When we arrived back from our recent holiday in Australia... wait. Recently, we went to Australia to visit the family for Christmas. We got back on New Years' Eve, to find (to my disgust) that the shops had already removed the Christmas decorations they trotted out over a month before the start of advent and had replaced them with the trappings of Chinese Spring Festival. Thankfully, at our apartment building, where they seem more concerned with tradition and less concerned with whether or not they have an upcoming opportunity to sell us crap, they waited until January 6th to remove the tinsel and silver bells and replace them with red and golden lanterns and dragon motifs. One great thing about living in Singapore is that Chinese New Year is a major celebration. So if, like me, you weren't quite organised enough for the Gregorian version, you get a do-over a few weeks later.

I finished Mel's book. I liked it. It's chick lit. It's not usually my thing. But I liked the way the characters bantered with each other, and I admired the fact that she slipped fertility storylines into the background of the plot (along with, at one point, a public service announcement about maternal aging). But (spoiler alert, highlight to read) OH MY GOODNESS MEL WHAT ENDED UP HAPPENING ABOUT HER BROTHER'S COFFEE TABLE BOOK? It has left me, however, with a sort of incongruous need to blog about food.

This morning I had a narrow window of child-free opportunity to shower, change, google a recipe and maybe read some blogs. Guess which of those I didn't get time to do? Read blogs. I blame America. You guys seem to have this obsession with adding sugar to every decent recipe under the sun, such that now when I google something like "zucchini bread" I waste half an hour clicking on recipes that cannot be served up with a crisp side-salad and maybe a dash of balsamic vinegar. BAM! My blogging time, down the toilet. Some of these recipes called for chocolate chips. I ask you!

And you needn't think this is an isolated incident, either. It happens to me all the time. For my American readers: what the fuck have you done with food? Can you leave nothing unsweetened? To set things straight (and in the vain hope of raising its google profile), this is how you make zucchini bread.

In the end, I didn't make zucchini bread, because I didn't have any zucchinis. I used the leftover vegetables I did have - sweet potato, capsicum and tomato - with the oat flour I also had, but forgot to add baking powder to, because I was so engrossed in PB's plans to travel to England in search of mermaids whilst simultaneously worrying that he was about to accidentally egg my kitchen. And so I made, pretty much, disgusting and inedible half-baked vegie slop, but at least it didn't have chocolate chips in it. Then I looked at my enormous pile of dishes and unfolded laundry and thought about the myriad other housechores I had left and said, more or less, screw it - let's go to the park and fly kites and shit.

We went to West Coast Park. When we arrived the adults were starving and the children were bursting to get on to the awesome play equipment so we took turns supervising/going to MacDonalds, which is the only nearby eating option and, you know, the McCafe food is no worse than any other cafe and anyway, I don't have to justify my choices to you who asked for your opinion anyway?

Mr Bea had a Prosperity Burger. "I saw it there and all of a sudden I wanted to know what prosperity tastes like," he explained. "Black pepper, in case you're wondering." I wasn't. I was hankering after a Himalayan tea latte. Do they have Himalayan tea lattes at your local MacDonalds? It's more or less a chai latte by another name, except sweeter. (Which is, by the way, a perfectly legitimate place to send in the sugar. Unlike pumpkin ravioli, which is no such place. This is how you make pumpkin ravioli. It already has biscuits, for gosh sakes.)

Lately, I have become concerned about our cash flow. It turns out raising kids costs money! Who knew? People who weren't shelling out so much money for fertility treatments or stressful pregnancies prior to the birth of their first child that they never even noticed the change in their budget after they took kid #1 home, that's who. Me, it has taken a little longer. It has only just happened this year, with the addition of a second child, conceived and delivered without complication. So there you go. Raising kids costs money, it seems, and I have started worrying about our cash flow.

"Other people we know seem to have more than us," I stated recently to Mr Bea, trying not to sound complaining. "They live in posher quarters, take five star holidays, employ live-in maids, send their children to expensive schools and expensive peri-school activities, own properties in expensive overseas locations - and often in more than one location - have expensive gym memberships, eat at expensive restaurants and wear designer labels. How come we don't?"

"Do they earn more than us?" Mr Bea suggested.

"Well, maybe, and I'm ok with that. We are not poor. We are probably doing better than I expected to do. And maybe they are more comfortable with higher debts and lower savings, and that's fine, too. But what if they are just better with their money? I'm bothered because I'm not convinced we're being as good with our money as other people." It's the same sensation I have when I see what other people manage with their time, or their hair. How can she have her shit together like that, and I don't?

Earlier this year, I was talking to one of these glamorous folk with the time and the hair and such and we wandered onto the subject of holidays. She was off to Phuket. "Nice!" I was saying, in so many words.

"We're staying at hotel X," she informed me.

I shrugged. "I've never actually been to Phuket," I told her apologetically.

Her reaction threw me. "Oh, I know it's not supposed to be the best place to go," she said hurriedly, looking a trifle embarrassed and insecure all of a sudden. "I know they say it's overly touristy and whatnot but I sort of booked it on impulse because it seemed like a good deal, I mean perhaps it wasn't, but we got this time off at the last minute, and I thought with the kids, and..."

"No, it sounds good," I said, surprised. "I just mean, I don't know that hotel at all, because I've never been to Phuket. I'm sure it's very nice. We will have to try and go ourselves one day. You should tell me about it when you get back." Although the holiday I'd been dreaming out loud to her about was a backpacking trip through Vietnam - hardly the five-star beaches-massages-and-martinis holiday she was lined up for. Could my breezy backpacking (with young children, no less) talk have somehow given her the impression that we'd had all the five-star beaches-massages-and-martinis holidays we could handle and were ready to move on to something else?

Her maid was on leave for two weeks over Christmas, during which time her husband stayed home to help her out. When I saw her last week she looked excessively tired, and quite stressed. Much more tired and stressed than I look on the average day, I'm pretty sure, and I'm single-handed. Her hair wasn't even that great, although probably her floor was still cleaner. As I sipped my Himalayan tea latte at the park this afternoon, I reflected on these instances and wondered which of my fellow diners had actually done their dishes and folded their laundry before skipping off to the park, and which of them just knew when to throw their hands up and say screw it, turns out I suck at making non-zucchini bread even if I do know not to put sugar or chocolate chips in it, let's go fly kites and shit. How many of them realised that the Prosperity Burger was actually just a normal burger but with black pepper sauce?

In the end we flew kites and shit and I resolved to open a proper savings account to better manage the cash flow. We ate sandwiches for dinner. It was nice.


Aubrey (No Minivan) said...

Regarding American recipes: That would be why we have the highest rates of obesity and diabetes. Ever seen Wall-E? That will be us and our lard asses zooming around on flying scooters and never walking anywhere. It doesn't help that the unhealthiest food is the cheapest food and eating healthy food that you don't grow/prepare yourself costs an arm and a leg.

On the money management of others, I've come to realize that most people I know are a lot more comfortable with debt than we are. We definitely need to save more, but we have minimal debt. I know some folks who live in a $300,000+ house (which is a REALLY nice house in my neck of the woods) and own iEverything and only shop at name brand stores, but if the overtime dried up or if one of them lost their jobs they would be up shit creek in a hurry. I'm not comfortable living with that kind of risk. I'll live in my cheap house, with my cheap clothes and be OK.

Bionic Baby Mama said...

funny, the trend i notice in recipes is the removal of whatever ingredient -- usually real fat but sometimes sugar -- made them good in the first place. i agree that zucchini bread with sugar is gross, but it's a trick answer with me, as i think zucchini is gross in general.

at any rate, i'm not sure the nation of vegemite (sp?) is in much of a position to throw stones, cuisine-wise....

Serenity said...

I love this post.

And yes, we put sugar in everything. Our breakfast cereals have so much sugar that they also have unhealthy levels of SALT in order to make them taste relatively normal.

I've actually been trying to slowly detox from sugar. It's much harder than you'd imagine and means a lot more cooking from scratch. But I am determined to fight.

Your zucchini bread recipe sounds fantastic.

And I'm with Aubrey. I've noticed that the last-minute-jet-setting-to-Phuket crowd seems to be a lot more comfortable with debt and no savings. Me, not so much. Though I did go to Phuket about 10 years ago. :)

Rachel said...

I am endlessly annoyed to taste really delicious food or see yummy photos online only to discover that I would never, ever be able to make the recipe. It's hard to imagine how a baked item could taste anything other than delicious ... when there isn't a single healthy item in it.

As for money, I am also endlessly intrigued by how everyone else seems to feel/act wealthier than us (when in fact I am quite sure that our income is almost exactly the same. My husband happens to work at the same place as 4 of his close friends, and they post their pay scale online). I do think that a large part of it (for us) is that our friends tend to receive a lot of money from family, so the gorgeous apartment is probably the result of a generous "gift" from family, same for the wedding, car, etc. That said, we are quite conservative with saving for retirement/education/someday buying a house and that definitely affects how much money we have for vacations/rent now/etc. But then again I am jealous of the lack of concern our friends show for finances, and there are definitely benefits to that (within reason).

Caro said...

I have to try that recipe.

Oh hi, remember me - I didn't fall of the planet just got (even more) crap at keeping up with my friends in the computer.

Ellen K. said...

My brothers have both purchased enormous new houses, although their salaries are fairly equal to D.'s, and I have to think they are overextending themselves or getting by with financial help from parents on both sides. I'm getting more than the usual amount of subtle hints from my parents that our c.1925 house in a working class neighborhood, with a paltry (I'm being sarcastic) 1800 square feet and a manageable monthly payment that allows us to stay out of debt and allows me to stay at home with I & N, is just Not Good Enough. (The urban location has something to do with that.) It makes me feel like crap. We do well with savings, and I think we have a nice life and lifestyle. I'm content. I love our house. But I absolutely feel that my parents and brothers look down on our home and our values.

Forever Hopeful said...

Hey hey i also blog about how i got pregnant and life after baby x

Powered by Blogger.