Sunday, August 20, 2017

Half Baked

It always amuses me to think that, once upon a time, someone actually stood at the bottom of Mount Everest, looked up and said, “You know what, I think I should climb to the top of that.”
            My sister says it’s very unlikely that this person was ever one of our ancestors. “Can you imagine Mother climbing?” she asked me once when we were about 12 and stuck at home, utterly bored, during the school holidays.
            “She climbed up to the second floor at Tiffany’s yesterday,” I observed.
            “Well, that’s different,” Michelle said with a cynicism she’s never outgrown. “The diamonds are on the second floor. If there were diamonds on Mount Everest, that Edmund Hilary would never have stood a chance. Why would anyone bother otherwise?”
            This all came back to me a few days ago when Saffy announced at breakfast that she would make biscotti to bring to Carol's dinner party.
            Amanda paused applying her mascara and looked up from her compact mirror. “Saf, you don’t cook,” she said eventually.
            Saffy’s bosom immediately puffed up. “I do so! Just the other day, I made Maggi mee!”
            “You boiled the soup dry and almost set the kitchen on fire!”
            “Seriously, are you still going on about that? It was just a little bit of smoke! And besides, I was distracted by Dr Pimple Popper’s ‘Top 10 Lipomas’!”
            Amanda rolled her eyes and went back to painting her eyelashes, clearly done with the conversation.
            “I just think it would make such a nice present to bring to parties,” Saffy went on. “People are so lazy, they’re always bringing a bottle of wine to a party. I mean, what if you don’t drink?”
            Amanda looked up again. “Am I friends with anyone who doesn’t drink?”
            “Well, I don’t dri…” Saffy began. “Wait, what?”
            Amanda dropped her eyes.
            Later that afternoon, I stood in the kitchen leaning against the sink and watched Saffy struggle with the dough. “Can you believe she said that to my face?” she fumed, completely oblivious to the sprays of ground almond and white dustings of icing sugar all over the kitchen counter and floor.
            “Seriously, why are you doing this?” I asked in as supportive a tone as I could muster. “You could buy a whole box for less than ten bucks at Culina.”
            Saffy blew a strand of hair out of her eyes. “Store bought rubbish! I’m all about being artisanal this year.”
            “Which is what the Culina biscotti are,” I pointed out. “They’re made by real Italians in Italy.”
            “Yes, but imagine how impressed everyone will be when I show up tonight at Carol’s party with a nice little bag of home-made biscotti!” Saffy said, as she struggled to shape the wet dough on the baking tray. “I’m going to wrap it up with a pretty red ribbon like on Martha Stewart’s Instagram!”
            “You know Martha Stewart doesn’t actually make any of those things herself, right? That’s because she’s very rich. She probably doesn’t even know she has an Instagram account. What’s the matter?” I asked, sensing a level of distress on Saffy’s face.
            “Why is it so mushy?” she said, a definite whine underlining her words. “The recipe says it should be a wet dough that I roll into a log! This isn’t a log!” She leaned over her iPad again and read the recipe, her lips moving silently.
            “And add the crushed hazelnuts…Wait! What crushed hazelnuts? There are crushed hazelnuts? What? Where does it say…oh…my…God….”
            I straightened up. “You forgot the hazelnuts?”
            “I forgot the hazelnuts!” Saffy moaned, her entire body now trembling in simpatico with her vibrating bosom. “Oh God…the whole thing is ruined!”
            That evening at Carol’s, as Saffy grumpily set down her bottle of store-bought wine on the kitchen table, Carol said cheerily, “Oh, thanks for the wine, Saf! Here, try these biscotti that Sharyn made! They’re so good!”
            Sharyn turned pink. “Aiyah, pai-seh! It’s nothing, lah! I long time never make, but then, hor, I think nicer bring home made biscuit.”
            “It’s delicious! And I loved the red ribbon! I could seriously eat a whole plate of these! You must give me the recipe!”
            Sharyn flapped her hand, shaken by all the attention and growing steadily uneasy by the intensity of Saffy’s gaze. “Yah, yah, ok. I give you. Actually, hor, is uh…is Saffy recipe I…I use…Ay, Saffy, why you look like that, har? Ay…”




Monday, August 14, 2017

Party Favours

It always amuses me to think that, once upon a time, someone actually stood at the bottom of Mount Everest, looked up and said, “You know what, I think I should climb to the top of that.”
            My sister says it’s very unlikely that this person was ever one of our ancestors. “Can you imagine Mother climbing?” she asked me once when we were about 12 and stuck at home, utterly bored, during the school holidays.
            “She climbed up to the second floor at Tiffany’s yesterday,” I observed.
            “Well, that’s different,” Michelle said with a cynicism she’s never outgrown. “The diamonds are on the second floor. If there were diamonds on Mount Everest, that Edmund Hilary would never have stood a chance. Why would anyone bother otherwise?”
            This all came back to me last year at Christmas when Saffy announced at breakfast that she would, in the spirit of Christmas, make biscotti.
            Amanda paused applying her mascara and looked up from her compact mirror. “Saf, you don’t cook,” she said eventually.
            Saffy’s bosom immediately puffed up. “I do so! Just the other day, I made Maggi mee!”
            “You boiled the soup dry and almost set the kitchen on fire!”
            “Seriously, are you still going on about that? It was just a little bit of smoke! And besides, I was distracted by Dr Pimple Popper’s ‘Top 10 Lipomas’!”
            Amanda rolled her eyes and went back to painting her eyelashes, clearly done with the conversation.
            “I just think it would make such a nice present to bring to parties,” Saffy went on. “People are so lazy, they’re always bringing a bottle of wine to a party. I mean, what if you don’t drink?”
            Amanda looked up again. “Am I friends with anyone who doesn’t drink?”
            “Well, I don’t dri…” Saffy began. “Wait, what?”
            Amanda dropped her eyes.
            Later that afternoon, I stood in the kitchen leaning against the sink and watched Saffy struggle with the dough. “Can you believe she said that to my face?” she fumed, completely oblivious to the sprays of ground almond and white dustings of icing sugar all over the kitchen counter and floor.
            “Seriously, why are you doing this?” I asked in as supportive a tone as I could muster. “You could buy a whole box for less than ten bucks at Culina.”
            Saffy blew a strand of hair out of her eyes. “Store bought rubbish! I’m all about being artisanal this Christmas.”
            “Which is what the Culina biscotti are,” I pointed out. “They’re made by real Italians in Italy.”
            “Yes, but imagine how impressed everyone will be when I show up tonight at Carol’s Christmas party with a nice little bag of home-made biscotti!” Saffy said, as she struggled to shape the wet dough on the baking tray. “I’m going to wrap it up with a pretty red ribbon like on Martha Stewart’s Instagram!”
            “You know Martha Stewart doesn’t actually make any of those things herself, right? That’s because she’s very rich. She probably doesn’t even know she has an Instagram account. What’s the matter?” I asked, sensing a level of distress on Saffy’s face.
            “Why is it so mushy?” she said, a definite whine underlining her words. “The recipe says it should be a wet dough that I roll into a log! This isn’t a log!” She leaned over her iPad again and read the recipe, her lips moving silently.
            “And add the crushed hazelnuts…Wait! What crushed hazelnuts? There are crushed hazelnuts? What? Where does it say…oh…my…God….”
            I straightened up. “You forgot the hazelnuts?”
            “I forgot the hazelnuts!” Saffy moaned, her entire body now trembling in simpatico with her vibrating bosom. “Oh God…the whole thing is ruined!”
            That evening at Carol’s, as Saffy grumpily set down her bottle of store-bought wine on the kitchen table, Carol said cheerily, “Oh, thanks for the wine, Saf! Here, try these biscotti that Sharyn made! They’re so good!”
            Sharyn turned pink. “Aiyah, pai-seh! It’s nothing, lah! I long time never make, but then, hor, I think nicer bring home made biscuit.”
            “It’s delicious! And I loved the red ribbon! I could seriously eat a whole plate of these! You must give me the recipe!”
            Sharyn flapped her hand, shaken by all the attention and growing steadily uneasy by the intensity of Saffy’s gaze. “Yah, yah, ok. I give you. Actually, hor, is uh…is Saffy recipe I…I use…Ay, Saffy, why you look like that, har? Ay…”




Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Forget Me Not

I once read an article on Alzheimer’s Disease that one of the diagnostic tests was remembering what you had for breakfast, lunch and dinner yesterday. Which, as you can imagine, sparked all kinds of panic in the little flat I share with Saffy and Amanda.
            “O. M. G!” said Saffy with her usual restraint. “I can’t remember anything past my economy bee-hoon for breakfast! But then I always have that, so it’s not as if that’s too difficult, but lunch and dinner…” She wrinkled her brow and stared hard at the ceiling. “Nope. Not a thing! I’ve lost my mind!”
            Meanwhile, Amanda had cocked her head and frowned into the distance. Finally, she too gave up. “I know we had that steak last night…”
            “Oh, the steak!” Saffy moaned. “That’s it!”
            “But I can’t remember what I had for breakfast and lunch!”
            The other test, I said, was to count backwards from a hundred, but in sevens.
            Silence descended on the room as three very expensively educated brains thought hard.
            “A hundred…” Saffy began. “Umm….minus seven…minus five…so that’s ninety-five…minus two…” Her fingers worked. “Minus two…ninety-five, ninety-four, ninety-three! Ok. A hundred, ninety-three…Minus seven…So that’s ninety…uhmm….”
            “These are the stupidest tests ever! Who can count backwards from a hundred in sevens?” Amanda said, tossing her luxuriant hair.
            Turns out, Sharyn can. She rattled off the numbers, all while texting her son to remind him he had Chinese tuition at four that afternoon.
            “Aiyoh, liddat oh-so cannot, ah?” she said when she got to two, and asked if negative numbers were allowed in this test.
            “You’re a freak,” Saffy told her.
            “Ay, I accountant, OK? If cannot minus in my head, then how?”
            A few days later, we tried the test with our friend Christina. She rolled her eyes. “In what universe would anyone ever ask someone to count backwards in sevens? And why sevens? Why not threes?”
            “Well, I guess fives are too easy,” Amanda began.
            “I’m the last one you should be asking. I’m convinced I already have Alzheimers. So, I’ve been reading this book about how to overcome my shyness in public? So, the other day at a party, I walked up to a complete stranger, stuck my hand out and said, ‘Hi, it’s very nice to meet you! I’m Chris!’ And you know what she said? She said, ‘Chris, don’t be stupid, I’m your cousin!’”
            Saffy sucked in her breath. “And you didn’t recognize her?”
            Christina shrugged. “Alzheimers. Confirmed.”
            Then there was the time we all went to the wedding of our friend May. It was one of those fancy society weddings where you had several parties over a couple of days. At the rehearsal dinner, I sat next to this lovely girl, whose name I have, of course, completely forgotten, so let’s call her Jane. Jane and I chatted the whole evening, bonding, especially, over Star Wars. It was one of those casual encounters that leaves a warm fuzzy feeling inside you and makes you think that you might just have met someone special and wonderful.
            So, the next day, at the wedding ceremony, we were all dressed up in our best suits and frocks, and the guests were mingling in the garden admiring the flower petals strewn all over the grass.
            Still glowing from the lovely evening I had, I smiled at the girl next to me and said, “Hi, I’m Jason. Are you friends with the bride or groom?”
            She stared at me. “Yes, I know. I’m Jane. We sat next to each other at dinner last night!”
            I blinked and stared. My mind raced. “Oh, yes!” I laughed in what I hoped was a casual manner. “Of course. I didn’t recognize you in the daylight!”
            “Oh. My. God!” Saffy said, coming up next to me as we both watched Jane’s back disappearing into the crowd. “Did you seriously just say that? ‘I didn’t recognize you in the daylight’? Really? You made her sound like she was a hooker!”
            “I panicked!” I moaned. “I really didn’t recognize her!”
            “How could you not? You spent the whole evening with her!”
            Of course, that was all we could talk about for days. Then, my doctor friend Ben said I probably had prosopagnosia. “It’s when your brain misfires and you can’t recognize people that you should know. Like your own mother. There are tests.”
            “I wish I didn’t recognize my own mother,” my sister said when I told her. “But really, there’s such a thing?”
            “Apparently, there’s a test!”
            “You all very free, hor?” Sharyn told me.


Monday, July 31, 2017

Heart Burn

For years, our friend Jean has been having an affair with a married man. According to her, it’s been the perfect arrangement.
            “Oh? How so?” Amanda once asked. In the world according to Amanda, life’s too short to be wasting it on second-hand anything, and that includes men.
            Jean delicately adjusted the ruffles on her Miu Miu blouse before answering. “Well, for starters, I don’t have to deal with him 24/7. I get the best bits of him. Because we see each other so infrequently, there’s no drama. I don’t have to nag him to not leave his clothes around, or brush his hair. We don’t squabble over bills and children like other married couples.”
            A small crease formed over Amanda’s forehead. “But, don’t you want to get married?”
            Jean laughed. “Are you kidding? I am such a commitment-phobe!”
            “But you’re kind of committed to him now, aren’t you? You’re not seeing anyone else…”
            “Yes, but I can also get rid of him when I get bored.”
            For her part, Saffy has never understood the whole situation, though her point has less to do with the practicality of the affair and more to do with Gerald himself. The first time she spotted them together in Parkway Parade, she speed-dialled Amanda.
            “Oh. My. God. That’s Gerald?” she breathed heavily into her phone.
            “Why, what’s wrong with him?”
            “Well, for starters, he’s twice her size and half her height! And he’s bald!” Saffy added, as if this were a crucial fact.
            “Apparently, he’s amazing in bed!” Amanda said.
            “He’d better be, because he’s also cross-eyed! Here, I just snapped a picture. I’m sending it to you now!”
            Much later, Sharyn said Saffy had missed her calling in life. “Ay, why you waste time in HR, hah? You become private eye, better! Wah, so daring, anyhow take udder people picture!”
            “I really don’t see the attraction,” Amanda said, passing Sharyn her phone with the picture of Gerald and Jean.
            Sharyn squinted at the screen. “Is OK, what? He not Richard Gere, lah, but then, hor, Richard Gere oh-so don want Jean, ah, I tell you!”
            “I’m so glad I’m not your enemy, Shazz,” Saffy told Sharyn, who turned a bright pink.
            The break-up, when it came, took place over the Sunday champagne brunch at the Ritz-Carlton. According to well-placed sources – ie, Missy Chan, Jean’s second best friend, who happened to be sitting three tables away – Jean let out a little scream, stood up, and tossed a glass of Louis Roederer Brut into Gerald’s face, and stormed off in a cloud of black Prada.
            “Very drama!” Missy confirmed in her best Katong Convent accent the next day over coffee with Saffy and Amanda. “The best part was that Gerald just continued to sit there and finish his plate of prawns! Such incredible poise! I can see what the attraction was, now.”
            For her part, Saffy has been spending long nights at Jean’s. “She alternates between raging fits and crying,” she reported after the first night.
            On Facebook, Jean has posted cryptic messages like “Never trust anyone with anything precious!” and “Stabbed in the front, and yet, I’m not surprised!!!”
            Of course, this has invited floods of responses, mostly ranging from “Hope everything is ok, babes!” to “Oh, no! What happened?!”
            “I wonder how she thought all this was going to end,” Amanda mused, her long tapered fingers scrolling through Jean’s feed. “I mean, it’s not as if he was ever going to leave his wife.”
            “Why, ah?” Sharyn asked innocently.
            “She is the daughter of - ,” and here, Amanda mentioned the name of a prominent Chinese steel tycoon.
            Sharyn’s eyes bugged. “Oh, issit? Wah, she know or not her husband got affair with Jean all dis time?”
            She’s been having an affair with a musician!” Amanda said, all her years of prowling the gossip channels of Weibo and WeChat finally paying off.
            “Aiyoh, liddat why dey want to marry?”
            It’s a question that has haunted the girls.
            “That’s something the wedding magazines never talk about,” Saffy observed darkly. “It’s all marzipan wedding cake and Swarovski-speckled tulle, but no one ever talks about the affair and the heartache.”
            “Maybe someone should do a magazine and call it ‘Divorce’!” Amanda said.
            Saffy says it’s a genius idea. “We can get Jean to write a regular column on affairs. It’ll sell like hot cakes!”
            Ever practical, Sharyn wonders who the advertisers would be. “Confirm cannot get Lo-lex for back cover, one! Then, how?”