Sunday, July 18, 2010

Even After All These years......

Even though both of us have lived a fair while “across the Pond”, there will always be some things that are irreplaceable and/or longed-for. (“Violins, maestro please”.)


1. For me, it would have to be “decent, affordable tea”. Although more and more Americans seem to be drinking tea, it’s usually sold as an artsy-farsty luxury item so the good stuff is prohibitively expensive, and the bulk stuff is like gnat’s pee, frankly. In Chicago I can buy PG Tips from one of my local supermarkets so it keeps me going. There’s also a chain called Argo Tea, which makes an exquisite Earl Grey Crème, for when I want to pamper myself.

2. Marmite. I know, I know – even in England, people either love it or hate it, and I happen to love it. I can buy it here but since there’s no equivalent (and no, Vegemite doesn’t cut it) I have to pay the prices. Marmite, you should know, can also be used as a soup and sauce booster, much in the way that Americans have embraced Worcestershire Sauce to spice things up. (And I’m not even going to bother telling Americans that it’s pronounced “Wooster”, since actually, that British pronunciation is a bit dodgy too.)

3. Sausages. I (and others) have blogged about the alarming crapness of sausages over here, but it’s true and it hurts. Yes, we can get Brats, (bratwursts) which are great, but they’re still not sausages. If you buy American sausages, they are called “links” (because even they know they couldn’t possibly parade around as sausages), are pathetically thin and, if you’re not careful when buying them, are flavoured with things like hickory-smoke or maple syrup. Fortunately, as I’ve shouted from the rooftops before, there’s a lovely English chap in my neighbourhood who’s now selling proper English sausages. And what’s more, they’re not full of the usual junk so I can eat a lot of them.

4. Dettol. OK, so this is my dirty little secret - or not so dirty since it’s a cleaning agent. I don’t know – there’s something about the smell of Dettol that tells you everything is clean and sanitized. You could perform surgery in your kitchen and eat off your floor, so well does it do the job. Unlike Clorox or Domestos however, you can even bathe in it, as my gran used to have us do. (How dirty were we for god’s sake?) I have friends bring it over from England and I shall be returning with several bottles myself in August since I know my cleaner has been secretly decanting my supply for her own uses. And who can blame her?

5. Things on toast. For some reason, Americans don’t partake. As my husband asks, “Why would you wantto load a carbohydrate (toast) with another carbohydrate (spaghetti)?”. I have no answer; there’s just something comforting about beans/egg/spaghetti hoops (tinned of course), but Americans don’t get it. They do however, put the self same things in a large sandwich, in the shape of a Sloppy Joe.


1. Coin rollers: It used to be one of my great pleasures to pile my spare change on my dresser and then slide them into coin rollers. Here, they have bags that you just bung the coins into. Not the same.

2. Friendly’s/Denny’s: If you drive around any decent sized town in the US, you can be sure there will be a Denny’s or Friendly’s (or Cracker Barrel, or Pizza Hut, or …) where you can pull into an expansive parking lot, go in, sit down and have people bring you food: a passable Ruben sandwich, a steaming bowl of New England Clam Chowder, eggs Benedict with hash browns. It’s not haute cuisine, but you know what you’re getting: hearty, comfort food. Here, you occasionally run across a Little Chef and, while you also know what you’re getting there, you won’t look forward to it with such longing.

3. Friends: It has been said (and said, and said, and said) that a friend is someone who will help you move, and a good friend is someone who will help you move a body. While in the States, I never needed anyone to assist me with a cadaver, but I had plenty of help when I moved. If I ever leave this flat, I’ll have to hire a moving company. ‘nuff said.

4. Barbeques: No one barbeques like the Americans, with loads of potato salad, macaroni salad, ambrosia, endless mounds of seared meat and buckets full of beer. They tell me the Brits do have barbeques, but I’ve never actually seen one. Though I suppose having friends might help on that score.

5. Vanity Plates: (Number plates) Americans display their credo on bumper stickers, but they can also (and many do) display it on their license plates. Bobs Toy, X32 1AR0, Sue Baru, Hosanna, SXUL DV8—all were plates I saw or heard of (except for SXUL DV8, which was in a news article telling how the DMV had denied issuing it). Here, they count on random numbers and letters spelling out something interesting and then you have to bid for them. They can cost quite a bit. PEN 1S, I am told, was a very popular one. I never had a vanity plate, but I liked the idea that I could get one if I wanted to; now, I fear, that opportunity has passed.

Anything you couldn't live without?


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  1. As an American living in England, I miss Jimmy Dean breakfast sausage, canned biscuits, front-of-store parking, free parking, long stretches of sunny days, Fritos and bean dip, hot dogs (not in a tin...ick), green chiles, an affordable watermelon...and the list goes on.

  2. I love to read about things that you miss in different countries.
    I would miss marmite and dettol.... definitely.
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  3. I would say the food items I miss most of all, are the sausages and bacon, I mean there is nothing like a good bacon butty on a barmcake, slathered in HP sauce {slobber]
    I miss custard tarts, and almond slices, since I grew up in a bakery, I was used to eating these everyday, I went through withdrawals not having my daily dose.
    Beans on toast and chrisp butties, still on my menu, even the husband likes beans on toast !
    The Dettol, you can buy at the online British goods websites, a liitle more than what you would pay in England, but at least it's available.
    I miss park benches and path walks on a Summer's evening...ahhhh.

  4. I miss Denny's and the like and I am Brit. I wish we had diners here that would offer good quality cheap meals especially breakfasts. Little Chef- expensive and awful. We just don't get the concept of going out for breakfast here yet- damned shame. Such a treat too.
    I am not sure if this is a vanity plate thing, but when were in USA once we saw a car with a sign on it that said 'my son won the XYZ elementary school class prize 2007'. I can't remember the exact wording but I was mesmerized. Imagine putting that on your car! Bizarre. You would never see that in the UK.

  5. Jo, that would be a bumper sticker. Not many of those in the UK, but almost every car in the US has several.

    Odd that most of the "what I miss" items involve food ;)

  6. Pixie - Do you live in London because that's about the only place I know that charges for parking. Other than Chicago where I live that is. You can't park anywhere without paying.
    Maggie - I know, it's just about what you grew up with at the end of the day.
    A B in T - Actually I've just come back from a long walk by the lake in Chicago and there were park benches a plenty. In fact, it's so bloody hot anf humid here that we kept having to sit down and rest the dog!
    Jo - They are really painful I have to say. My friend has one that proclaims that her son is in the local juvenile delinquents' facility!

  7. Yesterday I sat on a park bench in Chicago. It was like sitting on a furnace. Can summer be over now?

  8. Boring note on parking fees: Brighton (UK) costs a fortune and you can't park anywhere useful! But it's a great place to live if you don't drive, like me.

  9. Mike I have been to a BBQ here in England; they do exist. Also, my friend's mother had a vanity plate that said "Praises"...she was a *little* religious...I am from the south ya know...

  10. Gosh, so many things, I don't know where to start. Besides food I miss American "reality" TV, like the Real Housewives of Orange County, Project Runway or even Oprah that isn't at least 6 months old:) Target. Drive throughs. Lately I have really missed Dairy Queen! Cheap lamp shades, a good fabric store.. I'll stop now. All things one can live without, but still...

    A possible idea for a post/discussion for you -After you have lived in your new country for a while, has your language changed? Did you pick up an accent, any sayings, do you still say tomato or to-mah-to. And why do the British say to-mah-to but say potato not po-tah-to. Just an idea. Sometimes I say to-mah-to and people laugh at(with) me, because it's not my usual way.

  11. OK midwest - you've just volunteered yourself (if you want to) to be the Yank in the UK to my Brit in the States, and we'll discuss just that on Pond Parleys. E-mail me at to get it going.


  12. Mike, funny about the license plates. I have to say I don't think I would miss those (nor did I). I surely would not miss those stupid ribbon car magnets. Blah! But I would miss a good barbecue sandwich with cole slaw. I've yet to taste any cole slaw in England that is as good as you get in the States. By the end of our recent trip, I did find myself craving a good Mexican meal.

    Toni, I love the smell of Fairy liguid and Persil. I found myself missing it this week.

  13. Hmmm Interesting.... My American wife, Paula, and I were discussing this very matter yesterday, and with regards to food items, in order of importance to her, the ones she craves/wants/pays the Earth for/nags for people to bring back etc are: 1) Miracle Whip 2) Stove Top (various flavours) 3) Folgers coffee (both instant and to percolate) 4) Crisco 5) Jif peanut butter (now available in Waitrose I am told) - Joint 6) US sweet pickles, Jimmy Deans, French Dressing (available locally to us), A&W Root Beer, Decent Hot Dog sausages.

    She doesn't miss US bacon because Oscar Meyer is available in Sainsburys.

    In turn I would definitely miss: 1) Yorkshire Fish & Chips 2) Yorkshire Tea 3) HP Sauce 4) British bacon and sausages 5) Piccalilli 6) Marmite 7) French Mustard on a steak 8) Mint Sauce 9) Salad cream

    Not sure either of us miss any particular cleaning fluids as such....


    P.S. Is it only me who cannot get the reference to the number plate SXUL DV8? - it just goes right over my head

  14. OMG - how has no one mentioned Galaxy chocolate. My serious deprivation on the chocolate front in the US, and I am afraid I didn't classify Hershey's as the real thing, was made worse by the fact none of the retail outlets at Heathrow sold Galaxy and being me I always forgot this fact until the fatal moment of final boarding call. My saviour was our local 'Irish' shop that for a mortgage size outlay was willing to slip a few packets of Cadbury's Buttons across the counter along with the Hula Hoops that we also used to buy in industrial quantities. Fortunately Australia is a haven for chocolate lovers - with chocolate cafes and Cadbury varieties galore.

  15. steveg - it took me a while but it's Sexual deviate. Dodgy grammar there.

  16. "Here, you occasionally run across a Little Chef and, while you also know what you’re getting there, you won’t look forward to it with such longing."

    Ha ha! Good to see the British understatement is coming on nicely.

    Also, in Britain, friends aren't people who help with things. In fact, you know someone is a really good friend when they never ask for anything at all. Or even speak to you much, beyond the occasional email. Silence is true friendship.

  17. Ahhhhh Thanks Expatmum - I would never have got there with that oner - just shows how sweet and innocent I am........

    I'll get me coat.... :-)

  18. Surely it should be SXUL DVNT?

    I'm lucky to live in a part of the US where nowadays (tho not 25 years ago when I arrived here) I can find most things I want from the UK - for a price. Ribena, custard powder, good chocolate, poppodums, Patak's sauces, good beer, tea bags that make tea stronger than gnats' piss. (Tetley's British Blend is good enough as far as I'm concerned - I can get 'real' PGTips but at 4 times the price.)

    I have given up eating things on toast - my family here think it's weird.

    The proof of my Americanisation is in the fact that I have (briefly) considered (and rejected) the idea of taking a jar of natural (NOT Jif or Skippy!) peanut butter to the UK with us for the kids when we go there on vacation.

  19. Mr Potarto: in that case, I guess I have LOTS of friends ;)

  20. I can get Marmite and Twinings Earl Grey tea here (my fave) but the Marmite is very expensive. The boys miss Shreddies - we have bought them something we call shreddies but is actually a very expensive organic cereal, and it is completley busting our food budget.

    We also miss decent roast lamb.

    But, agreed, Americans are great at BBQs (although we do have them in the UK - when the weather is good enough!) and at diners. I haven't been to a Dennys or Friendlys (maybe they aren't really in Long Island?) but we like Ruby Tuesdays and we recently discovered the Cheesecake Factory, which was fabulous.

  21. Ah yes, Roast lamb. We tried to find some lamb in Detroit once, we gave it up as a bad job after 6 stores either didn't keep lamb at all or only had some weird trimmings - certainly nothing like a decent leg of the thing (no wonder they also don't have mint sauce!)

    Hmmm add to my list - Pork Pies (preferably the Yorkshire variety, but at a pinch melton mowbray would be acceptable)

  22. Ooh and scotch eggs - which most Americans seem to think sound revolting.

  23. I do miss American food which, for me, comprises excellent Mexican in all permutations, quality Chinese and Chicago style pizza along with Kraft Mac and Cheese and Velveeta (am I allowed to even mention Velveeta when I live so near Cheddar??).
    I don't miss the fact that most of the above, and too much of food in general in the US is full of preservatives and artificial flavors/colors. Also I don't miss food that is shaped like other food and made to taste like something it's not. Ugh. Where have Americans gone wrong?
    I would miss (if I returned to the States): real (not orange and processed) cheddar cheese, the National Trust, my friends (yup- they will even help me with, well, anything!) and being able to flex my sense of humor without inadvertantly offending...

  24. Hi Anonymous

    Just to let you know, our local Asda has been selling Kraft Mac N'Cheese (the American one in the blue box) for quite a while now....

    Hope this is of interest to you

  25. I've just moved back to the States after 4 years in the UK and I can't tell you how great it is to have easy access once again to the following: Trader Joes, peanut butter filled pretzels (from Trader Joes), chocolate covered peanut butter filled pretzels (does Trader Joes not stop?!), Mexican food and guacamole, and casual conversation with strangers. I know the last thing is divisive but I personally like exchanging partial life stories with complete strangers in the grocery store line. I learned to repress that in London, but it's coming back. :)

  26. Wine gums and sausage rolls. Can get the wine gums (for a rather hefty price at World Market) but the sausage rolls - no such luck.

    Oh, and Dandelion and Burdock. You sometimes see the Fentiman's version over here, but that's fancy boutique soda and always tastes a little weird to me.

  27. alisha - you mustn't have spent much time in the NE of England then. You can't even wait for a bus long before you know someone's entire life story!
    CD - Dandelion and Burdock! I haven't had that since I was about 6. I thought they had stopped making it.

  28. I wrote a post about this very thing a while back:

    The list continues to grow but, in short:

    Prawn cocktail crisps. In fact crisps in interesting flavours generally which are sold in portion sizes smaller than a day's intake of calories.

    Orange Squash that doesn't cost the price of a small planet.

    Public toilets that do not have inch wide gaps in them.

    Sausages, a thousand times over, sausages. Am buying a sausage stuffer kitchen aid attachment to try and remedy the loss. I live in hope.

  29. Hannah,

    Great blog! Keep adding to that list--someday we'll pool all our items and publish a book. ;)

    Hope you are enjoying the weather in Boston. And sorry about that checking to see if you were really a girl thing, but you never can be too careful. ;)

  30. I can't work out what X32 1ARO is. Sorry to be thick. Can you enlighten me?

  31. Iota: strange that you are the first person to ask about that one, I can't believe everyone else figured it out. If you have that written on a license plate and look at in in a mirror, it spells ORAL SEX. Yeah, a bit sophomoric, but some people find it funny.


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