Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Heart Stopping

One of the sure signs you’re getting old is that you find yourself reading newspaper articles you would once have not even looked at as you flipped pages on your way to the movie listings. (Another is the fact that you’re reading an actual newspaper instead of getting all the breaking news of the day from Twitter and Facebook.)
            The other day, at the breakfast table, Amanda looked up from the newspaper and said something so peculiar, even Saffy stopped painting her nails to stare.
            “What?” Saffy said.
            Amanda blinked. “I said we need to eat a weekly portion of salmon if we’re to avoid arthritis.”
            “Again…what?” Saffy said, as she dipped the nail brush back into the bottle and screwed it shut so that she could devote her full attention to what was clearly going to be a bizarre conversation.
            Amanda thought she wasn’t being understood because she said “Well, it doesn’t have to be salmon. It can be any kind of oily fish.”
            Saffy looked at me for help.
            I put down my 8DAYS and sighed. “I think what Saffy means is, why are you talking to us using a sentence that involves the words ‘we’ and ‘arthritis’?”
            Saffy’s impressive bosom inflated in agreement. “Yes, thank you, that’s exactly it.”
            Amanda paused and you could tell her Harvard-trained brain was churning at light-speed, trying to work out an appropriate response that delivered maximum impact but without causing undue offense.
            “Uhm…it’s a preventative measure!” she said finally, though as Saffy later complained to her best friend Sharyn, it wasn’t so much Amanda’s presumption that we were all at the age when we might be at risk of getting arthritis that was offensive, it was the fact that she actually vocalized the thought. To us.
            Sharyn’s eyes looked huge behind her Coke bottle-thick glasses. “You think you very young, is it?” Saffy bristled at this, but Sharyn changed tack and powered on. “And anyway, the udder day, hor, I read about this fifteen year old girl, she also got arthritis! So poor ting!”
            The diversion worked because Saffy paused. “Fifteen? You can get arthritis at such an early age?”
            “Abuthen?” said Sharyn, qualified orthopedic surgeon.
            Which is why when we got home that evening, we found Saffy in a very smoky kitchen trying to pan fry salmon steaks.
            “Why is there so much smoke?” Amanda shouted over the noise of the exhaust fan.
            “I think I’ve just burnt the fish!” Saffy shouted back.
            We ended up having nasi padang at our local hawker stall. “Is this salmon?” Saffy asked the auntie, pointing at a curry dish. The woman smiled sweetly, exposing a row of shiny gums with no teeth, and nodded. Amanda later said that if what we were eating was salmon, then she was Nigella Lawson.
            A few days later, to celebrate Sharyn’s birthday, Saffy decided to bake a cake. “I think home-made cakes are always so much better than store bought,” she said as she flipped through her stack of Nigella cookbooks that she’s accumulated over the years. “So much healthier, too. I mean look at the woman! She looks amazing!”
            “Why are these cookbooks so new?” Amanda asked.
            “I only buy them for the pictures,” Saffy replied. “But this recipe looks easy enough.”
            Forty minutes into the prep, Saffy was defeated. She called me while I was magazine browsing in Kinokuniya. “I can’t make this cake!” she sobbed. “It’s too much!”
            “Isn’t it like a one bowl cake?” I asked. “You just throw all the ingredients into a bowl, mix and bake!”
            “It’s not that,” Saffy sniffed. “It’s got like 200 grams of butter!”
            I blinked. “Is that a lot?”
            “It’s an entire block of butter!” Horror leaked down the phone line. “And that’s without the icing which is another big block! And there’s like 300 grams of sugar! Do you know what 300 grams of sugar looks like? It’s a…a lot!” By now, she was breathing in shallow gasps. “At first, I thought our scales were wrong. My God, is this what goes into a cake? It’s no wonder I’m fat!”
            Of course, Sharyn doesn’t know what the fuss is about. “Aiyah, everything got fat and sugar, what! Why you tink your chicken rice taste so good? Or your you tiao? Or your moon cake! All got fat, what! That’s why you buy and not make yourself. Udder-wise, hor, you sure never eat, one!”
            Traumatised, Saffy threw out all her Nigella cookbooks and for a week now, she’s just been eating salads with no dressing. Every so often, you can hear her mutter, “Two hundred grams! My God!”

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