Once I am back over the pond, I do miss some American foods that I acquired a taste for. Whether you consider them healthy or not is another matter, but I enjoyed them and hanker for them when I am not stateside. These are the foods I look forward to upon my return that I can’t get here in the UK, well not just yet.
- Spinach Bagels, or in New York, Pretzel Bagels. Bagels are much bigger in the US than in the UK, and do taste better. An Everything Bagel is a good substitute if I can’t find either of the above, and is great with some soup, or with a garden burger.
- Sweetcorn Chowder is my favorite, usually a cup because they are so big, or a cup of New England Vegetable Chowder is what I used to have for lunch or a midnight snack. With a sprinkling of croutons, it’s perfect for any time of day or the year.
- Cheetos, I miss dearly, and while they do have them in the UK they are not the same, I repeat; they are not real Cheetos. In the UK we have wotsits, which are cheesy puffs, but smaller. The Cheetos in the UK are thinner and shorter and are less cheesy, but I don’t know why. They are not real Cheetos because after eating a pack my fingers would be orange in the US, and here in the UK there isn’t even a hint of orange on my eager fingertips.
- Boxed macaroni cheese. This handy cupboard staple has seen me through some tough times. I like Kraft, but found the generic brands in the supermarkets were as good. I would add some fake bacon or some spinach to make it more of a meal, and added more butter to make it creamier.
- Pepperidge Farm Cookies. In particular Double Chocolate Milano, or Plain Chocolate Milano cookies. There is no substitution and nothing comes close. Perfect as an anytime pick me up, tea time treat, morning brain booster, or when I have writer’s block.
- Cedar’s Artichoke Spinach Hommus. I would always have a tub in the fridge and was great for dips or to hold my sandwiches or wraps together at lunchtime. The sound of two vegetables does make it sound healthier, and that is what I will continue to believe.
- Tofurky Hickory Smoked Deli Slices. When I first tried these I only used them cold, then I added them to a grilled cheese and they tasted even better. What was great is that they had just enough flavor, and I could eat them hot or cold when I needed a protein kick.
- Walgreen’s Nice Banana Nut Bread. I was convinced this was a healthy snack; it tasted good and was only a dollar. It was either that or a pack of chips, and often I would have both in my hand and wander around the store. The use of the word banana made me feel it was a better choice over a pack of corn chips.
- Funyuns. I’ve loved these for decades and is my guilty little secret. I eat them alone when no one else is around, and yes, it’s a family sized bag.
- Snyder’s Honey and Mustard Pretzel Bites. My brother is actually responsible for me getting hooked on these, but there is a cheaper option in Trader Joe’s that tastes as good at a fraction of the price.
As American films, television shows, celebrities, and culture dominate the world, most of us know what common Americanisms mean, or we look them up. On the other hand most Americans don’t bother to find out what the equivalent is in other countries, especially in the UK, so here is a mini guide to what we Brits know, but don’t bother to correct Americans. Why? Simply because we know what they mean and adapt. Here are some of my tales, when there was confusion on both sides. For reference the American word is first followed by the UK term (which came first!).
- Projects v Council Estates. I was in New York City when my Uncle mentioned there were some new projects in his old neighborhood. I innocently asked what kind of projects were they. Then they showed me, and I realized it was what is now termed purpose built housing. I honestly thought they were implementing some work or recreational projects in the area.
- Blowout v Blowdry. When I first saw this on a Groupon offer, I wondered what on earth they do. I was looking for a blow dry, I mean that makes sense—they blow dry your hair. I must admit I thought it was some kind of misprint as it sounded like an intimate act, but Groupon doesn’t advertise that kind of thing, not in the UK anyhow.
- Cellphone v Mobile (phone). While everyone does know what these terms mean (cellular phone) many Americans won’t call it a mobile, and insist on calling it a cell. A cell to me is a prison, and not a mobile phone!
- French Press v Cafetière. I had a communication break down when I rented a room and the owner was showing me the kitchen. She told me she had a French Press, which I ignored because I had no idea what it was. Then I saw the cafetière, and mentioned it. “Oh you have a cafetière,” I said, to which she smiled, as she had no clue what I was on about. Somehow we went back and forth talking about the same item and not even realizing it. In the end I never used it.
- Cookies v Biscuits. Most people know that UK biscuits are US cookies, but in the US, biscuits are scones. I was surprised to find them on breakfast menus and the worst, as biscuits and gravy. Somehow it seems so very wrong to eat them as a savory dish. Long live the cheese scone.
- Sheer Panels v Voiles. I was helping my old landlady with some refurbishing to show her house on an open day, and thought voiles would be a cheap and quick way to add color and hide things. After a day of searching in Target, Pier 1, and Home Depot, I found several. Finally she gasped, “This is what you were on about!” because she had no idea what I was looking for, and spent the whole day being quiet, because she didn’t want to sound silly for not knowing what a voile was.
- Open Container v Open Bottle or Can. I was very confused when I saw signs prohibiting ‘open containers’, because I didn’t know what it meant. Surely someone can open a can of soda and drink it? Finally a friend explained it was to stop people drinking alcohol in public, and they use the word container to disguise that fact, but apparently all people know that an open container means alcohol?
- Sunnyside Up or Over Easy (egg) v Fried. I ran into this problem when I was ordering breakfast one day. You could choose how your eggs were done, and I just wanted it fried. The server looked at me, and I quickly scanned the menu and it all is said was eggs of your choice. I’d heard the term sunnyside up and said it and hoped for the best. In the UK we just say ‘well done’ or ‘slightly runny in the middle’.
- Skillet v Frying Pan. It still amazes me that some Americans can’t figure out what I’m looking for when I ask for a frying pan. It’s simple—a pan to fry something in. The amount of times people have corrected me and said it’s a skillet, and I want to fry something not skillet something.
- Trash or Garbage v Rubbish. You’ll be surprised at how many Americans don’t understand the word. In fact it astonishes me. The words are usually interchangeable, but to be trashy in the UK means something is cheap and common, so the word isn’t used often, as it is slang. As a result I try not to get into the habit of using the word trash, and use the phrase bin it, so that people know what I mean. Seriously, I once asked where the rubbish goes in the US to be met with a blank stare.
I once contemplated taking time out in a Buddhist nunnery to find myself and get away from the rat race. I read the rules: No sex, alcohol, caffeine, or chocolate. The first three I could survive without for a while, but the thought of no chocolate was too much, and was the deciding factor that it wasn’t right for me.
America has a poor reputation for chocolate; whenever I go I always take a supply of my favorite bars—as much as I can fit into my luggage, and when I run out it becomes an expensive habit of finding imported chocolate. However, drugstores frequently have specials on Godiva and Lindt chocolate, and with my loyalty card discounts I can justify my luxury chocolate consumption. The recent ban of UK imported chocolate to the US from Cadbury’s (Kraft) only goes to prove US chocolate is inferior. I have even contemplated buying an extra luggage allowance just for chocolate, although I am aware I’m bordering on eccentricity here. Sadly, since Kraft took over Cadbury’s, even UK Cadbury’s has suffered with smaller bars and the chocolate does taste different—less creamy and with a bitter aftertaste. Since I have not yet found suitable replacements, a bar has made the list, but as a chocoholic, Cadbury’s you cannot fool me.
A word of warning, Marks and Spencer bars won’t be easy to find, but over the years they have had gourmet chocolate bars with praline and ganache. If you do happen to chance upon them, they are worth paying for the sheer indulgence as they melt into your taste buds, and it will be hard not to get addicted to them. These are my current favorites, but as an open-minded chocoholic, I am always on the look out for new bars, although I am attempting a few sugar free days per week…
- Galaxy Ripple: Simply a creamy and delicious chocolate bar made up of flaky layers of chocolate, encased in chocolate that makes it easier and less messy to eat.
- Nestlé Toffee Crisp: Although I’m not a fan of rice crispies, I do like the combination of rice crispies covered in chocolate with a top layer of toffee. I hate the orange wrapper, but it’s what inside that matters. This is also a favorite of David Beckham.
- Marks and Spencer Swiss Milk Chocolate Bar: This is a decadent bar and not one you share with just anyone. The chocolate is creamy and light. There are versions with praline fillings, and these are ones you should eat alone. I do, because it’s expensive and I’ll only share with someone who appreciates good chocolate.
- Cadbury’s Flake: I’ve loved this since a child and always wanted to be ‘Flake Girl’ in the iconic adverts. They have stopped them now, maybe as they thought they were sexist, but they were liberating really. It can be messy to eat, as the flake will crumble, but the best part is emptying the leftover flakes into your mouth by tapping the wrapper into your mouth directly. It’s not very ladylike, so do it alone, but otherwise you waste so much chocolate.
- Terry’s Chocolate Orange: This is a childhood favorite—tapping the orange and having a chocolate orange slice. When they introduced bars I was very happy, although they do seem to have gotten smaller recently.
- Lindt Lindor Milk Chocolate: I was ecstatic when I friend of mine was managing a Lindor promotional tour and gave me a bag full of chocolate truffles. Generally this is my back up chocolate when I am abroad as I know they won’t change the recipe. The little red balls have saved me many a time when I needed a fix.
- Godiva Dark Chocolate Ganache Bar: This is a luxury item for me, and I do treasure each mouthful. Perfection is every sense, and if you have never tried it, once you have, chocolate will never be the same again.
- Nestlé Aero: This comes in various formats, but I like the block bar and the single chunky bar. I don’t like the ones with flavors, just the plain milk chocolate version. The bubbles melt in your mouth as you eat a chunk.
- Nestlé Dairy Crunch: In the US I tend to eat this frequently as it’s more readily available and is on special most of the time. It’s a simple bar of chocolate with rice crispies in it. I’m happy to say the UK and US versions taste the same.
- Nestlé Kit Kat (Dark): I only like the foil wrapped version, as the ones in a plastic wrapper just don’t taste the same. I still like the milk chocolate version, but the dark chocolate version is better, and in the US it tastes better then the milk chocolate counterpart.
Recently I have been trying other bars and Aldi have an excellent range. I do like Green & Black’s although they did sell out to Cadbury’s. I am aware of the ethical implications of where our chocolate comes from, and I do support Fairtrade, but this is up to the companies to implement too. The truth is can be ever know 100% where any of our products come from unless they are from our own garden?