Day 243 : Diner en Blanc Drew a Blank

Singapore saw red over a white-themed picnic recently that resulted in a furore of nationalism. Suddenly, everyone’s united to stand by our Singaporean identity. Be it tau huay or cooking curry, food has became our cultural weapons.

You can criticise our government, we can protest National Service, but don’t insult with our cuisines!

The inaugural Diner en Blanc docked at Marina Bay Sands.

The controversial event in question was Diner en Blanc, an outdoor picnic concept originating from France where attendance is by-invite only. Apparently, more than 8,000 people applied to participate in Diner en Blanc but only 888 were picked.

I went because Juliana invited me. If not for her, I would not have known of its existence. But my attendance was reluctant right from the beginning, even before the whole food fight started. I wasn’t keen because I feel intimidated at chi-chi events or in the company of thoroughbred Singaporeans speaking English with rolled tongues. I find comfort in my LAHs, MEHs and HORs.

Ang moh Guanyin Ma. It was a parade of high fashion with guests coming in long flowing dresses, huge sun hats (at night) and constructed suits.

I have nothing against Diner en Blanc and what it represents (the picnic started in France 24 years ago as a gathering for friends and later spread to the rest of the world as a posh picnic party at exotic locations), to me, the rukus about the event’s organisers dissing local food as being too low-class for the event was the result of toxic public relations.

However, I do take issue with the PR company uninviting invited bloggers to the event on the pretext of not having enough space. I wasn’t an invited blogger but a couple of my prominent blogger friends were. It’s either the organisers are terrible planners to not foresee the space issue in the beginning or that they treat bloggers as second-class citizens. The ‘no space’ excuse sounded like a bull defecating. From what I saw, there was plenty of space for more tables at the event venue.

Dress in white, pay an al fresco restaurant to bring your own food, table, chairs and cutleries… and you get Diner en Blanc.

When I learnt about the disrespect Diner en Blanc showed my blogger friends, I told Juliana I no longer wanted to go. But she’d already paid for a bottle of champagne (S$85) and white wine (S$30).

Juliana tried getting a refund but it wasn’t allowed. Not wanting to loogi the hard earned cash, we decided to go anyway and see what’s the big deal about the exclusive picnic party.

Char siew baos tasted so good with champagne!

Juliana prepared a wonderful spread complete with delightfully floral table decorations. I felt really bad because I didn’t lift a finger to help with any preparation for the night picnic. I don’t share her enthusiasm and passion in couture dining. I prefer to keep things simple.

The organiser’s stance on the food to bring was that they must be made with care and discourages da-bao (packaged) food. Yet they held Diner en Blanc on a Thursday night at 6pm. Guests were actually encouraged to take half a day off work to prepare for the picnic. On top of that, there were many rules and regulations to follow. So mah-fan (cumbersome)!

Singapore is the first Asian country to host Diner en Blanc. Will it be a one time only event?

During the picnic, a live band serenaded guests with some entertainment and a moment where everyone lit up sparklers. That’s about it.

My camera ran out of juice so I didn’t take more photos than I wanted to but then again, there wasn’t much to remember about the event except the immense trouble Juliana went through to make the evening special. I guess that’s the spirit of Diner en Blanc, a celebration of friendship!


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