Friday, August 13, 2010

Displeasures of the table

Diets are strange things. It makes normally sensible people do things that if, properly fed, they would never dream of doing. Like drink wheatgrass juice, for instance. Which bright spark watched a cow slowly munch its way through a field and thought to himself, “Hmm, I wonder if I could turn this stuff into a drink and convince people to pay to drink it?”

Well, you know the answer to that one. These days, even your humble kopitiam drinks store sells wheatgrass juice when the much yummier sugar cane juice is ignored.

Which wouldn’t be so bad if the stuff actually tasted good. But it doesn’t. It just tastes as if someone grabbed a bunch of grass from some padang, mulched it up with some water and charged you $5 for a tiny shot.

“It’s really good for you!” Saffy said to me the other day at a hotel cafe as she tried to convince me to drink the stuff.

“I’m not drinking something that cows eat!” I said.

Saffy’s bosom heaved pneumatically. “Oh, it’s not that kind of grass, it’s a…it’s a special kind of grass from…from somewhere!” she said vaguely. “Drink it, it’s really good for you!”

How is it good for me?” I asked belligerently.

“It’s very cleansing and detoxing!” she said, sounding very much like a commercial for a facial wash. “You know how cows poo all the time? It’s the exact same thing!”

I told her that she really needed to work on her sales pitch, got up and walked off.

Later that night at dinner, it was all Saffy could talk about.

“You are such a…such a man!” she said triumphantly, trotting out her worst insult. “It was just wheatgrass juice and you should have seen him run for the hills, Amanda! It’s no wonder men don’t give birth. We’d all be dead!” she added ominously.

“Are you sure that stuff works?” Amanda said, helping herself to a serving of beef rendang from our favourite hawker down the road. “It sure sounds like a complete scam!”

“It’s amazing,” Saffy insisted. “Next to fried beehoon, it’s the only thing that keeps me regular. And let me tell you that the results are spectacular!”

“Please, I’m eating!” I complained.

“But why are you drinking it?” Amanda asked.

“It’s my new diet!”

Amanda and I both rolled our eyes. Diets are to Saffy what oxygen is to the rest of it. But whereas most people cut out food items when they’re on a diet, Saffy draws emotional and physical sustenance from the fact that she’s ingesting only food of a certain kind.

Once she ate only steak but gave that up within a week when she realized that she couldn’t afford sirloin for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The Atkins Diet kept her fully occupied for two weeks until the exhausting job of keeping track of what she could and couldn’t eat, and in which portions, defeated even her singular focus.

And then there was the time she embarked on a diet that comprised entirely of cabbage soup and nothing else. She kept us all awake with her thunderous farts which, in turn, killed all the house plants.

“What’s different about this one, then?” I asked.

“It’s based on wheatgrass juice, lots of protein and plenty of vegetables! It’s amazing. I found it on the internet. I’ve lost two grams since I started!”

Amanda turned to me and said, “What’s amazing is that she could actually say that without the slightest sense of embarrassment.”

I snorted into my rice.

“So why,” Amanda went on, “if you’re trying to lose weight, are we having this nasi padang meal?”

“What! It’s beef ! Which is high in protein!”

“But there are no vegetables!”

Saffy looked surprised. “Sure there are,” she said. “It’s got chilli in it! What! Chillis are vegetables!”

And so, we’re now on day three of Saffy’s wheatgrass, protein and vegetable diet. She says she’s lost a hundred grams, though Amanda says that’s probably just from all the cardio activity from the number of times Saffy steps on and off the bathroom scales.

This morning, I walked into the kitchen and caught her spooning a big heap of sugar into her wheatgrass juice.

“What!” she said, immediately going on the offensive. “It’s too bitter. It actually tastes green! The sugar just takes the edge off it! It’s allowed. Sugar’s carbs and I’m allowed to have some carbs! You’re all so judgmental!”

Amanda is giving the whole thing a week, tops. “Seriously, I just wish people wouldn’t fall for these silly fad diets. The only way to lose weight is to have a regular herbal tea colonic irrigation!”

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