Have you ever been at a restaurant and looked around you at the other tables and wondered what people are talking about? If they’re talking at all, that is. I’ve seen entire tables ignore each other as they look at their phones.
But the ones that are talking…what are they discussing? Do they debate, for instance, how much money Kim Kardashian has in her purse? Or what Jennifer Lawrence’s bathroom looks like? What Brad Pitt’s will says?
A few nights ago, if you’d been passing by the Thai restaurant Saffy, Amanda and I were at, this is what you would have heard.
“You know,” Saffy said, looking up from her fruit platter, “have you ever wondered how they get these pomelos so perfectly clean and perfect?”
Amanda stuck another spoonful of red ruby into her mouth. “What do you mean?” she asked, crunching noisily on water-chestnuts.
Saffy held up a pink crescent. Amanda and I leaned in. “Look at this. You can see every single bit of pulp. And there’s not a streak of white on it. I’ve never been able to achieve this at home. It always breaks apart at the edges or there’s bits of white skin on it. But when you go to restaurants, they all look like this. Perfect!” Saffy turned the pomelo piece around, staring at it the way a cat eyes a mouse. “I wonder how they do it?”
As soul-searching questions go, this wasn’t one for the books, but it says something about how intellectually unstimulated we must have been because straight after dinner, we swung by Cold Storage and picked up a pomelo.
Back at home, in our kitchen, Saffy took out the sharpest knife we had in the drawer and proceeded to cut up open the fruit. First, she sliced off the ends, and then made shallow cuts around it.
“I’ll always remember Esther saying I had to make longitudinal cuts and not latitudes,” Saffy said as she sawed away. “I had to look up with that meant. She’s so brainy. I wonder what she’s up to now.”
“Please concentrate,” Amanda murmured.
“Please concentrate,” Amanda murmured.
Once the cuts had been made, Saffy started peeling off the pieces to leave behind a considerably smaller fruit encased in cotton wool white fibrous peel.
“See, and this is where it all goes south,” Saffy said, warming up to her geographical theme. “I cut through this, I see the pink flesh…I start peeling away the white stuff…See?! See how the whole thing breaks apart? And there’s all this white stuff stuck between the grooves! It’s so aggravating!”
So, we called Sharyn.
“Wah, you all very free, hor!” she said. “How I know? I neh-ber peel before. My maid always do, but I cannot ask her now, she go home on holiday, so I very busy! All I do is wash clothes! Sian, ah!”
“You have to say ‘helper’, Shazz,” Saffy pointed out. “No one says ‘maid’, anymore!”
“Who say?” Sharyn asked belligerently. As Saffy later observed, clearly, doing the laundry was not a mood-lifter in Sharyn’s household.
So, we went onto YouTube, or iGuru, as Amanda calls it. “I swear, you can find everything on it!”
“Well, most things…” Saffy said significantly.
And there it was. An entire list of videos on how to peel a pomelo. “That’s so weird,” Amanda said. “People must be very free. Why would you ever take the time to film the peeling of a pomelo?”
“Sharyn would just die if she was here right now!” Saffy observed and giggled disloyally.
“Let’s just pick one. Here, click this one,” Amanda said to Saffy.
We watched the video in silence. It just showed a pair of hands, a knife and a pomelo. Oddly, there was no sound, just cutting and peeling. The silence grew increasingly fraught. At the end of the eight minutes, Saffy blinked and sat back in her chair. “Huh!”
“Is it just me,” Amanda said, “or is that a lot of touching and handling of the fruit?”
“That’s really gross!” Saffy said, her bosom rising in emphasis. “No one seems to be wearing gloves!”
“Think of all the germs we’ve been eating!” Amanda added.
“I’m sure people wear gloves,” I said.
“You don’t know that,” Saffy said darkly. “This could be the next raw fish scandal!”
Amanda moaned. “I swear, I’m never eating a pomelo in a restaurant ever again!”
Just then, Saffy noticed a YouTube video on how to cut a pineapple. To take our minds off the pomelo, we watched that. And after that, we watched one one cutting a watermelon. Then, a papaya. A mango. An orange. We didn’t get to bed till 1 a.m.
Sharyn thinks we should all be deported. “Waste of space, you all!”