At my first BRATs assignment, I barely knew what I was doing. All I had prepared for my interview with Thia Megia (American Idol Season 10 finalist) when she visited Malaysia last year was a list of generic questions – one of which was “sowhat do you think of our food?”

A year later, I still don’t understand how I allowed myself to waste a question on that. I guess I got the idea from the various interviews I’ve seen in Malaysia.

Based on my observations, most celebrities would give a positive reply.

“Oh, yes, I love the nasi goreng,” one said, to which I silently cheered because this guy clearly knew what he was talking about.

For some reason, I sincerely believed that he meant it. But now I’m a little older (and perhaps, wiser), I’ve come to adopt a more cynical perspective – did he really enjoy that plate of nasi goreng?

Like most proud Malaysians, I grew up with the notion that our food is and forever will be the very best.

Here’s a tip for the foreigners: whenever we ask about our food, all we want to hear is something good. Otherwise, be prepared to face an upset Malaysian.

I can get quite worked up whenever I watch Oli Pettigrew talking about Singapore as the ultimate melting pot of gastronomical delights because he has obviously never been assigned to do reviews here in Malaysia.

I guess, to a certain extent, I’m a little biased.

So I decided to conduct a mini experiment with a new Indonesian friend I met at orientation.

I asked her, and told her to be frank.

“It’s all right, but a little too spicy,” she revealed.

And that was when I finally understood why I thought the food I had in Bali, Indonesia, last year was rather bland (no offence).

It’s all about our upbringing. We’ve been brought up with a specific view when it comes to food, so much so we tend to forget to respect the tastes of others. They may not be accustomed to our food, and that’s totally fine.

We should accept that, especially if we’re all about being a society that’s open to different opinions.

So in conjunction with Malaysia’s 56th Independence Day, I hope we can start listening to the views of others with an open mind.

And it’s cool if they don’t like our food – that just means more for us 😛

The writer is a member of the BRATs, a teen journalist programme organised by R.AGE.

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