Monday, February 8, 2016

mambo number 5...

(Image via:

Shoowee. It’s already February twenty bloody sixteen. Despite the economic doomsayers, I think it’s going to be a good year. Well, for me at least, because I finally graduated. Yup, that’s right, the long haul is over and a quarter of a century after everyone else my age got their degree, I got mine (not exactly a trailblazer eh?) What can I say about studying. For one, it’s made me a bigger person. No but seriously, I don’t know how other students manage to stay slim (I suspect a diet of Ritalin and vodka mostly). As for me, all that sitting around reading and reading and reading (and vodka) has left me with a physique that very much resembles an onion; wide and bulbous with a tiny cocktail onion for a head. I now officially have a body that’s “made for writing”.

Whilst trying to find the funny, bloggable side to this dilemma (I couldn’t, it’s just not funny), I remembered that I had committed to writing a series of embarrassing moments. Oh the wealth of stories to choose from. I could write about the time I told the actual man who invented luminous zinc that I thought it was “ridiculous” (how was I to know that it was him who invented it?) Or, I could write about the time that I told an old family friend that I thought the title of  “Honourable” was a big fat wank and that the “British gentry should just get over themselves”, only to later find out (when he kindly wrote out his home-made Van der Hum recipe for me on his personalised stationery) that he himself was in fact, a “Honourable”. (Oh to have the super-power of being able to go back in time.)

My story for today, however, involves an injury, a bit of whiskey, and Mambo Number 5.

When I was still a rep for a fabric company, I had the chance to exhibit our fabrics at a  huge home-textile trade fair in Frankfurt. With a one year old toddler at home, most of my evenings pretty much consisted of reading nursery rhymes, sleeping and not sleeping. Needless to say, I was rather excited at the prospect of getting away for a few nights.

When I discovered that the opening night of the trade fair was a fancy dinner for all the exhibitors, I was pretty darn stoked. No cooking for me McGee, AND the chance to mingle with real, live adults. As if dinner “out” wasn’t exciting enough, I could barely contain myself when they introduced “someone special” who would be performing for us.

Enter Lou Bega, whom most of us generally know as the “guy who sings Mambo Number 5”. With a full belly and one to four whiskeys coursing through my veins, there was nothing I could do when Lou busted out with Mambo Number 5, but jump up and dance. I have vague recollections of trying to drag some of the other exhibitors onto the dance floor. They weren’t at all keen but I wasn’t going to let that hold me back. No sireee.

And so it was that I found myself spinning around to Mambo Number 5 in a feverish, rather desperate kind of way (as though the fun might suddenly end and I might be imminently summoned to “put the baby to sleep”, you understand). Safe in my anonymity, I unleashed my most daring dance steps. One of these dance steps – and to be quite specific about this, you will probably NOT see this move on a MTV video – involves doing a spin with one leg slightly bent and raised to the back. The leg position is called “attitude” and it is a very nice lifted-leg-spin move when done just right. When it is done wrong, and in a spinning motion, by a dancer wearing bulky boots, who might be a little unstable on her legs, it can be, well, a little violent.

I’m not sure what made me try this move. Perhaps it was the feeling of being “out on the town”. Perhaps it was whiskey-infused boldness. Or perhaps it was the fact that I was just paces away from the “guy who sings Mambo Number 5”. Anyhow, the poor woman who was dancing in my “radius of spin” wasn’t to know that she should probably stand back. After all, most of the other exhibitors were dancing in a very neat step-together-step-tap kind of way. It must’ve come as quite a surprise – coupled, I suspect, with some sharp pain – when the toe of my boot connected with her crotch.

As the impact broke my spin, the whole world slowed and the music stretched out like a LP record on slow-speed. I will never forget the look on the injured woman’s face; there were a million questions right there, like: Who is this crazy woman? Who let her in? Why is she dancing like that? Why does my groin hurt?

Whereas this incident might have heralded the end of the evening for most folk, I didn’t let it curtail my night. Nope, I carried on dancing like a person trying to wrestle off a straight-jacket (I may even have lost some items of clothing) and fell into bed in mess of  big hair, sweat and worn out caterpillar boots (note to self: investigate choice of footwear).

The next morning, I had vague recollections of the “foot-in-crotch” incident but figured that everyone else probably also had their own embarrassing injury story to tell. At the very least, I pinned my hopes on the fact that it had been pretty dark on the dance floor – dark enough that no-one would recognise me at the trade fair.

It came as a rude surprise then, when I walked past one of the exhibitor’s stands and overheard a man say “Da gegt das M├Ądchen, das wie ein Verr├╝ckter tanzte”. This translates roughly to: “There goes the girl who was dancing like a crazy person.

And for the rest of the trade fair I had to stay away from whiskey, music and Mambo Number 5.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

low five...

(Image via FlickRiver)

If I look back at my last post I see that it’s dated March 2014. March bloody 2014. Where has the time gone? To explain, I decided to take a break from humour blogging because quite frankly, I just wasn’t feeling funny anymore. No surprise, but academia will do that to you. It’s a laughter-thief of note. However, as I’m feeling heartened by the fact that I’m officially on the academic homestretch, I’ve resurfaced from my blogging sabbatical and will attempt to relocate my funny.

I thought a good way to kick off would be to do a series of short posts that I will be calling “The Embarrassing Moment Series”. I figure it will make readers laugh as it is the literary equivalent of watching YouTube fail videos. So without delay, I’ll begin.

After leaving school I was unsure of “What-I-Wanted-To-Be”, so, I opted to study something “useful” that would be sure to land me a job and see me on my way to financial independence. I went to secretarial college. Here, as I tried to squeeze myself into a pencil skirt (because, as you know, pencil skirts are the most comfortable things on earth) I got to hone my skills as a speed typist and well, to tell the truth, I don’t remember much else of what I learned there.

Shortly after finishing my course, I found myself looking for work. This was not easy to do in a pencil skirt because as you might rightly suspect, pencil skirts are not designed for taking big strides in (mmm, I feel this is rather telling). Anyhow, I was still in touch with a close friend from school (I’ll call her Dory because she was an excellent swimmer and I often had to “eat-her-bubbles”) who told me that there was an admin job going at the conveyancing agency where she worked. I had abso-fucking-lutely no idea what a conveyancer did, but I went for the interview and got the job. Although the money was fine for a green-branch with no experience, landing the job was a bit of a hollow triumph as I soon discovered that my life would turn out to be nothing like Melanie Griffith’s in “Working Girl”.

My colleagues were a smorgasbord of savory and unsavory characters. By far the worst was the head-secretary-honcho who I’ll call MMM which stands for “Marshall- Mather’s-Mother”. She was a lazy, 50-something trailer-trash type, with peroxided hair and bright turquoise eye-shadow who pretty spent most of her day thinking up inventive ways of being a bitch to everyone.  On my third day there I noticed she had an ashtray, which read “Famous Grouse”. No shit, I thought to myself. (I even asked her if someone had given it to her, you know, as a joke but not a joke). Remember, this was the early 90’s and smoking was still permitted every-fucking-where so the entire office spent our days breathing in MMM’s chain smoke.

Other noteworthy heinous characters included “The Body”, who indeed had the body but little else (she was MMM’s side-kick and they’d have bitchathons of biblical proportions) and “No-Smile”, a sour puss of a girl who was personal secretary to one of the conveyancers. It obviously wasn’t a very fun job because she always looked as if she had bile in her mouth.

As for me, my job entailed the riveting task of “opening-files”. This was the early days of data capture (yes, the days of a black screen with orange typeface) and in order for the data capturer to do her job, us all-important file-openers had to match up documents relating to the same transaction. This involved the tricky task of reading the names on the documents inside the file and writing the same names on the front cover of the file. As you can imagine, my days went by in a blur-of-boredom so there was no lack of excitement when I discovered one day, that the names on the front of a file did not match the names on inside the file. This, I realised, could be a shit-fest of note because if we had to locate the documents of, say, Mr Biggs and Mr Chester but they were filed under Mr Seymore and Mr Winston, it would take an eternity of dusty years to wade through EVERY file in the back office to find the correct documents.

Bearing in mind that I still had no idea and even less interest of what conveyancing was, I thought I’d better to and check with No-Smile that I was right about being wrong. She wasn’t at her desk (probably out sharpening her claws and tongue with MMM and The-Body), so I went directly to the conveyancer himself.

As I queried the error on the file, he nodded sagely and agreed on the shit-festness of who-ever opened the file wrong. I felt he had a congratulatory air about him which I was sure was aimed in my direction (because after all, I was the cunning secretary who’d discovered the error) so, when he held out his hand to me I did what any normal person would’ve done. I low-fived him. I may even have said "yeah".

He gave me a confused look and then said, umm, I was actually just holding my hand out for your pen.

What can I say. I only lasted five months at that place and I still shudder when I see someone wearing turquoise eye-shadow.

Monday, March 10, 2014

but I am the hardest working person in the village...

The other day I was mooching around Facebook when found one of those funny vintage-styled cards that I normally find hilarious. Hang on, let me see if I can find it… Ah yes, there it is. Exhibit A.

It got me thinking about one of the lesser-known battles, one similar to the Battle of the Sexes but with a frilly twist. Ta daaa, I present to you … The Battle of the Dresses.

Basically, it’s a Cold War between SAHM’s and WOHM’s. You might not know what those are yet, but in a nutshell, it’s an ongoing competition about which is HARDER: being a StayAtHomeMom or being a WorkOutOfHomeMom. And yes, they are actual recognised acronyms - not made up by me this time. There’s another acronym,WAHM, which stands for WorkAtHomeMom but this is a separate category altogether, which irks the SAHM’s and WOHM’s because it mucks with their arguments.

This war has escalated to such a degree that there are forums and websites dedicated to SAHM’s and WOHM’s bitching and moaning about each other. 
I’m not really sure when this infighting started but I’m placing my bets on sometime after WW2 when women found that, after being in the workplace for the first time, they weren’t that eager to relinquish their paying jobs and go back to being housewives and mothers. They liked being self-sufficient, independent women. Note: this could be a clue.

Perhaps, back in the post WW2 era, the women who carried on working and the women who went back to being SAHM’s had some kind of mutual respect. Fast-forward to 2014 and this respect seems to have disappeared. If anything, the issue seems to be hotting up.

This “my-work-is-harder-than-yours” mentality has spawned a new phenomenon called Mommyjacking. This happens when WOHNOM (WorkOutOfHomeNon-Mom) declares – normally on some or other social media forum (erm, whole bunch of questions right there -- WTF!??!?!)  - how ‘hard’ their day has been, or they might boast of any recently endured “hardness”. Her/his statement is then mommy-jacked when a SAHM retorts with a counter hardness argument.  Here’s a little sample that was gleaned from…

WOHNOM: I love working and not getting paid.

Mommyjacker: Welcome to motherhood. lmao

Mmm. See what I mean? It’s really hard to tell who is worse. To be fair, it’s not only SAHM’s that Mommyjack. WOHM’s like to do it too (please refer to exhibit A postcard.)

Just as pendulums will swing, there is a counter-phenomenon to Mommyjacking that might in fact be even worse. I don’t think it has a name yet but perhaps we could call it Mommywanking.

Mommywanking occurs when mothers gush on social media about how much they luuuuurve being a mommy and how little [insert kids name here] is just the sweetest, most darling, gentlest, intelligentest, prettiest, talentedest, atom-splitter in the world. For some reason, this even more uncomfortable than Mommyjacking because everyone knows that everyone else isn’t going to agree, because everyone else has their own little darling that they think is nicer than the other little darling, right? Note again: Mommywaking isn’t exclusive to SAHM’s because WOHM’s do it too. No wonder WOHNOM’s hate moms, but more about that later.

You’d think that with at least Mommyjacking and Mommywanking in common the SAHM’s and WOHM’s would get along. But they don’t and the one-upmanship continues. I’m thinking of getting T-shirts made in support of either group. You know, like political parties do.

Whilst trying to get all of this hard, harder, hardest work into perspective, I was reminded of Chris Rock’s take on people who call their work “hard’. He was lambasted for saying at the 2012 Oscars that he hates it when actors say how ‘haaaard” it is doing voice-overs for animated films. He pointed out something along the lines of “you know what’s hard? Digging trenches. Now that’s hard work” (~ please imagine this in Chris Rock’s voice, it’ll just be funnier. If you don’t know what that sounds like, it’s the Zebra’s voice in Madagascar.)

What that basically means is that all the while that SAHM’s and WOHM’s are arguing about whose work is the harderestestest, trench diggers are scoffing behind their pick-axes because they know that THEIR work (along with perhaps miners and sex workers) is in fact the hardest.

Alongside this Battle of Hardness between SAHM’s and WOHM’s, an invisible enemy lurks. WOHNOM’s. WOHNOM detest WOHM’s. It’s true!  Just when the WOHM’s were happily smug in their belief that their life is the hardest, it turns out that WOHNOM’s hugely resent mothers who work, claiming that they get preference over non-moms. WOHNOM’s say that WOHM’s don’t pull their weight, meaning that the WOHNOM’s have to pick up all the slack.

This means WOHNOM’s believe that they the harderestestest working people in the world. But they obviously haven’t chatted to the trench diggers, miners and sex workers.

I tell you, all this just makes me long for the good old days when the enemy was just plain old men. Things were so much simpler then.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

26, 27, 28...


As an act of defiance against the start of term, the boys and I decided to treat school days (well, the afternoons at least) as if they were still holidays.  This meant going to the beach.

Because of my recent obsession with Instagram, I take my camera everywhere with me. And so it was, that whilst the boys were frolicking in the waves, I was bumbling along the shoreline looking for good photo ops.  After all, I’d bumped into Ninja just a few weeks before so who knows who’d pop up next.

As I mooched around the shallows, I spotted a guy a little way off. He had a camera phone pointed my way and said something to me that got drowned out by the noise of the waves. Thinking that he was asking me a question, I walked closer and said “pardon, I didn’t hear you”.

“I was just taking a photo of you”, he said.

I was immediately suspicious. Let’s just say that I’m not really the sort of beach person that other beach people take photos of. Although there was something slightly unsettling about his demeanor, I decided to let it slide, putting my suspicions down to my apartheid upbringing. I rationalized that despite his rather piercing eyes and penetrating gaze, his face was pleasant enough and when he smiled he revealed a cheery “Cape Flats smile”*.

Besides, I’d remembered reading somewhere that if you’re feeling unnerved by someone, the best tactic to disarm them is by being friendly. I gave it a whirl.

“A perfect day to be at the beach, eh?”  I say.

“Yaaas”, he answers in a broad Cape-coloured accent, “I just came here with my gurly. You know, instead of sitting at home yuss sitting aroun bored”.

I look around. No gurly.

“Great”, I say, “where is she then? Your gurly?”

“She’s visiting with some friends”, he replied “I dropped her off”.

“Ah, so you guys live around here”, I say.

“Nou”, he replies “I live in “Monrthehadfashdf”.

OK, so I didn’t hear exactly what he said but as I had never heard of it, I assumed it was farther afield than what my uptight whitey legs had ever taken me.

We exchanged small talk and then went our separate ways. Or so I thought.

Not long after our encounter, the fellow reappears in his swimming trunks. He enters the water. But not a little way off where his belongings are, rather right in front of me. Free country, I thought to myself, though at the same finding it a little odd considering the long stretch of available beach. I again rationalized that crime-wary South Africans are far too suspicious.

After a short swim, he gets out of the sea and starts walking towards me. It’s then that I catch sight of his tattoos.

Prison tattoos. Holey crab cakes, I think to myself.

Thinking quickly I say “Hey!” (as if we’re long lost friends). I was hoping the excitement in my voice would hide my mild panic.

“Great tattoos”, I say, whilst all the while thinking fecking hell, they’re not great tattoos. They’re not great tattoos at all because they’re gangster tattoos and they all mean something fiercely wicked and I know this thanks to “The Number” and “Ninja”.

Still, a meeting this up-close and personal with an ex-con was just too interesting to pass up.

He elaborates.

“I youzyouly doh like taking my shert aff becoz the people, they think bedly of me man”.

Now, I’m not sure about you, but on the whole, I was raised – as many South African’s are – to be polite to strangers and, wherever possible, make them feel welcome and at ease. Perhaps, with ex-cons, this isn’t a very good idea.

“No way!” I hear myself swoon, “I think they’re AWESOME”.

He looks slightly bashful but takes all this encouragement as a sign to sit down alongside me. No wait, not alongside, but RIGHT NEXT to me. We could practically pick each other’s noses.

“I love tattoos”, I gush (I mean I do but WTF?!?!?) “What do yours mean?”

“I wuss in a geng”, he says shyly.

“Ah”, I say, trying to sound philosophical, “which one?”, all the while hoping he says the 26’s because rather a swindler than the other two.

“Da 27’s” he says.

“Ah, so your tattoos probably mean something”, I say and mumble something about having read Johnny Steinberg’s book.

He looks sheepish and replies “I got them a long time ago. Sometimes a tattoos, they can mean someting. Like if I’m in prisson and I get my gurly’s name tattoo’d on my chess, it means someting. But sometimes, they can mean nutting.”

As he looks away both he and I know that his tattoos don’t mean nothing.

I’m suddenly so curious. I can’t help myself asking.

“You were in prison?” I say, feigning surprise. “Where? In Pollsmoor?”

“Yaaas”, he answers “I was in prison but not at Pollsmoor”.

‘Ah”, I say, trying to sound light and conversational, as though he were recounting his yearly travels. I stop short of saying well nice to meet you. you’re the first ex-prisoner I’ve ever met, because I feel it’s important for him to think that I mix with ex-cons all the time and that’s why I’m so wys*.

“Where were you then?”

“I moved from place to place” he says.

Cryptic silence.

“Um, why do they move prisoners?” I hear myself say, all the while presuming it’s because of some kind of shanking or equally wicked activity.

“Well”, he says, “I wuss in prisin for eight yeears and I got tieyid of the fighting and violence and killing and I aksed them to move me away from the gengs”.

My mind is reeling at the words “eight years”** but I interject with an old, lame tactic I hope everyone uses and that isn’t unique to my lame-ass.

I relate to this dear, wretched man. You know, to make him feel like I understand him entirely.

“I hear you”, I say, “eventually all the violence, killing and fighting just gets too much.”

WTF?!?!?!? For crying in a bucket, relating to your girlfriend when she’s had an argy-bargy with her bloke is one thing, but for hamcheesesakes, did I really think this guy was going to believe I had ANY idea what true violence was? I think of showing him my tattoos just to prove to him that deep down we’re all the same but then imagine him inwardly scoffing at my timid little snowflake ink.

I realised something else alarming. When you’re polite to someone, its really tricky to suddenly be rude. Like say if you were getting a bit nervy and wanted to walk away.

What I sincerely wanted to say to Mr PrisonTattoos is “well this has been a smashing conversation, but I’d like you to leave now and go home so that when my kids come ashore you’re long gone.”

But I don’t say that. We carry on talking and, to my horror, my kids come towards us.

Adding to my horror, I hear myself (who, for the love of God has taken over my mouth?!?!) say to my sons, a la Tannie-en-Oom-styl*** “say hello to the nice gentleman” when what I really wanted to say was “Run! Run for your lives!”

This surely takes the proverbial cake. As much as my fantasies of a Pygmalion-type scenario playing out are entrenched, surely one HAS to draw the line at protecting one’s kids?

In desperation, I fabricate another fantasy.

“Guys, we have to leave right now. Dad will be home shortly and we’re going out”. I think of adding “To Rio. Forever”, but think better of it because then MrPrisonTattoos might think we’re loaded and try to shank us for some money.

Equally fantastically, for once the boys don’t ask a million questions about where we’re going? And why we had to leave the beach so soon? And why dad would be home so early? I suspect they could smell my fear.

Between the look of MrPrisonTattoos and my fear, TFTF and MrPP asked a million questions on the drive between the beach and home (did I mention we took a 26km detour via Scarborough? You know, incase this wicked man was following us …on foot.)

For the next 48 hours I fielded a million questions from the boys regarding prisons, prisoners and gangs, causing me to Google things like ‘prison tattoos - meaning’, ‘number gangs’ and ‘what to say when you meet an ex-gangster.

But apparently you don’t say anything to an ex-gangster. Because there’s no such thing.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

the tao of pooch (thank you Benjamin Hoff)

Ah, the 2013 roundup. Highlights include passing my exams (halleloooyaah!), mastering a back flip on the trampoline (that’s a lie – I did master the fantasy of it though), learning how to eat humble pie with chopsticks and (namedrop-namedrop) bumping into Die Antwoord on the beach (they’re a lot nicer in real life than what they seem... but that’s a story for another day). 

Mmm, what else… ah yes, joining Instagram. Consequently it comes as no shocker that ‘selfie’ was the Word of 2013. When I first signed up I was truly alarmed at the amount of selfies there are out there. Seriously, it’s an epidemic of sorts. And slightly weird, especially if you’re scantily clad. What I also can’t believe is how many photos there are of dogs on Instagram. And what can I say, scoffing be damned, I’ve actually become one of them.

A couple of months ago we bought – much to the mirth of our friends – not one, but two Jack Russell puppies. From the get-go I have been rather smitten with them (seriously, who doesn’t love a puppy?) My romance with them was fueled only more by their constant presence at my side whilst I studied for my exams. It was somehow calming to look at them sleeping peacefully and think to myself “Mmm, one day when I’m a dog and I won’t have to write exams EVER AGAIN”. 

Recently, whilst watching them play in the golden light of early evening (think ‘Hallmark card image with soft edge editing’), I decided (with the aid of insight that only strong whiskey can provide) that there must surely exist such a thing as ‘Dog Philosophy’. So far, here is what I’ve learnt from our little ankle biters…

1. Always start the day with a nap, followed by a quick pee, a short burst of energy and then another nap.

2. Growl, fight and bare your fangs, but when you’re done, shake it off, walk away and act as if nothing ever happened.

3. Take a nap.

4. Feel free to run about wildly but allow yourself plenty of short breaks to smell the … well, just to smell anything, really.

5. Be sure to take a nap when you return from your wild running.

6. Explore the world to your heart’s content, but always have a bowl of clean water and nice home with a soft bed that you can come home to.

7. Because you’ll want to take a nap.

8. Use your ‘cute face’ to its full advantage.  Folk are bound to help you when you make an effort.

9. Happiness lies in taking plenty of naps.

10. When at first you come across a stranger, act brave and show your swagger. Then, when you get to know them better, show them your soft side and be really nice.

11. And then take a nap.

12. Beware of old dogs. They’re often sore which makes them cranky and being cranky makes them sore. Best to sniff them politely and then move on swiftly.

13. Suggest they take a long nap.

14. Beware of very young dogs.  They can be nippy and yappy and if you spend too much time with them you will end up chasing your tail.

15. Insist on a nap.

16. Be grateful for the food you have but never give up hope that something more exciting may appear. (See point 8 re: “cute face”).

17. Nap.

18. If someone fences you in, push the boundaries or dig around it.

19. But if you can do neither, take a nap.

20. Never stop being curious. It may lead you to a snake in the grass but it may also lead to who knows what kind of exciting things.

21. Nap again.

22. Greet the people you love as if you haven’t seen them in years, even if you only saw them 5 minutes ago. It just makes them feel nice. 

23. Nap with them.

24. If you are made to wear a leash, pull against it with all your might so at least you have the lead. 

25. Nap a while.

26. When someone opens a door for you, take the gap. You never know if it will open up again.

27. On your return, take a nap.

28. Take all the pee breaks you can get. You never know when it will no longer be your choice to keep it in or let it out (see point 12 re: ‘old dogs’).

29. Nap in between pee breaks.

30. Finally – and I wish I knew who original author of these wise words was  – ‘treat every problem as your dog would: if you can’t eat it or hump it, piss on it and walk away”.

31. And then, most certainly, take a nap.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


(Unedited sourced from

On the rare occasion that my parents would host a dinner party (my mum doesn’t like entertaining because “things get messy”) my mum would caution my dad to  “stay away from sex, politics and religion!” If she were inclined to host any dinner parties in 2013, she’d be wise add to that list “and food, for the love of God stay away from talking about food!” 

Who knew that food and nutrition could be the topic of such heated debate? If you’d have told me when I was a teenager that I’d be sitting around at dinner parties sagely discussing the ins and outs of what passes through our digestive systems, I would have scoffed in disbelief. Yet, here we are.

In fact, it would seem that food and diet is THAT much of a hot topic (hot, that is unless you’re a raw-foodarian or a fruitarian) that folk simply cannot agree to disagree.

I was reminded of this a few weeks when I went to a friend’s house for a braai. One of the moms was warming up her baby’s food. This was enough of a cue for another one of the moms (let’s call her “Perfecticia”) to launch into an ‘enlightening’. “Oh, I’m so glad you didn’t nuke it” Perfecticia quipped. I immediately wondered what she would have said if the other mom HAD chosen to nuke it? As I silently tallied up the thousands of things I’ve nuked in my life, I considered pointing out – in my defence so to speak – that our home-economics teacher DID, after all, tell us that nuking was both the most nutritional AND economical way of cooking. (True, she didn’t use the word NUKE, she said microwave, because it was the 80’s and people were more concerned with the size of their shoulder-pads than nutrition.)

Instead of adding my two cents, I immediately came down with a fierce attack of FOGI (Fear of Getting Involved) because I know from experience that these conversations have a way of luring you in, only to leave you with bad indigestion. Oh the irony!

Lets see, there was the time that BK and I got into a discussion about margarine vs. butter.  He’d been told that his cholesterol was a little high and that he should switch to “magic margarine” (it’s not really called that but I’m not allowed to say what it IS called or I’ll get sued.) I won’t tell who was batting for marg and who was batting for butter because that will only spark more fights in cyberspace, but what I will say is that things got THAT heated that Mr. PP has banned us from having the Margarine VS Butter discussion EVER AGAIN. To quote: “I don’t want you and Dad to talk about margarine and butter EVER AGAIN.”

Then there was the time that BK and I mentioned at a family dinner that we’d just read Tim Noakes’ book, ‘Challenging Beliefs’ (ehem, the clue is in the name). We expressed that we found it interesting - food for thought if you like. Well, things got uncomfortably animated – so much so that that we all imposed a silent, autonomous ban on ever discussing food ever again at family dinners. Does food wield enough power that even mentioning a high-fat-no-carbs diet can cause a family rift?

But back to the braai. After the nuking comment, I glanced at my tumbler of whiskey, furiously hoping that it looked like freshly squeezed apple juice. Little did I know that things weren’t going to rest at nuking. Perfecticia was on a roll and her next point of attack was …. honey. Apparently (I didn’t know this ~ the honey-Philistine person I am) unless honey is pure and raw and made through the efforts of tiny eunuch bees who journey to flowery pastures that are untouched by human hands to harvest virginal pollen from wild blossoms, honey is a no-go. ‘Fuckit’, I thought, ‘is this woman going to ruin EVERY food group for me?’ The next day I went to price some of this “holy-honey” and all I can say is it would be cheaper to buy a honey farm, redecorate it and host an enormous pool party, than buy 500ml of raw honey.

The alarming thing is, I actually used to consider myself healthy but nowadays, I just can’t compete. I can’t compete with lettuce grown in soil that is aerated by a million tiny Buddhist earthworms that chant as they go about their business. I can’t compete with raw vegetables washed in the tears of a thousand doves (peace doves, of course.) And whereas I’m happy to buy Himalayan crystal salt (more for the fun colour of it), I’m not entirely convinced that those cheeky little Himalayanese don’t cook up crappy store bought salt, add a touch of cochineal and laugh like drains as they rake the cash in at our expense. I mean who is to know it even comes from the Himalayas? And if it DOES come from the Himalayas, surely that makes it even worse? Won’t the Himalayas just cave in one day because all the salt has been removed from their inner cavities?

Although people like Perfecticia make it sound as though they’re colluding with you, blow me down if it doesn’t come across as more of a lecture. Food-snobbery in disguise. Don’t be fooled.  Not only is it a lecture, but it’s actually a kind of a boast. Which calls to mind dear old Gwynny Paltrow’s cookbook that suggests ingredients I’ve never even heard of, let alone can actually buy. And the ingredients I can get my hands on, cost as much as private schooling for all the children of a small country. Naturally (see what I did there---) this puts food into a WHOLE DIFFERENT LEAGUE.

And all I can say is my mom has no bloody idea how lucky she is to have been a meal-maker in an era when serving frozen veg to your kids was considered healthy, because truly, there is only so much insanity around food you can endure before you become completely insane yourself. Though for me, in truth, it may already be too late.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

chef off...


Travel wanker alert… BK and I recently(ish) returned from a short stint in Bali. I was a little anxious about going because I knew (being a conference and all) that I would have to make small talk for a certain amount of the time and I can only make small talk for so long before feeling claustrophobic and need to be on my own for a bit. Small talk aside, I was very excited about the trip because a) it was a 5 star and all expenses paid b) it was Bali, and I was born for island holidays and most importantly, c)  I would not have to cook for 6 days.

One of the cool things about the trip is that the conference organisers made sure that all details were a secret – all very cloak and dagger. All we knew was that there were a few soirees and two mornings of planned conference type activities with the spouses doing a special “spouse activity” on one of these mornings.  Of course, this led to speculation about what the organisers had up their sleeves. I was hoping that it didn’t involve things like obstacle courses on the beach or – horror of horrors – a Sexy Spouse Competition.  I jokingly commented to one of the other spouses that in actual fact, the only thing worse than a Sexy Spouse Competition would be if we were to take part in some kind of cooking event.

You can imagine my alarm then, when they announced that we were to spend the morning with none other than Adam Liaw, winner of MasterChef Australia 2010. (Truth is, up till then I’d never heard of him but I’m getting slightly name droppy here.) I got all sweaty under the armpits when I imagined that he might ask each one of us to volunteer the dish we most like to cook, given that my culinary skills extend mostly to fish fingers. For that reason, I headed to the furthest point from his demo table.

Now don’t get me wrong, as appalled as I was at having to spend a morning in paradise cooking, I was very interested in what Adam had to say. After all, I like to think that he’s more than earned his cooking stripes and I was banking on him imparting a lot of “short cuts to brilliant cooking”. Not only was he a mine of information but he genuinely came across as a really lovely man. (Though quite honestly, any man that can cook is lovely, innit?)

No sooner had we sat down when two of the women opposite me started WHISPERING. No, not in subtle, muted tones. In LOUD WHISPER tones which, as you know, is practically the same as shouting.  At first I was forgiving.  Perhaps they were very excited about Adam Liaw and were sharing their excitement. Perhaps they were SO excited that they needed to pee and were clarifying the direction of the WC.

As the LOUD WHISPERING progressed, I tried to zone it out. You know, be the bigger Bali cook, so to speak. But when the LOUD WHISPERING got sharper and more animated I could no longer stand it. To make matters worse, it was now highly punctuated with a nasally whine.

By now the entire table was privy to the fact that both of these LOUD WHISPERERS had had argie-bargies with their spouses. (Surely it’s illegal to fight in a paradise? Surely you can put it off any kind of arguments until real life resumes?) We came to the conclusion that the LOUD WHISPERERS had mislaid their sense of decorum in transit, somewhere between the countries of Self-Absorbedoon and F#%&ing-Rudonia.

I attempted some deep, meditative breathing. It didn’t work and as I could truly no longer zone out their chatter, I thought I’d give a discreet EHEM. Nope, no response.  Not even a blip on their radar. By now, all the other women at the table were wriggling in their chairs, pained expressions on their faces, willing the other two with all their might to SHUUUUT THE FUUUUCK UUUUP.

Finally, one of the other (non-whispering) women at our table declared, “I think the bar’s open, perhaps we should have some wine”. I wanted to kiss her. Unaccustomed as I am to drinking before noon, I saw no other way forward and promptly downed one Bintang and three gin and tonics. Sadly, I don’t remember how to make Malaysian Chicken Satay’s but I do remember that Adam Liaw is lovely and that you should never talk during a cooking demo.