My flatmate Amanda is a firm believer that if you can’t be personal friends with the rich and famous, you can at least try to have the same lifestyle as they do. So, if she spots in a gossip magazine, Jennifer Aniston carrying, say, a $6,000 Dolce & Gabbana handbag while shopping at the supermarket, she will rush out and get the same bag and then head out to her nearest Jason’s.
Once, she even got Saffy to spring out from behind the cereal aisle and start snapping pictures of her, like the paparazzi. Except this encounter involved Saffy repeating, “Oh no, wait, I have to do it again, I don’t think I got the flash on!” After a few takes and a few complaints from customers, the supermarket manager showed up with security and threw them both out.
Recently, Amanda started subscribing to Gwyneth Paltrow’s web newsletter. For reasons I’ve never fully understood, Gwyneth’s website is called Goop. Goop is a peek into her fabulous life. If you’ve ever lain in bed wide awake, tormented by what kind of yoga mat Gwyneth Paltrow uses, Goop will tell you. It will also tell you what sort of festive treats she has in store for her family, her favourite gifts to give, the kind of food she loves to serve her family, her general approach to life, love and everything.
One of Gwyneth’s recent newsletters to her devoted fans involved tips on how to throw a Hannukah dinner and Christmas breakfast. Tip number one to keeping, in her words, the crazy to a minimum, Gwyneth says it's nice to have your menu designed and printed out for you to display on the table.
“That’s her very first tip?” Saffy asked at when she peered at the printout that Amanda had given each of us. “Design and print out a menu? Amanda, we live in Toa Payoh, not the White House!”
More to the point, I said, were we having a dinner party? Because this was the first I’d heard about it.
“First course,” Saffy read out, “apple and potato latkes. That doesn’t sound very interesting. What are latkes?”
“I can’t think of anything more revolting,” I said. “Apple and potatoes? Really?”
Of course, the reality is that someone like Gwyneth will not be in the kitchen making apple and potato latkes when she entertains, especially if you have no idea what a latke is in the first place. The woman is too busy making the Iron Man sequel and posing in expensive handbag ads for Coach.
“And being a mother and wife of a rock-star,” Saffy added.
The Christmas breakfast menu also has home-made turkey sausage, an item that prompted Saffy to observe that if that didn’t give her instant constipation, she didn’t know what would.
“I think it all sounds fabulous,” Amanda said stubbornly.
“Amanda,” I said, “you realize that the only people that can really do a menu like this have help or staff or both, right? I bet it's been years since Gwyneth stepped into a supermarket.”
In loving detail, the newsletter went on to outline the party preparations for ‘Two Days Before’ the party, the ‘Day Before’, the ‘Evening Before’, the ‘Day of’, ‘Two Hours Before’, and ‘Ten Minutes Later’.
Then, there’s a section on ‘Conversation’ where Gwyneth suggests what you should talk about at the dinner party that you’ve just planned right down to the minute. Some topics include: What’s sexier – humour or kindness?, and If you could relive a day of your past, which would it be?
“Oh, that’s an easy one,” Saffy said. “It would be the one before this stupid dinner party you think we’re going to have!”
“Why can’t we just order in pizza?” I whined.
“Because I think it would be fun to do this!” Amanda said desperately, her fantasy of a Gwyneth dinner part vaporizing before the sullen mutiny of her flatmates. “Look, she’s told us what to do, step by step. It’s so easy!”
Saffy glared at her printout. “My God, listen to what she tells us to do an hour before the guests arrive: ‘Dim the lights. Start your playlist. Light the fireplace if you have one. And definitely light a candle, which sets a welcoming tone and makes the house smell great. The holiday scents from Linnea’s Lights are pretty insane.”
“I’d have gone insane long before that happened!” I got up and headed for the door.
“Where are you going?” Amanda asked.
“To get some char kway teow,” I said.
“Ooh, I’m coming with you,” Saffy cooed. “Wait, should we bring a scented candle?” She gave Amanda a look.