Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Taste of home

Since both Toni and I have recently been in (or are currently in) our home country, we thought we'd have a look at the things we missed.


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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  1. I can so relate to your Kraft dinner story. Living overseas, food from home can seem desperately important, I guess a case of always wanting what you can't have.

    Many years ago, living in Azerbaijan, I remember a neighbour bringing me back a 6 pack of Kraft Dinner from her summer vacation - true gold saved for special occasions only. One time, undecided on whether the treat should be Kraft Dinner or local caviar (cheap at the time) we decided to have both at once. Definitely a memorable gourmet experience!

    Thanks for the smile.

  2. Oh I so enjoyed this piece LOL. It seems we all miss the food the most though!

    Mike, I can't imagine being happy back in Blighty ever agin with all that traffic, so I understand you enjoying the wide open spaces.

    And Toni I with you 100% on Brookie but not those crisps!! And thanks for the tip on the chip & pin!

  3. Great post, they get better all the time...

  4. Toni, I have the reverse problem with credit cards - none of mine have a zip code!

    Mike - so that boxed macaroni and cheese is really nice, then? It has always looked foul to me and I've wondered why people don't make their own. But maybe I should try it.

  5. I have spent the summer (six weeks) in the US and have really loved it. Especially the sunshine.

    Mike -- though I lived on mac and cheese throughout my university years and it was often an afterschool snack -- I can't look it squarely in the eye. There is just something wrong about the color.

  6. Mac and Cheese in Azerbaijan. You know how to live, expatriatlife ;)

    Sarah, I'm with you on the crisps!

    FFF: Thanks!

    nappy valley: I wouldn't say M&C is "nice" but to those of us who have acquired the taste, it's like crack. ;)

    Modern Mom: Didn't everyone live on M&C in college? It's sort of a requirement.

  7. Mike, can't believe you like those horrible Kraft mac and cheese things! Even in college I couldn't eat them.

    Something I love that Brits snear at are Richmond Sausages! LOVE them and crave them, as they are virtually impossible to get in the US. The slight nutmeg flavour, the smooth texture and the crunchy casing are just too divine!

    I always bring back at least one pkg to keep in the freezer to hoard and savour as long as it lasts. But I understand Richmond sausages are looked on as decidedly declasse by those who live in the UK?

  8. @nappy valley girl

    I think Kraft Mac-n-Cheese is something you have to eat in childhood to enjoy. The first time I tried it I was 23 years old and thought it was vile (I'm American but my mother just wasn't down for having that in her house). I just can't get behind orange cheese (not even if it's hand crafted 10 year old raw milk cheddar from Wisconsin as I saw at the farmers market the week before last), much less orange cheese like product. Your kids would probably like it though.

  9. I agree with Elizabeth, Kraft is like a film you loved as a child, it never makes sense to anyone who tries it as an adult! But I am an American in the Sussex area so wondering what the store was selling it??

  10. Mac and cheese. Yup.

    And rainy English summers. Yup. (but how did that get into a list of things you miss?)

  11. Jessica: My wife tells me it was Spark's Yard in Arundal. It has lots of nifty but expensive gadgets and an American food section. They even had Fluff(TM) -- give it up for the Fluffernutter!!!!!!

  12. I've been in the US since 1990 as well. I go home every summer with my son who LOVES Marmite.

    When I go home I gorge on black pudding, scottish morning rolls, bacon, potato fritters, Irn bru, bread and fresh cream cakes. I don't know how it is I only gain about 1-2lbs.

    I still miss my friends and it's never long enough when I go home.

  13. Mike

    Just for information - Mac N Cheese is now available in Asda (well it is in our local one)



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