Monday, August 31, 2009

Back to our Regularly Scheduled Program

Since both Toni is STILL on holiday, and this post didn't get much air time before I butted in with my BBC interview, we thought we'd move it back to the front page.



So, I'm here in England once again. I've lived in the States since 1990 and my three children were born there. They have dual nationality and have been to England at least once a year, since they were babies. Inevitably, people ask me, among other questions what it's like coming "home". And I have to say, sometimes it's pretty strange.

Take for instance, the fact that I usually have no idea who the women are on the covers of the gossip mags. Myleen? Fiona? Not that I would take much notice in the States, but I may, at least, have heard of them. And the fact that because none of my credit cards have chip and pin, I am often turned down at cash registers and bureaux de change, as happened yesterday. (In case you're worried about me, I have to drop everything, run to the nearest cash point and come back with a fistful of cash. Very tedious.)

I still don't refer to the States as "home", but more and more, the UK doesn't resemble the one I left. Wandering around Newcastle upon Tyne, (usually lost, these days) I am defeated by the new one-way system, and marvel at the tourist trap that is now the Quayside, with its gleaming Sage, trendy Baltic museum and eye-catching Millennium Bridge. When I lived in the area, the Quayside literally resembled something from a Dickens novel and was just as dangerous.

Although I complain bitterly about the brutal Chicago winters, at least we know there's some guaranteed sunshine every summer. I feel nothing but pity for Brits these days with the gray and rainy summers. Last year we came in July and it rained almost every day; this year we've had a few bright days, but we take rain gear, sweatshirts and sunglasses everywhere we go and if by chance, we plan an outdoor event, you can be sure it will lash down.

My kids however, have embraced sausage rolls, fish and chips (when the fish is good), and the Queenager is up to speed on Emmerdale, Corrie and East Enders. Personally, I will never get over the demise of Brookside.

There is though, one thing to warm the cockles of my heart:


America. I'm always thrilled to be there and luxuriate in the wide roads, open spaces and unending options, but after a week I find myself looking forward to the tidy little towns, winding roads and rucked up countryside of Sussex. What stays with me, however, and what I do continue to miss when I return to England, is the food.

I have given up trying to bring any back with me. It is never the same and, more to the point, it is never enough. Instead, I simply gorge on all my old favorites as often as I can while I am back home.

Oddly, the best taste of home came to me just yesterday. My wife had been on an outing with some friends and had stumbled upon a boutique selling American products. She returned with a bag of Cheddar Goldfish and, as a bonus, a little bit of heaven in a box.

We had it for dinner last night; the tiny macaronis smothered in the signature sauce made of butter, milk and a special orange powder that resembles no color found in nature and could only pass as cheese-colored to an American child. She had bought the family sized box, not realizing how much the average American family of a mom, dad and 2.7465 children eats in a single sitting.

It was all I remember; hot, salty and infused with comfort. The quintessential American meal. My wife said it was "okay."

There was a lot left over. I expect we'll have it for lunch today.

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