The Japanese have something called koans, which is a whole series of very ancient existential questions that have no answer but which are supposed to make you think so hard you swear you’ll pee in your pants. That’s how powerful they are.
“If a tree falls in a forest and there’s no one there, does it still make a noise?”
Or “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”
It’s enough to drive you mad. Though kids today – ie, anyone born in a year beginning with a 2 – would probably sniff and say, “Yeah, well, how about this one? ‘How big is Kim Kardashian’s butt?’”, a question that would probably keep a Japanese monk all tied up in knots till the end of time.
Or at the very least, till lunch.
Which brings me to the subject of this week’s column.
In the little flat I share with Saffy and Amanda, nothing exercises our imaginations more than the question “What’s for lunch?”
Every day, round about 11.30am, we ask the same question. We could be in a tiny little boat on a lake in Nepal and Amanda will stop rowing suddenly and ask our tour guide, “So, what’s for lunch?”
Saffy once shot her hand up during an intense management meeting on succession planning for the board of directors. The chair, expecting a probing question from the HR director, beamed down the long conference table and said, “Yes, you have a question, Saffy?”
Sharyn, sitting two chairs down, reported that Saffy’s chest puffed up to a dangerous volume. “Yes, please, I do. When are we breaking for lunch? And do we know what’s for lunch? Because I wasn’t in charge of catering for this meeting, so I have no idea.”
As Sharyn later said in a distinctly disgruntled way, “Like that also can get pay increment!”
The root of the problem is, of course, Facebook. Have you noticed how all people seem to do these days is post food shots? Every time you refresh your page, there’s another picture of food. A big plate of sashimi. Big chunks of barbequed meat. A tray of muffins so freshly emerged from the oven you can almost smell the chocolate chips. Every second of the day, someone somewhere is eating something and is making sure it all ends up on Facebook.
“It’s so annoying!” Saffy said the other day. It was 10.30am and she’d called me to complain.
“Doesn’t your company have some kind of Facebook restriction during office hours?” I said. “And weren’t you the one who implemented it?”
Saffy sniffed. “I only banned Facebook on office computers. I never specified that you couldn’t look at Facebook on your phone! Which is what I’m doing. God, Anne just put up a picture of a big bowl of laksa!”
“Ooh,” I said. “I wouldn’t mind some laksa for lunch!”
“Right?” Saffy said. “Stupid Anne. She’s always tormenting me with her fabulous food shots!”
“And some rojak,” I added, suddenly thinking of it.
Of course, weekends are just sheer torture seeing as we’re usually too lazy to step out the front door to even go down to the local hawker centre – a sad state of first world problems that led Amanda to wonder why hawkers didn’t do home delivery.
“Isn’t that a niche market?” she wondered.
I gently pointed out if hawkers home delivered, that $4.50 plate of char kway teow would end up costing $10 to which Amanda, owner of five Hermes Birkins, shrugged.
“No, seriously, what’s for lunch?” Saffy asked.
Amanda struggled off the couch and staggered into the kitchen. She poked her head into our fridge.
“We’ve got some leftover roast lamb!” came her muffled voice. She stuck her head around the corner out of the kitchen. “I also found an old Prima Taste packet the other day. I could make a vegetarian curry with the lamb.”
Saffy blinked. “How would it be vegetarian if it’s got lamb in it?”
Amanda looked perplexed. “Well, it’ll be a vegetable curry with lamb! What? Why are you looking at me like that? That makes total sense!”
“Well, how long is all that going to take?” Saffy said, the edge of a whine creeping into her voice.
“The rice will take 20 minutes in the cooker. I just need to sauté the lamb in the spice mix, add a tin of coconut and some chopped vegetables and we’re all set!” Amanda said brightly. Then her face fell. “Except…except we don’t have any coconut milk and I juiced the last of our carrots this morning.”
“And we have no rice,” I added.
Sharyn says it’s a good thing none of us has any children. “Confirm all die, one!”