Somehow, the Scots are pretty much like the Peranakan Chinese. They have special traditions driven by their love for particular foods. They're just a little noisier and completely incomprehensible when they get together in a large group drinking copious amount of alcohol, admiring the colors of each other's tartans and eating lots of haggis.
We Peranakan Chinese too have our traditions driven by food. On special occasions, whether it's Chinese New Year, a wedding, or when we are commemorating the death anniversary of someone close, like my gran from Dad's side, there was always a cacophony of loud noises from the laughter of the womenfolk in the kitchen admiring each other's colorful kebayas, to the loud hollers at the mahjong tables and there was always plenty to eat. There must always be the requisite Bakwan Kepiting, Babi Pongteh, Chap Chye and Buah Keluak.
Last evening, I had the privilege of seeing 2 cultures celebrating their respective traditions side by side. The Scottish Business Association of Singapore (SBAS) celebrated Burns' Supper at O'Leary's, at the Singapore Flyer. The choice of an American-Irish venue for the occasion was beyond me.
Interestingly, the full dress rehearsal for the Chinese New Year Chingay procession was happening at the Flyer too. The sight and sounds of Scottish chatter, clinking of whiskey glasses, the banter and laughter exchanged while comparing kilt colours amongst the men, intermingled with the drum beats, Chinese music and colours of the Chinese New Year Chingay floats.
We had Haggis, Neeps and Tatties as a starter. Joel had 4 helpings of it in fact. I was quite worried he would be shitting Mars Bars today, after all that Haggis he had.
Joel was the "official" photographer for the event. The SBAS couldn't afford his services but he was satisfied that he was paid in kind. He ate his weight in haggis, tatties, and neeps, and a truck load of chocolate coated marshmallows thereafter. He was the "official" entertainer at our table too, regaling his experience in between giggles, about how he walked into the loo, only to be confronted by a group of Scots lifting their kilts up, occupying every urinal space, while chatting nonchalantly about their respective tartan colors and size of their Sgian Dugh, a knife that's part of a Scotsman's regalia (I hope Joel got that one right, and it was the sgian dugh that the men in the loo were referring to).
So what is Haggis? My sister-in-law told me that it was like a sausage made from lamb offal mixed with herbs and oatmeal and wrapped in the stomach casing of a sheep. I hope I am at least somewhat accurate with that description. My asian friends balked at the thought of it and wouldn't touch the stuff. Honestly, it isn't too different from our Buah Keluak, a Peranakan dish made from chicken, pork rib and a special Indonesian nut that's black in color, and needs to be soaked and brushed for a few days before cooking because it's otherwise poisonous. My Caucasian friends balked at this and David thinks it's my ploy to kill him off and run away to marry another man with all his money.
Anyway, we had a great time at Burns' Supper. After all, it was a terrific excuse to meet up with old friends, laugh loads, wear our kilts, eat haggis and get drunk.
I love traditions. And I wouldn't miss celebrating any of these each year. I feel very blessed that we could celebrate the differences and also the similarities in our cultures.