This will probably come as a shock to anyone born in a year starting with 20, but there was a time when, if you needed to find out anything, you actually read a book.
The address of a restaurant? Look it up in the phone book. The name of that island in the Mediterranean near Italy? Reach for the atlas. The name of the lead actor in that movie? You had to look up the movie review in the newspaper or magazine.
These days, you just Google the answer in seconds, saving you hours, if not days, of frustration. If you need to know how to do something like, say, pick a lock or hotwire a car, it’s all there too. And if Google doesn’t have it, YouTube will.
We used to have loads of cookbooks, their fat volumes taking up several shelves in the living room. Most of them were new, and some still in their shrink-wrap. Even though none of us cooks. Saffy can’t boil water without burning it, Amanda doesn’t believe in ruining her manicure, and I don’t see the point of spending hours cooking when I can have a cheap lunch at my local chai-beng in 20 minutes and be back in time for a nap.
Yet, we loved a thick cookbook, turning the glossy pages on perfectly roasted chickens, hot stews and gorgeously spun cakes. We’d walk past Kinokuniya and suck up, in our wake, a beautiful volume on, say, how to cook with just three ingredients, or baking made simple. And a few days later, it would sit on the shelf and gather dust, never to be looked at again.
A few months back, in a mad session of spring-cleaning inspired by Marie Kondo’s fabulous life-changing show, Saffy culled three-quarters of our library and immediately announced she felt so unburdened by stuff that no longer sparked joy in her.
“Saffy shrugged. ‘Apparently. And it’s her favourite lasagna recipe!’ She turned up the volume just as Paris’s honeyed voice confided, ‘I’m an amazing cook!’”
“I feel lighter!” she told Sharyn who replied, “Yah, and when you need recipe, then how?”
“I’ll YouTube it! Even Nigella is on YouTube!”
Sharyn looked doubtful, but held her tongue.
Several days after that, Jennifer rang up in panic. “Ay, can you bring a dish to tomorrow’s dinner? My new helper can’t cope with the cooking and I’m short of one main dish.”
“Uhm,” Saffy began.
“Please, please, please? You’re the fifth person I’ve asked and everyone is too busy!”
Saffy’s bosom deflated. “Okay, I guess I can bring a lasagna.”
“Oh, I love your lasagna! Thank you, thank you!” Jennifer sang, even as Saffy’s heart sank because a quick glance at our bookshelf showed she’d thrown away the cookbook that contained her favourite lasagna recipe.
“YouTube it,” Amanda suggested.
It might say something about Saffy’s browsing algorithims that the very first entry that popped up when she Googled ‘lasagna recipes’ was Cooking with Paris. As in Paris Hilton.
Amanda looked up from her Kindle. “Wait. What? Paris Hilton cooks?”
Saffy shrugged. “Apparently. And it’s her favourite lasagna recipe!” She turned up the volume just as Paris’s honeyed voice confided, “I’m an amazing cook!”
Amanda struggled up from her end of the couch and came over. “This, I’ve got to see.”
I came home to find them both on the couch clutching each other and howling with laughter.
“Oh my God,” Saffy sniffled. “That’s the funniest thing I’ve seen all year! Those chef gloves!”
“She just put the pasta sheets into a pot of cold water!” Amanda murmured. “And did you see that salt shake?”
Saffy hit replay for literally the 13th time. “I just noticed the aromatherapy diffuser. Is this video meant to be a joke?”
The girls shared the video with everyone they knew. They too laughed non-stop for 15 minutes straight, until Sharyn pointed out that the video has had 3.3 million views and YouTube probably paid Paris Hilton something for it. The suggestion stopped Saffy dead in her tracks.
“Seriously? She made money from that? My God, the woman is genius!”
“Abuden? You think, what?” Sharyn said. “She very free to make comedy cooking show, issit? Of course, she make money, lah, and you and Amanda send to all your friends, lagi help her make more money!”
The idea that she may have, in her own small way, contributed to Paris Hilton’s already huge bank account has burned Saffy for days. “It’s so unfair!” she griped.
It didn’t help things that the Nigella Lawson lasagna recipe she ended up Googling for Jennifer’s dinner party failed miserably — the thing emerged from the oven in a sodden lump — whereas Sharyn who, on a lark, decided to try Paris Hilton’s recipe, inexplicably made a perfect version.
“Shut up!” Saffy said as she chewed on Sharyn’s lasagna. “The recipe actually works?”
“Laugh some more, lah!” Sharyn urged.
As Paris says at the 6.05 minute mark of her video, “Brutal.”