1. I am ill. At first I thought it was going to be kind of nice - a chance to slob around in pyjamas for a few days, watching girly movies and eating comfort food. Then I spent a sleepless night leaking from the face and aching in the teeth, plaintively asking Helpdesk Man for the wheatie bag, only to have him say “Mm” and go back to sleep; while Miles, sleepily aware that I might not be around for long, decided to top up on milks every ten minutes, just in case.
Then Helpdesk Man, instead of saying “Oh, wife of my manly bosom, allow me to make you soup and spirit away your children to the nearest park so that you may sleep amid rose petals and dream of unicorns”, decided to get one of his tension headaches; so we spent the day limply passing the baby back and forth, saying “You have to take him, I think I’m going to fall down” and “Hold this, I have to excise a polyp”, etc.
We are currently still conscious, but I make no guarantees. If I die, use my ashes to make a fine roux.
2.Regarding vegetarianism, I have only this to say: you don’t see food companies struggling to make their meat taste more like tofu. “Natural Tofu Flavour”, they don’t say. “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Nuttolene” is conspicuously absent from the butchery aisle. “Artificial TVP” isn’t even a thing. That should tell you something.
It reminds me of the time an acquaintance flirted with vegetarianism for no good reason. No, really. It wasn’t anything to do with ethics or carbon footprints or health concerns, or even a dislike of meat. He’d moved to London, and in his own words, “it’s so easy there’s no reason not to be” - a frankly staggering claim. I mean,London has a population of ninety billion; it’s probably easy enough to be a gluten-free, tree-nut-free one-legged author of if-Harry-Potter-were-set-in-Haiti fanfiction, if you want to. There’d be funding and everything. That doesn’t mean you should hunt out the chainsaw and start looking up the Haitian word for “Quidditch”.
So anyway, we all considered this a harmless quirk until we had a dinner at our place, and the perpetrator - I’ll call him Waggles the Sheep-Dog - having heard me rant about the evils of tofu, was all “No, if it’s done right tofu is really nice. Tell you what, I’ll bring along a tofu cheesecake.”
Now, cheesecake is the worst possible thing in the world to tofufy. The entire point of a cheesecake is that it is made with cream cheese: rich, creamy, fatty and delicious. Tofu is none of those things. I don’t know who thought it would make an acceptable substitute. It is, I suppose, a vaguely similar colour. That’s not much to go on. You could make a similar case for putty, toothpaste, mayonnaise, etc, and all of those would taste about as good.
But being well-brought-up and meek in the face, I said “K”, sadly sadly.
If he had merely brought along the offending dish, it would have been OK - I could have tactfully avoided it. But what did Waggles the Sheep-Dog do but turn up with two - a lemon one and a chocolate one. And with a big, beaming just-you-wait-and-see grin, he said “One of these has got tofu in it, and I bet you can’t guess which.”
Intriguing, I thought; a bold claim; and turned back to my chocolate mousse. And then he put a slice of each in my bowl and watched triumphantly while I tasted them.
The first one tasted, as tofu is wont to do, like dank cardboard. The second one tasted like slightly cocoaier dank cardboard. He was right; I couldn’t tell which one was worse. But I am, as previously mentioned, well-brought-up; so “Dude, what misbegotten old hag gave you the yak milk to make Cheesecake Number Two?” didn’t seem like the appropriate response. Reluctantly, I admitted that I could not tell the difference.
At which point, Waggles the Sheep-Dog grinned smugly and said “They were BOTH tofu!” And that was the moment I fully embraced the doctrine of total depravity.
3. Today I went to a training session for a part-time, menial, oh-well-it’s-money-although-not-a-lot-of-it job at the Academic Dress Hire place. Due to my brain oozing out my sinuses I accidentally turned up forty-five minutes early, so I went for a drive to the Chinese fruit and veggie/grocer and spent a pleasant half-hour perusing its comestibles.
Asian packaged food intrigues me. It seems to revel in its fakeness. Not that Western junk food exactly conjures up earthworms and mulch*, but Asian junk food gives the impression of having been constructed entirely in a factory - one lot of plastic goop becoming the containers, another the contents. And where a Kiwi company would call the resulting product Mrs Betty’s Grainy Goodness-Bites. Asian companies tell it like it is: Vegetable-Flavoured Wheat Snack, or Fried Gluten Ball. I like it; it’s respectful. It’s as if they say “Consumer, we may be charging you a 400% markup on a morsel of puffed, genetically modified grain smothered in MSG, but at least we have the conscience to make you face the issue. This is a rubbish source of dietary fibre, no picturesque barnyards were involved in the making of it, and you’re going to die an early death by frustrated colon. Here’s a prepubescent girl grinning at a cartoon kitten.”
At any rate, wandering up and down the aisles gave me great joy. I found chrysanthemum-flavoured soft drinks, Candied Wild Jujube, nude pretzel sticks and Yolk Flavoured Pudding Powder. One bag of herby-smelling stuff had minimal English labelling - nothing so gauche as the contents, but a brand - “Old Herbalist Doctor” - and the assurance that it was “Produced Meticulous”. I hesitated over the Pork Floss, refrained from buying a tray of dumplings when I learned they contained Chicken Essence, and considered buying the Maple Syrup Pies, which promised me “boundless merriment” as well as a percentage of real maple syrup; but then, they also claimed to be pies, when the picture on the box clearly showed biscuits, so I didn’t feel they could be trusted. I ended up wimping out and merely buying an apple soda (”No Chemical Ingredients”). It tasted vile, but interestingly so, at least.
Then I went back to the Dress Hire place and learned that the long point of a trencher goes at the back, and international students cannot be trusted. So it was kind of a mixed day, cultural-awareness-wise.
*Speaking of that, today at lunch the snortlepig looked at her chip and asked me “Mummy, what are chips of?” I didn’t quite get what she meant, until she said impatiently “You know, like ducks or rhinos - what are they from?” I said “Oh… potatoes”, and explained the process; but I mean, whaaa? “Ducks or rhinos”? Why not “chickens or cows”? Our diet isn’t that eclectic.