Richa Mohan reviews I Ate Tiong Bahru by Stephen Black, Book Merah: 2013.
The title of this little book (I Ate Tiong Bahru) does not let on what the contents are about, though the author’s note in the end does throw light on the intent. Living up to its name, the book seems to be a personal walk, as well as a gastronome’s account, of one of the well-known streets of Singapore.
A little unexpected, it took me some time to figure out where the table of contents are and why they are placed at the end of the book? “The Blue of an Edible Flower” is the title printed in bold on the next page, right after opening the book. I had to presume that this is perhaps the first chapter.
It does need a strong production editor as well as some editing of the text to string together the diverse ideas, facts, history and information that is replete in the book, otherwise it appears disjointed in parts.
A bit quirky in its presentation of content in the form of lists and some recipes, it sometimes takes the form of a personal journal. Though the way the author has tried to bring out the history as well as the day to day lives of people living in this space, is both personal as well as like a documentary especially highlighting the food.
The idea of the book is different but would need a lot many footnotes and a glossary to introduce it to a wider audience, especially, outside Singapore.