Coffee Break: Now the party begins

This article first appeared in Capital, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on April 9, 2018 - April 15, 2018.
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Rendang should not be crispy. But what does crispy even mean?

Okay, I did not really want to talk about rendang. But I needed your attention, because parliament is dissolved. Well, finally.

Now the guessing game ends and the real party begins. Of course, if you’re particularly fond of the hibiscus flower, you may be a bit too preoccupied with existential questions at the moment to think about partying.

Some of those questions could be:

    1. Am I allowed to party?

    2. Do I even have a party?

    3. If I’m not a hibiscus, what am I?

Hey, if it’s any consolation, you’re not alone. Rocket enthusiasts across Malaysia will also be doing some soul-searching and head-scratching over the coming weeks because this time around, the rocket is not taking off.

I repeat, the rocket is not taking off.  Grounded. If you’re looking for the rocket at the big partying event, you may be well advised to look for the twin crescent moons instead.

Caution: If you’re not careful, you may get confused with the full moon, which thinks it can shine on as many as 130 different places in Malaysia for the next five years.

Also, if you’re in Sabah and Sarawak,  the rocket is still taking off, probably. I know, it’s confusing. Maybe the “master” plan would balance the scales a little in the lands where people are long disgruntled about centralised federal power.

Anyway, these interstellar alignments used to be considered astronomical impossibilities, but, as they say in Malaysia, the possibilities are endless.

I mean, look at the rendang kerfuffle last week. If you’re one of those non-existent Malaysians who did not hear about how a British celebrity chef dissed our national dish because the skin wasn’t “crispy”, well ... that was self-explanatory.

Now, what happened after was a sight to behold on so many levels.

It’s an established Malaysian tradition that we as a people don’t really give a kancil’s spit-roasted crown jewels about most things, especially if it’s either:

    a) an outrageous political statement; or

    b) an outrageous political scandal; or

    c) a serious public issue concerning tax payers’ money; or

    d) a politician’s sex tape; or

    e) all of the above.

God help YBs who try to get us riled up over demanding back luxury yachts whose name most of us cannot even pronounce.

But come near any of our food with even the slightest hint of negativity ... God help you, dear sir. Malaysians will go off like firecrackers on Chinese New Year’s eve — as will our neighbours.

What else can unite over 300 million Indonesians, Malaysians, Bruneians and Singaporeans against our former colonial masters?

(To be fair, 266 million of that number are Indonesians, but still...)

Even amidst the bitter political sniping unfolding before our disinterested eyes, the numero unos from both sides of the divide got on the same page about the rendang being “crispy”.

Now, that’s not easy to do. It clearly shows that nothing gets us going like food. It’s such an underrated political tool.

But rendang is so last week and, frankly, it’s overdone anyway. The celebrity chefs even went on TV later to say that when they said “crispy”, they meant it wasn’t cooked enough.

That’s totally understandable. I confuse the two expressions on a daily basis too.

But hey, so here’s one problem with the election: turnout.

Depending on who you ask, voter turnout is expected to be as low as the mid-70% compared to the high of 85% in May 2013.

Regardless of your personal beliefs, low turnout is not good. Voting is a privilege and it should be treated as such. So how do we tackle this?

Easy: food. Food gets us going.

So here’s one thing we can do: provide free food at our voting centres for every voter.

It’s a win-win. The Election Commission can mobilise stay-at-home mothers and small entrepreneurs to prepare the food for voting day.

That stimulates the economy and gives a shot in the arm for small enterprises. At the same time, free food — people will come for sure, especially if there is rendang.

Now, that would be a real party.

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