Intern Features: Han Jing on “Doing” Change in Food

“On the night of 10 Nov 2016, something stirred in me.

I’d had a relatively poor day, I do not recall what happened exactly, but I knew I wanted change. More importantly I didn’t want to just sit around and wait for change, I wanted to create change. To actively create change to the world and solve any of its problems. I just didn’t quite know how to do it. At least on a level that extends beyond myself.

So I decided then and there, lying in bed, that I will be an active seeker and “do-er” of change.

 

Pardon my rudeness, I realised I have not introduced myself.

 

Hello, I’m Han Jing. How are you?

I’m 21 this year, and am majoring in Sociology (NTU), a second year student, if you’re curious.

 

How did I get from 10 November to writing this, three months on?

 

I woke up bright eyed bushy tailed the next morning and made my way down to The Eco Film Festival at the Singapore Art-science Museum. I got myself a vegan, gluten free banana loaf from The Fab Cafe (it was really really good!) and went upstairs to join one of the morning film screenings; Growing Roots and Minimalism.

(Side note, both of these are really really good, do go and watch them!)

Anyway, what happened post-screening is the important part. There was a panel discussion and Hui Ying from Foodscape Collective (ah-ha, see where I’m going now?) was hosting the discussion. Something sparked in me as I sat in the audience, I really wanted to be a part of a team to see how we could shape things together, make positive influences, CHANGE THE WORLD!!!

Yes, I was a very excited human being.

When the discussion ended, I mustered every bit of courage I had to approach Hui Ying and asked rather sheepishly, if Foodscape Collective would like to have me as an intern. She said yes(!!) and invited me to talk over tea.

I hope this makes sense to you now. I was originally asked to maybe write a bit about my experience at Foodscape, but I realised that perhaps it would be more interesting to know how I came about joining it and to give my two cents on what I think about food, where food originates and well, any knick knacks that comes to my mind.

 

I used to think that I have black fingers, but after four dead plants, I have managed to grow two varieties of basil, pandan, chilli (which is having an issue with whiteflies but I digress), cilantro and one tiny little lettuce seedling! All of which are lined up along the corridor of a HDB apartment. I think black fingers can turn green with a bit (or a lot) of patience and TLC (tender loving care).

Much of my interest for edible greens actually stems from my childhood where I often frolicked in my Popo‘s (grandma’s) garden. She has this amazing small plot of land that can grow just about anything. Every evening, I would help her to water her crops using ‘rice water’ and squat around the plants to inspect for any munching caterpillars. I basically grew up with dirt in my nails and sun-kissed skin.

I am a blessed child, and got to learn about the food system (where our food comes from and where it goes to) from a very young age. My family educated me thoroughly about where various foods came from and educated me about taboo topics such as factory farming. It was also complementary then, that I got to experience food from soil to table at my Popo‘s place.

I believe such education about food is essential to cultivate interest and create conscious consumers. I have ploughed through my mind over this and figured that it is only beneficial for children to learn about these topics. The bare minimum would be to have at least a basic understanding that food does not appear out of thin air nor are vegetables and meats grown and manufactured in supermarkets. Children and adults of today, need to see beyond this fragmented relationship and realise that food comes from the soil and would return to the soil again (be it leftovers or in hehe, poop form).

It is a real problem, and a relatively new one only because we are the generation whose relationship with food is growing wider and wider. We are the generation with higher standards of living and we get food gratification simply by placing an order and paying dollar bills for it.

 

One Mc Veggie Burger please.

That would be four dollars.

Volia! Here’s your food sir/madam.

 

Our food has gone fast. And our relationship with food will soon be gone fast, as well.

We seek instant gratification, and while doing so, have forgotten that food is an art—a slow art that our ancestors committed to for survival.

We have broken up the process of artwork and grown to focus only on the end results, only on what shows up on our plates. While buying pottery, we only remember the person who curated the vase and sold it to us in cents and dollars but forget who shaped the mud into these concrete pieces.

We have forgotten a lot.

 

The point of this writing and what drove me to intern at foodscape, would then be this; to instill greater awareness in people of both the beauty of the food cycle, and the things less beautiful; to drive them to think beyond what lies on our white porcelain plates.

 

I could go on and on about this but I should stop soon. Before I go though, here’s a last bit of my thoughts written on virtual ink from me to you.

If my writing has sparked any interest in you to learn more about the food system (we call it Foodscape), please bring yourself to attend talks and film screenings. There is a calendar of wholesome activities for you on this site. You will learn a lot, I promise this much to you.

Okay I promise this is the last bit. I don’t think this is much of a poem than rhyming words but I hope you dwell on the words rather than regard it as art.

We are eating more, but we are not eating well.

We are eating fast, but we are moving slow.

We are eating, or are we really?