Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Cook Top

My mother always says you can tell a lot about people just by what they eat. Apparently, this was how she decided my father was worthy of contributing to her children’s gene-pool.
            “On our second date, he took me to a Chinese restaurant and ordered fish. He zeroed in on the cheeks and the soft underbelly. That’s when I knew!”
            Of course, my sister has always felt this is a ridiculous way to decide on a husband.
            “It’s superficial, is what it is,” she said once to Mother. “Just because he likes fish cheeks didn’t necessarily mean he was a nice man! Sorry, Daddy! You’re lovely!”
            To his credit, Father, sitting at the other end of the table, shrugged and kept sipping his fish soup. Mother stared serenely across the dinner table at Michelle and replied, “Darling, why are we even having this discussion?” she murmured. “You’re nearly thirty and still single!”
            Well, that was the end of that conversation, though Michelle later e-mailed me wondering if it was at all possible that she might have been secretly adopted.
            Lately, I’ve been wondering what my Mother would make of Saffy and Amanda’s dietary habits and just what that might reveal about their personalities.
            “I’m sorry but I just don’t have time to cook!” Amanda said the other day after listening patiently to me moan that we were always eating out and that I was getting zits from all that heaty hawker food.
            “You’re sitting on the sofa reading Vogue,” I pointed out.
            “Sure, when you say it like that, it makes it sound like I’m being lazy,” Amanda said stiffly, or as stiffly as one can get while lounging provocatively in  Victoria’s Secret pajamas, “but reading Vogue is an essential part of my general knowledge. Some people watch Anderson Cooper on CNN, I read Hamish Bowles to keep up to date! And besides, why don’t you cook something for a change?”
            “Hello, I made chicken congee for lunch!” I said, praying that Amanda didn’t look into the rubbish bin in the kitchen and see the instant congee packet.
            “Hello, you made that from a packet!” Amanda snapped. “Don’t think I missed that in the bin!”
            Defeated, I turned around and went to my room. There are days, I reflected, when it’s just pointless to go head to head with a woman who came second in her class in Harvard while wearing hot-off-the-runway Marc Jacobs and Gucci.
            Of course, through some strange instant telepathy that women seem to have, Saffy heard about the argument two seconds after it happened because I had barely closed my bedroom door when my phone rang.
            “It’s me!” she announced. “I heard about your congee incident!”
            I blinked at my bedroom door. My hand was literally still on the knob. “How…”
            “So listen,” Saffy went on, “I’m at the supermarket. Shall I get something for dinner tonight?”
            “Is there another reason that you’re at the supermarket?” I asked.
            Saffy giggled. “I wanted to get hold of the latest Vanity Fair! The one with Caitlin Jenner on it! I always get my magazines at the supermarket. But I think it’s not out yet, so I might as well get some food while I’m here.”
            “What are you thinking of cooking?” I asked. Later it occurred to me that in all the time I’ve been living with Saffy and all the thousands of conversations I’ve had with her, I’ve literally never spoken that sentence to her.
            “Oh, don’t ask me! Cooking is so pointless. I don’t know why people do it. The time and effort it takes to do the groceries, wait in line for the check-out, get into a cab, excuse me, are you sure you don’t have the latest issue of Vanity Fair, unpack everything in the kitchen, cook and clean-up...It’s hours and hours. Next week? But the article is already up online! And it only takes twenty minutes to eat the stupid meal! Gosh, you know what that all sounds like? It sounds like dating!”
            Who are you talking to now?” I yelled over the phone.
            The idea that the tedious process of cooking is identical to dating has absorbed Saffy’s attention for days now. She says it explains her ambivalent attitude to housework in general, and cooking in particular.
            “I mean, why would you in general?” she asked this morning. “The payoff is so pitiful! Especially if after all that effort of getting that date, you end up fat!”
            Sharyn thinks she lives in a world gone mad. Her exact words were, “Aiyoh, how like that?” If I wasn’t so distracted wondering what's for dinner, I’d be inclined to agree with her.

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