“My God,” my flatmate Amanda said a few weeks ago. “Americans eat 10 billion animals a year, of which 33 million are cows!”
She said this right in the middle of a dinner that consisted of a particularly delicious beef rendang, an oyster omelet and beef hor fun.
Saffy looked up, her mouth frozen in mid-chew.
“Show?” she mumbled. She swallowed and tried again. “So?”
Amanda blinked. “Don’t you think that’s a lot of cows?”
Saffy’s shrug spoke volumes, but she still felt compelled to add another chapter. “There are a lots of people in America. What’s your point?”
“Well, I was at work and I was really bored, so I watched an old episode of Oprah on YouTube. She and her office went on a week-long vegan diet.”
“Why?” Saffy asked, as she helped herself to some of the oyster omelet.
“It was all a part of being more conscious about what we eat. Seventy percent of American health care costs is directly linked to diet! Can you imagine that?” Amanda tossed her luxuriant hair and shuddered delicately, even as she looked suspiciously at the beef rendang.
As Saffy later complained to her best friend Sharyn, we’re all so used to Amanda only ever reading Vogue and shopping at Prada that when she suddenly starts talking in percentages, statistics and healthcare, it’s a completely out of body experience.
“It’s like walking in on your parents having sex!” Saffy insisted.
Sharyn coughed and choked up her mouthful of bak kut teh. “Ay, you ah!” she said, flapping a soggy tissue at Saffy. “Why you must always talk about such things when we are eating? Where got anyhow walk in on your parents having sex, one? Your house don’t have door locks, is it? Aiyoh!”
“I’m just saying! It’s so weird! And the worst part of it is that just because Oprah and her staff went on this crazy assed diet, she’s made us go on it too!”
“Es-cue me, but what is a vegan diet? Is vegetarian, right? Why so cheem?”
“You can’t eat eggs, milk, cheese, any form of dairy products really, and no meat and no seafood.”
Sharyn’s eyes bulged. “Hah, fish also cannot, ah?”
“Nothing!” Saffy’s bosom inflated at the dietary unfairness of it all.
“Then can eat what?”
“Vegetables, grains, beans!”
“Oh, is that why you are only having rice and stir-fry veggies today? I was wondering why you don’t eat your nasi lemak like normal.”
“I'm so miserable!” Saffy said as she sadly moved her string beans around her plate, hoping to find that an oily piece of Hainanese chicken had miraculously appeared when she wasn’t paying attention.
Me, I’m getting really sick and tired of eating pasta and beans. And not to be too delicate about it, I also find that I’m extremely gassy. Often, explosively so. I’ve given up having meetings because too many people have asked me why I look so strained. I want to tell them the truth, that it’s the immense effort of keeping in all those thunderous farts, but I don’t because I know I may as well kiss goodbye to my career if I do that.
And the smell! My God.
“Oh, that’s just the body adjusting itself to the new diet,” Amanda said loftily the other day. “It’ll go away eventually. But don’t you feel better with this new diet?”
“No, not really!” Saffy snapped. “I’m cranky and from the moment I wake up, I crave fried chicken wings or a big bag of Old Chang Kee curry puffs!”
“Ooh, the ones with the hard boiled egg in them?” I sighed.
“This is really the stupidest diet ever, Amanda,” Saffy said, her face turning pink with emotion. “If God had meant for us to be vegans, he wouldn’t have invented laksa or kaya!”
Today is day six of our vegan experiment. The windows in our apartment are always open on account of the fact that we’re all still extremely gassy and if our desperate craving for ice-cream or char kway teow doesn’t kill us, the smell of our farts certainly will.
“I will say though,” Saffy murmured quietly to me this morning, “that my skin seems to have cleared up. Look, I’ve got no make-up on, but there’s a bit of a glow to the skin, no?”
I asked her if she was sure it wasn’t just her oily T-zone, a comment that prompted her to immediately text Sharyn that all men are absolute pigs. Which, of course, started her thinking about the crispy roast pork she’s going to have at Crystal Jade the day after tomorrow.
Sharyn says that no one ever believes her when she tells them how weird we are.