5 Things We Learnt From Rendangate

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(source: belitung.tribunnews.com)

Over the past few days, local social media feeds have been filled with defensive rage, claiming to uphold national pride and calling out cultural ignorance. The incident that triggered this? It was a bad move by Masterchef UK’s judges, when they criticised Zaleha Kadir Olpin’s chicken rendang. Judges Gregg Wallace said that the chicken skin “isn’t crispy and it can’t be eaten,” while John Torode added some spice to that criticism saying that “it was a mistake”.

Zaleha was then eliminated from the contest, and since the video became viral, netizens got on Twitter to educate them on their ignorance. The 48-year old was supported and cheered by Malaysians, saying that “we are behind you.”

Torode, has deleted his tweets but that doesn’t mean we’re done with him. We managed to compiled a few lessons from the caucasity, so here are 5 things that we learnt from Rendangate.

1. Food unites people

Who would have thought that the Nusantara would reform in this day and age, and over rendang of all things? People from Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Thailand and Singapore came together to make sure John Torode got schooled over his unacceptable comments about the special, cultural dish. The tweets that bombarded Torode were hilarious and some users made sure that Torode realised how ignorant and disrespectful he was towards something that holds a special place in the hearts of the Nusantara clan.

2. Food is diplomacy

It’s time like this that makes us proud being Malaysian. Despite whatever’s happening around us, we can see people unite to show that we can have disagreements on certain things, but never about how rendang is cooked. Even politicians joined in to say their piece, including Prime Minister Najib Razak who posted this on Twitter:

Former Malaysian Primer Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir also joined in:

Maybe John Torode won’t listen to Malaysians’ criticisms, but what if the British High Commissioner to Malaysia said her piece?

3. Out from chaos comes good advertising

While everyone shoots at the judges, big companies want a slice of the action as well. With massive traffic on social websites talking about the incident, it’s just perfect to promote their products, especially for F&B related companies. It’s no surprise that KFC Malaysia made an ad about it. After all, they’re known for their crunch.

(source: KFC/Facebook)

Malaysian Airlines also took the opportunity to promote their in-flight meals.

Don’t forget about TGV Cinemas.

(source: TGV Cinemas/Facebook)

4. The scars of colonialism have not healed

Okay, let’s address the white elephant in the room (no pun intended). Malaysia, much like our neighbours, have had a complicated past with Western colonialism. tl;dr–We just don’t like what they did to us (and the rest of the world).

The recent rendangate debacle gathered a lot of opinions on culture and heritage, and one Twitter user claimed that this is the first time she’s ever seen Malaysians and Indonesians come together (we usually argue about football and islands, and stealing each other’s culture), and there’s even a Facebook page called Justice For Chicken Rendang which featured a petition demanding an apology from Wallace and Torode.

Everyone, and we mean everyone, from the Nusantara region came together, just to defend a dish we clearly love. But we can’t help but feel that there’s something else lying underneath this outbreak of rage, nationalism and cultural pride. Are we still pissed off about the past?

No doubt many mat sallehs have made Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and Singapore their homes and are well localised. They speak local languages fluently, they eat durians like royal musangs, and they are absolutely in love with local culture. But it’s still be there…. That story that your grandparents told you before you went to bed as a kid, of how they used to struggle under British rule. Those Primary and Secondary School History Lessons that demonised the colonialists. That feeling of being collectively wronged in the past, no matter which side of the political sphere we stood on–nationalist, communist, liberal, conservative… we were all labelled as “savages”.

We’re not saying that locals don’t listen to Westerners’ advice on anything. But when arrogance is thrown in, and since the subject of the argument is something that belongs to the people of this region, it just reopens an old scar leaving many locals with the thought that if you’re not from this place, you don’t get to have a say on anything, especially on how our food should be cooked.

We’d say this will go down in history. People have been making comic strips, even editing John Torode’s Wikipedia page.

(source: Twitter)

5. Let’s have some rendang ’cause music puts it all in perspective

It is said that an intellectual is a person who explains a simple subject in a complicated way. An artist, therefore is the opposite–someone who explains a complex subject in a simple way.

So to keep the rendang in a plastic bekas and call it a day, here’s punk rock band Ben’s Bitches who gloriously made a song about the dish (albeit 2 years ago on their Hari Raya EP which also contained this song). Remember that you can never, ever menentang rendang.

This shows that food does unite people and that culture plays an important role in our lives. We pity John Torode, even with his Malaysian Adventure cooking show, he still has a lot to learn about this part of the world. And no, Roti John isn’t named after you.

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