a fine job in covering these aspects and causing people to believe in perhaps what may be unreal. Still, trends are meant to be followed aren't they? So if slim is 'in', then slim I'll be.

In a food city like Singapore, it seems to considerably difficult to advocate healthy living when the most scrumptious food around are those that are deep-fried and found virtually everywhere. Techinically speaking, it is not possible to escape from the strongholds on food. And that is why amidst all the propaganda for healthy living, places like MacDonald's have started counting the calories of their foods and gotten people like sportsman Ronald Susilo and Li Li to endorse their food. One can't help but wonder if fast food can really be healthy and that if eating it would actually train us to be the next sports person of the year. Cynical as people may be, many still buy it. Still, to emphasise the need to stay healthy, foods of all kinds have been sprouting out around the island.

Aiwo, or love me as translated, is a restaurant found in Raffles City that had its menu churned out based on the Atkins Diet- all protein, no carbohydrates. While this may not sound appealing, the food there not only looks good but tastes good as well. Better yet, the calories for each dish seem miniscule compared to what we'd be getting from a plate of chicken rice in the hawker centre, or worst still, from an international buffet spread in a hotel. Dining may have taken on a new phase here in Singapore. Yet, Aiwo remains secluded in a corner with many vacant seats despite publicity in the papers and on posters in the shopping centre. Singaporean diners may have become so accustomed to eating where they always do and are too comfortable where they are to risk trying new foods- well, only the ones that are healthy. Otherwise, price may not be an issue considering how many can spend hundreds on a single meal in a restaurant in CHIJMES in the Bugis area, and be unwilling to part with less than twenty dollars on a meal at Aiwo.


Dishes at Aiwo

As the media continues to cover shows that promote healthy living, like The Biggest Loser currently airing on Channel 5, as well as similar programmes that have ended their runs or are ongoing on various channels, the Singapore food culture looks to be set for change. Since dieting is the more difficult way out to looking good, entrepreneurs can now start looking into the lucrative food and beverage (F&B) business, catering to healthy dining with fine-tasting food. More healthy eating places are up and coming, and this only goes to show that no matter what the situation, food is still an essential in the Singaporean lifestyle, and by that we do not mean just merely for survival, but also because the food culture here is already so strong that we cannot escape its grip on us. Rather than cutting down on what we eat or concocting our strange meals that are supposedly healthier, we can look forward to enjoying a spread all the same, just with much less calories than before.

The local food culture looks set to stay.

Visit Aiwo at http://www.aiwo.com.sg

Local Food Programmes

While we are looking at media coverage, we have to take a look at the types of programmes that are being aired on national TV. With food culture playing a dominant role in the Singapore culture, there is without a doubt that there is plenty of coverage on food on local TV. The range of programmes can be found on MediaCorp's Channels 5, 8 and even Channel News Asia (CNA). As though to emphasise our love for food, each channel does not just cover the local food scene but those overseas as well.


Shows like Makan Sutra and Table for Three showcase more of local foodfare while progrmmaes like Extreme Japan focus on cuisines in Japan, and Hi-Life on the finer cuisines in life, largely overseas. Places which are featured gain so much coverage thereafter that business booms beyond expectations. Stalls would also proudly display newspaper clippings of themselves just to prove that what they offer is one of the best available locally. And when Singaporeans know what is supposedly the best, the kiasu mentality kicks in- we just cannot afford to lose out, even when it comes to tasting good food. This mentality is also what forms a large portion of the Singapore culture. Without such an attitude, less people would be willing to try new foods. In the presence of 'kiasu-ism', there is the likelihood that Singaporeans wish to try out all forms of food available just so that they can boast about it and receive wide-eyed astonishment which appears to be an informal postivie sanction of some sort. Now we know why queues are often so long. Often, we can also hear people in queues conversing- one of the most intriguing conversations ever:

"The queue is so long. What are they queuing for?"
"Must be some good food."
"Then must queue also. Good food cannot miss out, reach there then decide what to order 'cos cannot see the menu from here!"


Quaint.

Ever wondered what Singapore food culture is all about? There we have it. It seems that our local food culture really does begin right from within us, stemming from the kiasu attitude of ours. Local food programmes simply help to bring out this mentality in Singaporeans.

Advertisements

In recent times, we see more and more media coverage on food. From advertisements through the televsion to magazines and newspapers, any information on food is made accessible to us whether we like it or not. TV commercials often comprise of fast food restaurants' advertisements to those for restaurants. Some famous lines that we often hear on TV and even people talking about it on the streets would include some of the following:

For MacDonald's,
"I'm loving it!"

For Pizza Hut and KFC,
"Mummy, what are we having for dinner?"

For Canadian Pizza,
"Two-for-one!"


These are but the few that are more commonly heard. There are also advertisements for places like Yum Cha Restaurant where dim sum is served, and Tian Tian Huo Guo, a steamboat place. In fact, snacks have also found their way to the televsion screen, with the most recent being the snacks under the brand of Wang Wang from Taiwan. Food has already been made readily available all around us yet these advertisements are there to continually tempt us into buying more and snacking more than we actually need.

Primetime TV from 7pm to 10pm daily is when most people are watching programmes in front of the television. We cannot deny that technology has caught up with our lives and that many of us are self-proclaimed TV addicts who can rattle off daily programmes and their timeslots, and there are even people who know many commericials by heart! We have been immersed in TV culture without knowing it. As such, advertisements have a large role to play in promoting their products. A research finding has also shown that when more food is displayed in front of a person, the individual tends to eat more than if most of the food were kept out of sight. So the saying goes, "Out of sight, out of mind." Much help this does when the media does non-stop coverage on food. Furthermore, when celebrities help to advertise, then the demand for food would grow, as exemplified by Justin Timberlake's "I'm Lovin' It" song that MacDonald's is using. Likewise, Jessica Alba's endorsement of Tiger Beer would also be likely to increase sales for the product.

If anyone has wondered how Singaporeans' love for food came about, we must admit that the media has an extensive role to play. It is somewhat difficult to think about staying fit and healthy while maintaining a good figure (just look at all the slimming centres and pills available in the market) is possible when food is all around us. Sometimes, we may just need to take a step back and concede defeat to the prowess of media coverage. In as much as reel life may differ from real life, the media's role remains significant as people continually strive to have the dream life as the media portrays. That ideal life is signified by mass media, the signifier.

So much said, we now know that a large part of our food culture developed because Singaporeans are always on the prowl for more new dishes, especially after they have been advertised on TV. Advertisements sure have their way of enveloping us in a world of consumerism from which escape seems futile.