Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Free Food - Our Biggest Vice?

In Malaysia, it seems that almost everyone is into food. We love to eat, and we're always on the lookout for grub that is better, tastier and more exotic to satisfy our tastebuds. We head out to the latest restaurants, the newest dessert shops and try out ever-changing flavours of the month. Having said that, good food doesn't always come cheap and so we are also constantly on the look out for cheaper places as well. The Chinese phrase "peng, leng, jeng" (cheap, beautiful, great) sums it up nicely. What could be better than to have great meals without burning a hole in the pocket, right?

Right. But sometimes, I think we take it way too far and start displaying a really ugly habit whenever a type of food comes about - free food. Okay, I know not all of us are like that, but those who are so blatant in their conduct whenever free food is available really make me feel ashamed to be Malaysian at times.

There I was with mom at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in KL to attend Maxis' AGM yesterday. The hotel itself is very nice and posh, and I'm sure it has played host to many important guests, foreign dignitaries and other VIPs. As we walked towards the registration hall we passed the refreshment area where a sumptious lunch buffet was laid out for Maxis guests to enjoy before the meeting started. There was a big spread for the huge number of people there and it was expectedly crowded.

We registered, got our stickers to identify ourselves as shareholders and walked back out to the refreshment area. It was then that I saw all the skills that would put waiters and petty thieves to shame.

Firstly, a lot of them didn't have stickers on them. So, either they stuck it under their clothes, or they weren't there for the event in the first place. If they were there just for a free lunch, they certainly were enthusiastic about it. Moving with such gusto from fried mee hoon, chicken, pastries, cakes, etc. to coffee and tea, you'd think they were on an Amazing Race roadblock challenge trying to beat the other teams. Or maybe just wolfing down the food before it runs out.

Then, there were aunties with such deft hands that they could juggle two plates - filled to the brim with puffs and mini cakes - on a single palm! That's four plates per auntie man...and there were a lot of them. It was amazing seeing them balance all that food while waltzing through the crowded room avoiding collision and spillage. I think waiters in training could learn a thing or two just observing them.

But the one that takes the cake was something my mom pointed out to me. This auntie was taking out a plastic container from her handbag! She was there to get some take-away! I was really shocked that some people would actually do something like that. I know that a lot of people go crazy at buffets or open houses and start hoarding food like there's no tomorrow, but I have never actually seen people bringing their own containers to tah-pau.

It was quite sad to me to notice such a state of things. That the purpose of the event wasn't even about food in the first place, that most of the people there were so kiasu about sampling every morsel - it really makes one wonder why we behave that way. The saddest thing of all for me though, was how it seems to have become an accepted habit and no one seems to think it inappropriate. I mean, you're at a company's AGM ok, not an eating competition.

I can understand that in certain countries people are starving and will fight for anything that remotely looks like food. But we're not poor or hungry, we're educated, we live comfortably and if you can be a shareholder in a company, you can definitely put food on the table easily. Do we really have to bring ourselves down to such a level?

I just hope this habit doesn't result in an image of Malaysians that shows us as foodie freeloading hogs without respect to others. But if that's what we want to project, well, Malaysia definitely boleh-lah.


Chee Hoe said...

the doggy bag attitude....

Anything to do with cost of living is inflating attracting our people to free food? (like fluorescent lights to flies)

Or our "tidak apa" attitude, hence there isin't any peer pressure to behave anyway?

Our usual herd mentality + kiasuism? if she's taking some home, I'm taking some home!

Or maybe we were trained from young by our parents' generation, "eh free ah, take more" ?

Or maybe it's actually not wrong? Just has to be done more tactfully....... more refine manner.

Yengs said...

i think it's a combination of all those factors...but i do think that all we need is a little basic decency in public.

eg said...

Gambar abang hansem laa :)