Have you ever been mistaken for someone else?

People have always said that my sister and I look very similar and we have often contended with people asking, to my sister’s mortification and my delight, if we were twins (I’m much older) 😉 Once, a good friend was quite confused when she was met at the door by what appeared to be me in miniature and at my 21st birthday party a family friend wished my sister happy birthday. Despite the frequency of these sorts of incidents, if you ask anyone in my family, they will tell you we look nothing alike. As we come from the same genetic pool, it perhaps is not that surprising that we look similar, more interesting, however, is when two people from different genetic backgrounds can look so similar – I mean from all the genetic variation out there, what are the chances (perhaps a statistician out there could answer that one for me?) that two people could look so similar as to be mistaken for the same person?

Doppelgänger’s are rife in popular culture. In ‘How I Met Your Mother’ (HIMYM) each of the characters have someone who looks like them. The doppelgänger is a key plot line in the ‘The Vampire Diaries’ and virtually any other supernatural type show… ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ (here I am showing my age) dealt with ones from other dimensions. Usually these ‘impostors’ are used as a device to trick and manipulate or are used as a way to address the sliding doors question (what if my life had taken a different path). In soap operas there always seems to be some sort of plot line with an evil twin or surgically created look alike who is there to cause trouble. According to Wikipedia, a doppelgänger (German: “double walker” or look alike) ‘is a paranormal double of a living person’ often perceived as sinister (a portent or omen), but in modern times it is often used to describe any look-alike (supernatural incident not required).


A doppelgänger Lady Grey tea bag…

Obviously, on the big and small screen, these doppelgängers are portrayed by the same actors, but what about real life? Unless you are part of an identical twin it is unlikely that there is someone out there that looks just like you. However, it seems that there can be enough similarities between two people to trigger those neural pathways that connect certain features to how that person perceives you.

It seems that this is more common than I would have thought. A couple of years back, my mother and I came across a brochure which the face on the cover could have been my brother except that the man was Caucasian (we are Eurasian) – the resemblance was uncanny – and this is coming from two people who (I would say) were very familiar with the way my bother looked and thus unlike to mistake him for someone else. My brother, of course, could not see the similarity. On one hand, I told him to take it as a complement as he looked like a model, on the other had I had to tell him that despite the obvious look alike, for some reason he just wasn’t as attractive as the model (though to be fair to him, I don’t know that anyone could find their sibling attractive… It’s a biological thing – besides siblings are there to keep it real!)

My doppelgänger experience began several years ago with an Australian TV show called ‘Packed to the Rafters’ – a couple of friends commented that I looked like one of the minor characters. I promptly forgot all about it until a few years later when ‘ Winners and Losers’ aired. ‘My character’, as the Heterochromic Lion likes to say, was one of the four main roles in the show, which has meant that I get a lot more strange stares. At first I thought I was being paranoid, but now I’m stating to realise that people probably see me, think that I look familiar and are trying lot place where from… I know I’m guilty of doing similar things with others (once we were sitting a table away from Jimmy Barnes and were doing the ‘is it him?’ surreptitious looking… (In case you were wondering, it was him).

My first instance of pseudo-fame was a couple of years ago. While waiting to meet someone for dinner I was shopping (as you do) when the assistant asked me:
“Are you famous?”.
My response was an emphatic ‘are you crazy?’ imbued “No!”. To which I got:
“You’re not lying, you know, so that people don’t hassle you, are you?”

At this point there were three ways the conversation could go:
1. Yes, yes I am – Brad is in the bathroom and the kids are at home and we are having a date night and don’t want to be recognised… (This probably wouldn’t have gone down too well and beside I do not look at all like Angelina Jolie).
2. Yes, please don’t tell anyone… By the way do I get a discount? ( to be honest I wasn’t quick enough in my feet to think of this once at the time)
3. Nope, just an ordinary person… But thank you for thinking I might be fabulous.

I went for option three.

Since then, things have only escalated. I get a lot of, ‘do you know you look like…’ Last year, on a flight to Brisbane, the hostess stopped her meal service to talk to me about my character on the show (she didn’t mistake me for being famous but kept saying that I looked so much like the actress), and recently when trying to surreptitiously sneak into an workshop to which I was running late the presenter stopped what she was saying to ask the room whether they watched the show? So much for an inconspicuous entry! She kept commenting on how uncanny the similarity was… And then, only this past weekend, a friend was asked whether I was on TV… That said, if you ask my family – they will tell you that they cannot see the resemblance and neither can I – however I’m definitely taking this as a complement because I would be quite happy to look like Melanie Vallejo.

What do you think?  I'm on the left.

What do you think?
I’m on the left (and before you make any comments about the hat and ‘roll in the hay’ straw, I was dressed for a cowboy/ cowgirl costume party).

I wonder if it would be weird to actually meet her ?

Back to the point about genetic differences though, Melanie is of Filipino, Spanish and Ukrainian descent and I am of Chinese and English descent yet despite being culturally different there is enough there that we look alike – much like my brother and the eye wear model or Javier Bardem and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. It would be very interesting to see whether the level of perceived similarity relates to your own cultural background (my inner researcher is shouting loudly). We know that someone of mixed culture (like myself) usually finds it easier to distinguish differences in appearance in those from those cultures (Chinese and English) than a person who is only from one (i.e. the Chinese are best at identifying the Chinese and English are best at identifying the English). My question would someone who is English think I look more like Melanie than someone who is Chinese or vice versa? What about those who are mixed, would they see any similarity at all? Would it make a difference if it were a Spaniard, Filipino or Ukrainian?

However, I digress… The silver lining in all of this is that should anyone wish to throw a doppelgänger themed party, I’m set – how much fun would that be! The dinner club ladies have already started figuring out who they would come as: we have a Poppy Montgomery, Rose Burne, Angela Bassett and Nicholle Tom. Who would you go as?

The reason for all this talk of doppelgänger’s is the dish below – the Lady Grey tea experience. The ladies who brunch had another Iron Chef lunch party with the letter ‘T’ as inspiration – since this is technically not a ‘secret ingredient’, I decided to take the secret ingredient to be ‘tea’. What I wanted was to create a dish with the flavours of Lady Grey tea – a combination of black tea, bergamot and lavender. It was a double interpretation. Using tea flavours in the dessert to create a tea flavour. In essence, the black tea panacotta, bergamot jelly and lavender sabayon combo came to the party as a Lady Grey Tea bag…

Oh, and if the producers or casting director of the show happen to read this – I’m available to play long lost sister / evil twin / other dimension Sophie 😉

Lady Grey Tea

The Lady Grey tea bag…

Bottom layer: Black Tea Panna Cotta

2 tbsp water
1 tbsp gelatine
2 cups double cream
1 cup milk
½ cup sugar
4 tbsp black tea leaves

Put water in a small saucepan and sprinkle gelatine on top. Let stand for a minute, then heat slowly until dissolved. Put aside.
In another saucepan, heat cream, milk, sugar, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Bring just to the boil, then immediately take off the heat. Add the tea leaves and let steep for 5 minutes.
Strain through a fine sieve/cheesecloth and mix in gelatin mixture. Pour into a contained and chill until gelatinous.  [If you are putting these in ramekins, pour directly into the container (3/4 full) you will serve it in.]

Layer 2: Bergamot jelly

2 cups water
(1 cup boiling, 1 cup cold)
4.5 tsp gelatine
2 drops bergamot oil
2 tbsp honey

Dissolve gelatine, honey and bergamot in the boiling water. Add the cold water. Pour into a flat-bottomed container to set (around 4 millimetres thick) in the fridge. [If you are making this in ramekins, allow the mixture to cool in the fridge. Pour the cool mixture over the set panna cotta. Chill and set in the fridge.]

Top layer: Lavender sabayon

2 tsp lavender
1 drop lavender oil
¼ cup boiling water
3 egg yolks
3 tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp corn flour

Steep lavender and oil in 1/4 cup boiling water for 5 minutes. Set aside.
In a large heatproof bowl, combine egg yolks and sugar. Beat/ whisk quickly until pale in color. Whisk in the lavender tea. Set the bowl over simmering water, keep whisking until the mixture thickens. Remove the bowl from the heat, add sifted corn flour and continue whisking until incorporated. Chill in the fridge. [This gets poured over the top of the ramekins…]

The Tea Bag

Rice paper sheets (the sort you use on Nougat), cut in half
Gelatine sheets (I has titanium grade)
Glucose syrup
Thin string
Cardboard/ tea labels

Cut and fold the rice paper sheets like this:

tea bag 1a

Soak 2 titanium grade gelatine for about 5 minutes in tap water. Remove the sheets from the water and place them in a small bowl. Added 1 teaspoon of glucose syrup.  Heat the bowl in the microwave  in 20 second bursts until melted. Using a pastry brush, ‘paint’ one side of the rice paper with the gelatine (the red section below). Allow to dry.

tea bag 1b

Once the gelatin is dry to the touch (but not yet hard), ‘paint’ the sections below with the gelatine mix. You may need to make more of the gelatine mix. Then stick the tabs together to make the ‘tea bag’. Allow to set.

tea abg2

Once set, pour in the almost set panna cotta, a piece of the bergamot jelly (cut to size) and top with the sabayon. Using the gelatine mix, sick the top flap down to seal the tea bag – this is where you also stick the string and label on the tea bag. Keep in the fridge until serving.



The alternative in a ramekin:

panna cotta

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