When our daughter first heard we were considering moving from the US to England, she just couldn’t stop laughing. She thought it was a joke. Nevertheless, we are here and the things that are different are not necessarily what we anticipated…

What’s Cooking in Britain!

sent 28 October 2004

Hello everyone. Thanks for all of the emails. I check my email daily now in hopes of getting messages and I am usually lucky enough to get one or two. There is so much to tell that this gets a bit disjointed. I want to try to share some of what it is like to live here, but it is hard to get the character to come through on email.

We had our first dinner party in Great Britain last weekend, which led me to think about the food and cooking in Great Britain. Although the party went very well, I did discover another ingredient that is different in Britain — yeast.

In preparation for the party, I used my handy dandy bread maker to make French bread dough. After rising, it looked more like a long, mushy American [washing] sponge, which, by the way, is very different from any non-absorbent long, thin sponge you can get in the grocery store here. For try # 2, I made the dough by hand. It might have worked if we hadn’t decided that the boys were fed up with being kept inside by rainy weather and decided to venture out right when the bread should have gone into the oven. After cooking, it resembled a slightly oversized brick. Luckily, we had made a contingency plan and bought a terrific loaf of bread from the local bakery while we were out.

These attempts followed my earlier discovery that granulated sugar in Britain is not used for baking because the granules are bigger. I made some very gritty chocolate chip cookies during my first month here. The list of things that are different is pretty long, but we are adjusting. Surprisingly enough, Nico is eating like a horse and growing like a weed. (Does this make you picture a horse eating weeds, or what?) He has outgrown most of his trousers. Don’t make the mistake of calling trousers pants, otherwise you might embarrass yourself. You would be talking about underwear. I have made this blunder several times, to the dismay of my children.

Anyway, the dinner party was very successful. Because of a last minute addition of another family of 5 from down the street, the menu changed a bit at the last minute. For the kids, we served hot dogs and chips (French fries in America) out of the freezer. The adults had pasta I fagioli, an Italian soup that includes a pasta called ditalini. To find the ditalini pasta, I went to the coffee shop around the corner which doubles as an Italian market. When I asked for ditalini, the woman behind the counter gave me a strange look. I figured out why later. I looked ditalini up on the internet and discovered that it not only brings up a description of the pasta, but also provides many Italian x-rated web sites to choose from. I think ditalini might be an Italian nickname for a male body part. Oops!

Despite the 6 young boys jumping around on the furniture in our basement family room and screaming at the top of their lungs (or maybe because of it), the party seemed very successful. Our neighbors here in St Margarets are terrific! We have ended up on a street with more children than we could have hoped. Also, my neighbor Kim has been an invaluable resource for telling me things like where the grocery store is and how to get to the dump to dispose of our piles of cardboard boxes. I think we ended up living in one of the nicest suburbs of London. This also makes me think that I am becoming a bit British, because all Brits seem to think that where they live is the best spot of all.

In closing, here is a limerick courtesy of my grandparents.

There once was a woman in Twickenham
Whose kids were so bad she got sick of ‘em
Then she realized with glee
That she loved them – all three
And continued to hug and to kiss ‘em.

Cheers from England!

These are emails from a recent ex-pat to St Margarets, Stephanie Grefsheim. They are presented as they were originally sent to her friends and family in Rockville, Maryland, USA (except for the occasional translation of some very American terms).