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Serving up a menu of obedience and romance

Updated: 2022-05-31 08:00 ( China Daily )
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The current restrictions in Beijing to reduce the spread of the seemingly irrepressible omicron variant have presented many with a unique opportunity for self-improvement and, failing that, self-reflection as to why they failed to improve.

And for me, self-improvement starts in the kitchen. There's nothing I like more than adding to my, let's say meager out of generosity, list of dishes that I've, let's exaggerate here, "mastered".

Fancy being whisked off to Italy for a traditional spaghetti Bolognese made from scratch? Are you serious? I can knock one up in a straightjacket in my sleep. How about a trip to Finland for a rustic salmon and potato soup? Sure, I can do that, easy. Let's get local. Shanghai for a bowl of scallion oil noodles? Order No 5 ready!

What a catch, right ladies? Alas, put the brakes on. Sadly, I am spoken for and therefore possess a superior half. And so I cannot take full credit for any of the culinary creations I serve up. At some point in the process, the superior half will provide its input, whether it be fetching an item from the fridge, commenting on the aroma coming from the kitchen or instructing me to clean up my mess as I go. All valid inputs into the culinary process, you'll agree.

I jest of course. They're not valid at all. But they do provide a valid source of order, moral aspiration and a vehement adherence to the raising of non-cooking-related "standards" (predominantly cleaning). I approve of the strict standards the superior half sets regarding cleanliness, presentation and "not doing it the wrong way like you always do". It has zero effect on the end result of the dish that I may be cooking at the time, but it is a kind reminder during the cooking process to pull up the old bootstraps and make sure the administration gets done as well.

This cannot be said, however, in the digital kitchen. Yes, you heard right.

The video game Overcooked 2 is a cooperative multiplayer cooking simulator relying on teamwork and communication to get specific dishes out to the pass as quickly and as accurately as possible.

In this respect, the superior half not only has valid inputs in the culinary process, it is full-on in charge of it.

Whereas in real life, the superior half is as effective as a cat captaining a ship, in the digital realm this cat barks orders that are strictly adhered to and followed with precision. And for that reason dinner is served.

And here's where the self-reflection comes in. Perhaps there are lessons to be learned from digital gamified behavior that can be applied in the real world. Maybe I should make less mess in the kitchen. And maybe I should clean it up instead of waiting it out until it magically gets done so I can wreak my havoc once more.

These are some of the pleasures and lessons of being in a positive, healthy symbiotic relationship. Because, if I were on my own, there would be no clean dishes left.

Owen Fishwick [Photo provided to China Daily]
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