This post was originally published on my City Sampler blog.
An Eye For An Eye: My Uncle’s Story
Across my uncle’s three-decade career as an academic, he has supervised many a graduate student. Some of these students he has kept in touch with after they have graduated and gone on to do other things. Sometimes these students are international students, and when he finds himself in their home city for work, he will look them up.
And so it was that my uncle, whilst on a work trip to Singapore, found himself invited to a formal dinner with an ex-student and his family. Dinner was a banquet – an endless succession of intricate delicacies and local favourites. Then, as the meal reached its climax, the main event was brought to the table – a whole fish.
In Singaporean culture, it is apparently tradition to show respect to the guest of honour by allowing them to eat the juiciest, most delicious, most delicate part of the fish: its eyes. (Perhaps it’s also just a fun way to mess with friends who are new to the city.)
POP! went the eyes as they were scooped out of their sockets and placed on my uncle’s plate.
And so my uncle – who will devour cow tongue with a relish bordering on grotesque and yet who is surprisingly squeamish about other body parts – found himself staring at his plate whilst the rest of the table sat smiling encouragingly at him.
I think he might have just swallowed them whole.