The only thing missing from her list was a colander.
Dee selected ‘Continue shopping’, and returned to the menu. She tapped ‘Products’, and was once again presented with the choices of Current Range (available for a short time only), Budget Range (comparatively inexpensive), Premium (standard pricing), Platinum (practically gold-plated), then the two collector ranges: Mid-Twentieth Century and Obsessive Compulsive. For the purposes of locating a humble colander, Dee wondered why they couldn’t just sort them into ‘Utensils’, ‘Cookware’ or ‘Storage’.
Dee selected ‘Budget’ again, knowing in her heart of hearts that there would not be a colander there. She’d already looked through every item in the Budget section of the virtual store, and she wasn’t sure she could add another damaged, used, ‘upcycled’, or slightly imperfect piece of plasticware to her shopping cart. She had already compromised by settling for the two-pronged forks, some lid-less containers (‘lid-free for easy access’) and several spare lids in various mismatched colours and sizes (‘eye-catching and eclectic’) to bolster her own already impressive cupboard full of both.
Sighing, Dee accessed the ‘Mid-Twentieth Century’ holo-store to see if there was a colander there. It was like strolling through a museum. There was an unpowered ‘egg-beater’ device with a hand-operated rotary wheel, an analogue potato peeler, kitchen scales with measurements in ‘kilograms’ instead of newtons… it was a bit of a trip.
Dee was reminded of the stories her mother used to tell her. Dee’s grandmother’s grandmother’s kitchen had boasted the family’s first LWNBP (lightweight non-breakable plastic), a measuring jug in imperial units, which dated back to the same era. In fact, a cousin still displayed the jug proudly on her homepod mantel, along with a ‘bar of soap’, a ‘turntable’ and a ‘jafflemaker’. Dee’s cousin was insufferably hip.
To be fair, it was a great grand-aunt on that side of the family who had gone into the plasticware business herself, as Dee’s cousin had often humblebragged on her socialfeed. Dee’s great grand-aunt was one of the first wave in the great female social revolution of the close of the previous century, one of the pioneers of the social commerce movement (SOCCOM, as it later became known). These women saw an opportunity to monetise social gatherings and at the same time spruik the benefits of snap-fresh green vegetables. Such pioneers, trailblazers if you will, laid the groundwork for the later iterations – the mumpreneurs and social media influencers of the early twenty-first century. The momentum gathered. Women Kardashianed their profiles . They developed empires from commoditising their social relationships, cannily identifying an almost literal captive market as they happily redistributed the wealth of their closest friends and family members into their own pockets. The LWNBP market was instrumental in this – plasticware parties becoming synonymous with the kind of slavish devotion more commonly seen in today’s Hillsongsters. Clever consultants/entrepreneurs/magnates incentivised such party games as under-neck orange-passing and chopstick-enabled grape redistribution, by liberally awarding LWNBPs as prizes. And in so doing, they expertly planted the seeds of obsession and repeat business, one tiny fresh-sealed container at a time. What a time it was to be a woman!
Dee brought herself back to the task at hand. Truthfully, the Mid-Twentieth section of the store was a bit hit-and-miss, catering as it did to the more nostalgic consumer, being so romantically pre-BPA. Sure, you could still locate a ‘sandwich’ container in duck-egg blue or a SupaSqueezy lemon squeezer (once upon a time, lemons had juice), if you didn’t mind the low-level toxicity. Although, given that most of today’s consumers were accustomed to the odd bit of lunchtime metastatic lasering, it was a price some were still quite willing to pay.
Speaking of price, Dee switched screens to view her live credit. She’d budgeted carefully for this transaction; the up-to-the-minute feedback confirmed she could still squeeze the colander in, but she’d have to hurry. The volatility indicator was on ‘normal’, so with the Shenzhen stock exchange due to open in 30 minutes, who knew. She’d have to get moving.
Dee faced facts and returned to the main menu. Looking for a colander in ‘Premium’ was probably optimistic; while everything there was first-use, there were only a few more items than in the Budget range. And she couldn’t face searching through the literally thousands of pages in the ‘Platinum’ collection, so she located the search box and voice-commanded, ‘colander’.
The virtual store hologram immediately bombarded her with several hundred recipes, credit facility advertisements and online grocery vendors. Closing the pop-ups that surrounded her, she sifted through the holograms of invertebrate risottos, mealy bug marmalades and ant-and-black-quinoa salads (two ingredients, which to her, had always been roughly the same thing) and finally found it. The colander. Except it wasn’t called a colander, it was a NutriWave MultiDish DeLish 3-in-1 ‘cooking solution’ and it came in cerise, saffron or aubergine. Two parts of the Multi-Dish DeLish seemed surplus to requirements, but the third was a colander. She selected the ‘cooking solution’ that looked like it was purple, chose her quantity and moved it to her shopping cart. Done.
She checked her cart to make sure everything was there. The set of seven burp-able ramekins in cochineal, one for every day of the week, if she decided to use them. A left-handed spatula. Two melon ballers (cute – she hadn’t seen a melon in years). Childproof tongs. Several slotted spoons, slicers, scrapers, scoops and skimmers. A mouli, a Mandoline, twenty-two nanowaveable bowls, and 765 litres of plastic storage in all the colours of the plasticware rainbow, from amaranth to zaffre. The total came to ￥1,132,521.09.
Dee transferred the credit, closed down the holo-store and saw her living room re-materialise. She passed through a doorway and moved into the gallery to wait for the delivery drone. She started her habitual walk along the stretch of cabinet-lined walls, lit with solar downlights, stretching the full length of her homepod’s requisite property allowance. She revelled in the custom-built floor-to-ceiling display cases revealing BPA, non-BPA, mid-twentieth, late twentieth, early twenty-first, mid-twenty-first, late twenty-first, collector’s, homemaker’s, bride’s, children’s, non-gender-binary life partner’s and chef’s special collections. And the first ‘men’s collection’, released directly after the same-sex marriage revolution inevitably caused the decay of modern civilisation.
These containers! With their mismatching, lost or (less likely) matching lids! This cookware, these utensils and this storage! The salad spinners, salad bowls and salad servers (salad! So old-school)! The pantry organisers, picnic sets, pill-keepers and party prizes! The water bottles in small, medium, large and wasteful! And that kid’s toy, with the shapes!
The holo-store didn’t have a section called ‘Obsessive Collector’ for nothing. For some reason, Dee thought of her cousin.
In the central antechamber of her gallery, where hung the family crest, Dee looked to the family motto.
She who dies with the most Tupperware, wins.