Friday, July 17, 2009

USA v. UK

[Maryanne]Having spent 5 and a half years in the USA, and now returned back to Europe, and with Kyle’s input too, I figured it was time to talk about a selection of some of the less reported differences that we, ourselves, are often amazed.

Volume V. Weight in recipes. When I first moved to the USA, and started cooking I was amazed and scornful of the use of CUPS used in all recipes. I’ve always measured ingredients by weight – any British recipe will only give a list of items by weight (or for liquids by volume). This has the advantage of great accuracy and repeatability. Clearly a fixed volume of flour, sugar, raisins, etc, will vary in weight depending on how packed it is. So if your recipe requires a precise mix of ingredients, then measuring by weight is MUCH superior. Eventually, and mainly because I live on a boat, I came to LOVE the use of cups. A weighing scale would be useless on a heaving boat, but just reaching in and scooping a cup of flour is easy, and right. In the USA, butter comes in packets ready marked by cups and half cups, so you can just cut off the amount you want. Easy. I’m really struggling with cutting off a cup of butter now back in Europe. I guess the American system has evolved from the wagon train days, and I’ve grown to find it perfect for us aboard Footprint. Now I’m struggling to convert 200g of anything into “cups”... Help!!!!!

Cordials v. Powder drink mix – In the UK, no powder fruit drink exists as far as I know. We purchase our fruit flavour drinks in a highly concentrated syrup, i.e. a liquid form. When I first moved to the states, I spent ages walking up and down supermarket aisles looking for drink mixes. Eventually with Kyle’s help I found, in the USA, these mixes are all powder mixes, sold either in small paper sachets or in larger tubs with a measuring scoop included. In the USA, Kool Aid, Tang, Wyler’s etc are the most common, and they come in 100’s of flavours. In the UK we can buy a much smaller range of flavours, but all in a bottle to be diluted with water... I guess you get used to what you know.

Blackcurrent flavour. Kyle didn’t even know blackcurrent was a fruit (just like I’d never heard of boysenberry) – blackcurrent is (as well as a fruit) a common flavour of drink and sweet (candy) in the UK (and great mixed with larger too). In the UK it can (obviously) be purchased as a cordial. Blackcurrent has a very strong and distinctive flavour and kids in the UK grow up with it.

Lemonade. UK lemonade is more like an American Sprite (it is carbonated, and has a similar flavour).. To get “American” lemonade in the UK you need to search for “Traditional Lemonade” in the supermarket, but even then you might find it carbonated.

Chocolate.. American chocolate is ... well ... crap. Not the top range stuff, but the general chocolate candy bar type thing (Mars, etc) uses a totally different chocolate recipe in each country. In the USA they use extra sugar, and extra stabilizers (to prevent melting) - even wax in some cases. Kyle initially thought I was crazy (and snobby) with my complaints about USA chocolate, but now he agrees, he’s a total convert, he’ll never eat a regular Hershey’s bar again.

Shelf v. Checkout Price – In the UK TAX/VAT included in the ticket price, when I first moved to the USA I was constantly shocked when asked of extra money at the check-out, now I’m just as confused that the ticket price is all inclusive... Ahh, it’s the little things! And while we are on shopping, in the UK we have shopping trolleys, in the USA, carts, same thing, different name.

Prawn cocktail flavour Crisps/Chips – they just don’t have these in the USA, and think it very odd, personally it is one of my favourite flavours and I missed it terribly when in the states.

Sweetcorn in sandwiches and pizzas. – It’s a British thing! American’s think we are really crazy. It’s delicious.

Hot Mustard in Chinese Restaurants – again an American only thing.. I wonder if they use it in China? Kyle is still in shock about this one.

Crackers in Soup – it is an American thing – the Brits think the American’s are crazy, we stick to bread and croutons here.

Cheez-Its! Kyle is seriously missing Cheez-It’s since we moved back to Europe. The nearest thing we have is Ritz Crackers, but Cheez-It’s are smaller (pound coin size, but square), and Kyle regularly throws them on his soup in place of crackers...

Ice in Drinks. In the USA a cup will be filled with ice, and then the drink added. In the UK, the drink will have (at the most) 3 ice cubes. Of course in the USA you often get unlimited top-up on that soda drink, so you aren’t losing out, no such luck in the UK! In the UK, you just don’t need ice to keep your drink cold, it isn’t that hot!

Iced Tea. This is just wrong. Tea should be hot. OK, now we sell such a thing in the UK, actually you can purchase it as a powder mix (like instant coffee), but it is just not the same as in the USA, and you won’t find it in most restaurants and cafes. In America, they first make a hot tea and leave it in the sun to cool (???? – sun tea), or add ice cubes and throw in the fridge (iced tea). For me, a tea loving Brit, even luke warm tea gets thrown out – tea should be hot. In America you can get iced tea everywhere (e.g. in McDonalds at the dinks dispensers along with Coke etc). Kyle assures me it is delicious and refreshing... Every time I’ve been given it and not realized, I’ve been shocked and disgusted. Kyle tells me that iced tea was served for the first time in the USA at the 1939 World’s Fair (Atlanta??), I guess they drank normal cold drinks before then, probably even cordials.

4 comments:

Split Decision said...

Maybe you would have better success finding powdered drink mix if you searched the supermarket aisles. But I do like the image of you in your boat, sailing from supermarket isle to isle in search of drink mix. ;)

But seriously, I'd be pretty bummed without powdered drink mix on the boat. I don't know that concentrated syrup would be very convenient on a boat, or keep well with limited refrigeration.

Perin said...

Hi Kids!! Not a comment on Euro/Amer food, I could go on about that one, preferring not to buy American "chemical laden stuff"! my my how unpatriotic of me but honestly whose food do YOU trust? (die hard natural vegan here, butt American here). Just wanted to share my latest boating experience, which though centered around the death of my dear friend Michael Robin Christopher, musician/world traveler, it is one that reflects his hilarous adventures in life that continued "above the bones"!!

Last weekend we had a lovely scattering of Michael's ashes. His best friend since they were 20 years old, Ron, arranged for a 55 foot charter yacht with a captain he knows to take a small group of Michaels closest friends to
Tortola for the day. It was a lovely trip and as we started to get ready to shut the engines and scatter the ashes before anchoring off Tortola, Ron frantically said "has anyone seen the brown box"?????? You know the "brown
box", the one with Michaels ashes??????? Well, after searching the many rooms and four levels of the yacht, alas NO BROWN BOX. We left Michael ..... SOMEWHERE!!! Yikes, we all had a good laugh as we headed the hour or so boat ride back to St.Martin to search for them. Where were they? on the dock? in Ron's car? We didn't know and just hoped Ron would find them and
no one else had found them and "disposed" of them!!! The captain gingerly pulled the yacht up to the end of the dock, there were bad cross currents that day and a complete docking takes crew help and coordination, so we
hoped to get Ron (he's 67 and a cancer survivor) to jump to the dock without falling. Well, the Brown Box was in Ron's car and as he walked back to the boat and handed the box to Carly on board, we all held our breathe hoping the Brown Box didn't land smack into the water! Thank goodness the
captain was a sympathetic soul who had lost his wife recently and thought nothing of the extra trip for Michael's ashes. Back to Tortola!!! No one had brought a swim suit, it was really hot that day, the water looked delicious. Man overboard!!!
Woman overboard!!
Perin overboard!! (con panties, sans bra)
We jumped from the boat and enjoyed the water, though I clung mostly to the boat stairs as the current was strong and I'm not as
strong a swimmer! Ron had a memorial for Michael two weeks previously with a big party and live music, Michael would have loved it so I know he is smiling and laughing at our antics!
Remember me in St. Martin, the friendly island!

kate said...

iced tea is an elixir of unparalled superiority first enjoyed by the gods on mt. olympus. so haha! i bet you didn't know that. iced tea made from powder (nestea) is an abomination. only fresh brewed tea should then be refrigerated and enjoyed. i add lots of ice (because it's hot here, dangit!), a lemon wedge (squeezed of course) and a little sugar. ok, maybe more than a little. now you need a big straw hat and a polo game to watch and you're all set. btw, lemonade mixes are okay but not the best. in the u.s., if you really want good lemonade, you go to the trouble of hand squeezing two dozen lemons and adding water and sugar. which is why no one does it. have you ever squeezed two dozen lemons?

Mommy Dearest said...

You leave iced tea in the sun to steep, not to cool. The sun slowly warms the tea and water, creating a steeped brew, which is then refrigerated and served with ice. Sun tea, it's called. But you can make a good, refreshinig iced tea using tea bags and boiling water, just as you make hot tea, steeping a few minutes, then cooling and serving over ice cubes. Oh, never mind. You, Kyle, know what I mean and Maryanne has turned the corner on this one ;-)
In Arizona, lemons are plentiful and I do squeeze two dozen lemons for the juice, add sugar and cook to a concentrate, then add water for fresh lemonade. It's messy but so much better than any powdered stuff. Ick.