Regular readers will know that in the little flat I share with Saffy and Amanda, we’re prone to flash obsessions.
One minute we’re hyperventilating at the mere mention of “The Following” and the next, we’re cyber-stalking Kai Kai and Jia Jia, the two insanely cuddly pandas at River Safari.
Of course, we’re triumphant at dinner parties because we can talk about just about anything to anyone. Amanda can switch effortlessly from the latest Victoria’s Secret Fashion collection to why Hillary Clinton is, despite her fondness for pant-suits, the best Secretary of State. Ever.
I once completely charmed my boss when I spent the whole evening at a party discussing with his fifteen-year old daughter just how unsuitable Selena Gomez was for Justin Bieber. We were, like, instant BFF. The next day, he gave me a pay rise.
Our current obsession is food in general, and food in China specifically.
The other day, at breakfast, Saffy was scrolling through her iPhone when she suddenly squealed.
“Oh my God, you guys have got to see this!” she said. Immediately, our phones pinged with incoming messages.
It was a website link called Ministry of Tofu and the first item was a sequence of photos that showed someone inserting a piece of rubber into the forehead of a dead duck so that it would now look like a dead goose.
“But why…” Amanda began. “Oh…”
Apparently, roast goose is more expensive than a roast duck, so some clever Billy in Guangdong decided to cheat and pretend a duck was a goose and sell it at a higher margin.
Saffy was impressed. “I tell you, the Chinese are just so entrepreneurial!”
Amanda blinked. “Uhm, you’re not in the least bit outraged?”
“Why? You think your precious Birkin bag actually costs $15,000 to make?”
Amanda was outraged. “Excuse me, but how is making a fake goose the same as an authentic made in France bag?”
Saffy was unruffled by the italics. From experience, she knew the best way to win an argument with a lawyer, especially one educated at Harvard, is to change the subject while pretending it’s still the same subject, thereby completely derailing the conversation. “It’s whatchamacallit, caveman empty?”
Amanda blinked again. “What?”
“You know, when it’s your responsibility to check what you buy and if you don’t, it’s your fault if you bought a dud!”
It took a moment. “Oh, you mean caveat emptor!”
Saffy beamed. “There you go. God, you’re so clever, Amanda, to know all that satin, I mean, Latin!”
Unused to praise, Amanda visibly swelled. Then she frowned. “Wait, so what are we talking about?”
For days, we trawled through the Ministry of Tofu, alternating between horror at the chemicals and additives and downright culinary cheating to be found in Chinese restaurants, and complete admiration that someone actually found the time to come up with the different scams in the first place. It was riveting.
Of course, Sharyn had her own perspective on the whole thing.
“Yah, lah, the world got food shortage, mah! Sure must find substi-tute, right? We Chinese are very clever, one!”
“Food shortage?” said Amanda who only ever eats a salad leaf for dinner these days.
“Abaden? You know, hah, in America, each American throw away 400 pound of food, you know or not? UK lagi worse, ah, I tell you. Each year throw away 7.2m tonne! How not to have food shortage like that, I ask you?”
Saffy, unused to having numbers thrown at her like this from a best friend who normally only complains about the quality of her married sex life, was reduced to silence and a blank stare. Only the rhythmic heave of her bosom indicated she was still alive.
“Some more, hor,” Sharyn went on, “the world throw away thirty to fifty per cent of the food it produce! And now America got worse drought in fifty year! One six of corn production kena! I tell you, ah, ten year from now, we all con-firm die, one!”
Amanda later said that it was one of the most unsettling conversations she’s ever had in her life, including the one she had when she was thirteen with her mother about how a new friend was going to be visiting her every month for the rest of her life. “What the hell was that?”
“It was like a scene out of ‘Rain Man’,” Saffy confirmed, adding, “but in Singlish!”
“Speaking of, did you know that Dustin Hoffman is now seventy-six?” Amanda piped up.
“No, really. I wonder what skin care he’s using. He looks amazing!”
“I am ob-sessed with him!” Saffy said. Her eyes shone.