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  • I usually take my time to clear the dishes after the early (as in 2 hours before sunrise) meal that marks the beginning of a day of fast. Since I am the slow poke who is never up early enough to help set up the table, it behoved me to be the one to wash the dishes and clean the kitchen after the meal. Make it all nice and ready for the evening food preparation, you know?

    Yesterday I washed the dishes in record time to watch Come Dine with Me with my sister. Reality TV doesn't always crank my engine, but this one looked interesting. It's about 4 people who go have dinner in each other's house over the course of four nights and they rate each other for the meal. Winner walks away with a thousand pounds (it's a British show). All kinds of people participated in the show, regardless of their culinary skills or aptitude at hosting a dinner party. I suppose it doesn't matter when you can lubricate any social friction with alcohol.

    For the most part, I enjoy watching how much/little people do to prepare for the dinner party. Some of them are terrible cook, others are severely awkward at being a host. There was a Filipina lady who used a whole bag of green curry paste that could make enough to serve 50 people for a meal for four; I just hope that no one got the runs the next day. Another guy cheated by getting the meals catered. Quite a number of participants attempted ambitious dishes that often turned out to be disasterous. Some episodes featured super-nosy people who snooped through the home of the host while waiting for dinner to be served.

    Sometimes I think reality TV is designed to showcase the wildest and wooliest in all of us.

    For the most part, I just watch the show and retain very little of what had happened in the episode. After all, there's just so much data I can cram into my noggin; why should I bother with details about strangers halfway around the globe who don't mean much to me except for passing entertainment? But the person who got the last spot in yesterday's episode really got to me.

    Jane was a proper type A personality: a go-getter who pushes herself to achieve the standards that she set and isn't afraid to put her money where her mouth is. A woman of medium height with a trim body, her hair was frosted caramel with bright grey-blue eyes. Jane was a self-professed foodie; she even decorated her home with menu of the best meal she ever ate at the 2nd best restaurant in the world. An adventurous cook, Jane put in a lot of thought into the food she prepared. I don't have much experience in fine dining, but I thought her food was not just pretty, but also delicious.

    However, the rest of the competitors didn't like her. They made fun of her earnestness, saying that she's putting on airs when she used French phrases in the menu and denigrated the food that she carefully prepared for them. One of the contestants, a local radio deejay who fancies himself a hot shock jock, accused her of living beyond her means and being a show-off. He used the pricey wines she decorated the dining room with and her menu choice (dessert was deconstructed banoffee pie with gold leaf) to support his argument; the other two contestants also echoed him. It was evident that the attack hurt her very much; I have to applaud her composure when she replied that she stuck to the a hundred and twenty five pound budget limit given and that she economised in order to fulfil her love of fine dining.

    Jane reminded me so much of my classmate in high school, Ramona. Like Jane, Ramona was goal-oriented, hard-working and pays attention to details. Her pencil case were chock-ful of the coloured pens she used to construct her beautifully colourful notes. She never minded lending people a hand and was generous with her time. But many people didn't like her. Unlike Jane, Ramona was inured to others who were catty and unkind. A lot of the other students disdained the effort she put in to keep her top scores, mistakenly prizing "genius" who can do well without working at it. She was mindful of her future, she didn't mind the jeers so much because she knew that it wasn't going to be forever.

    People like Ramona and Jane often make us uncomfortable because they show us that we can and should do better with what we have. These are people who are not willing to settle for mediocrity and expects more out of themselves and others around them. I took Ramona's admonishment for me to do better in school in the spirit it was given: not out of contempt for my lackadaisical ways, but rather in the belief that I could and should do my best and not settle.

    I do wish that I have an ounce of her drive, though. But then again, if wishes were horses, then beggars would ride.

    I've yet to witness that phenomenon.
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