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.
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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