So there I was indulging myself with some hard candy/sweets stolen from the Little Guy’s Halloween stash. Unbelievably, the first three I put in my mouth were so revolting I had to spit them out. Cinnamon, effing hot cinnamon and weird, spicy cinnamon! What is it with Americans and their penchant for cinnamon? Everything here is cinnamon flavored.
Seven out of ten boxes of cereal in a supermarket will be cinnamon flavored, as are many pastries. What I’ve never understood however, is cinnamon chewing gum. It’s supposed to freshen your breath not make you smell like a halitosis-suffering dragon! And cinnamon flavored breath mints – isn’t that an oxymoron?
My fave cinnamon item however, has to be the tooth pick. I mean why go a second without the delightful taste of cinnamon in your mouth?
Americans have a huge sweet tooth in general and I have to be very careful when buying baked beans. Most cans of beans have a very sugary taste, even when they’re not too high in sugar content. (Tip- for more savory beans in the US, buy the cans labeled vegetarian.)
What, to my mind, should be a savory meal, is often laced with spices, and god knows what. Last Thanksgiving, I made a sweet potato casserole from a Williams-Sonoma (very posh) recipe that was so sweet I had to start again with half the recommended sugar and maple syrup. Half way through the first attempt I seriously thought I was making the pudding/dessert!
Oh how I miss sensible sweets like Parma Violets, even though they tasted like my grandmother’s pocket handkerchiefs.!
If we’re entering a debate on who has the more discriminating palate—Americans or Europeans—we can end it now. I know as well as anyone that Americans have four major food groups—salt, sugar, fat and pizza. And, as Toni points out, they tend to flavor everything they possibly can with cinnamon.
Back in the States, I put cinnamon on my toast, on apples, on pastries, in cider and any number of other food items. The only reason Americans no longer need to sprinkle cinnamon on everything is that everything now comes with cinnamon in it. On the other hand, I see nothing wrong with it; having been weaned on cinnamon, I rather enjoy it. In fact, I think I’ll go see if we have any in the spice rack. Coincidentally, we’re having pizza for dinner tonight—a little cinnamon will surely perk things up.
But before I go on, I need to digress a bit due to a word Toni used: Savory. I rarely heard it in America outside of gravy commercial, but here, people use it all the time: “You can’t put (food item) out now, it’s a savory!” or “These dishes can’t go together, one is a savory.”
I’ve kept silent for nearly nine years, but now I have to ask: “Just what the f*%k is that supposed to mean?” Is “savory”—along with what is and what is not—taught to little British children? It must be, for they use the word with great solemnity. I might not know what it means, but I know it is taken very seriously. When someone tells me I cannot have such and such because it is not a savory, well, that is not something I am prepared to argue with.
I suppose we don’t bother with it in America because—getting back to Toni’s subject—the line between a main course and dessert is very fine indeed. As Toni discovered, they are virtually interchangeable—you just need to add a smidge more sugar—and some cinnamon—to make almost anything into a dessert.
I’d like to think that my taste buds have shaken off the shocking sweetness and saltiness of American food and have come to appreciate the more subtle flavors of Continental cuisine. I have, after all, grown fond of haggis, fish-and-chips and the other major UK food group: curry. But when it comes to candy, I am afraid I find the local offerings a bit tame. The sweet tarts aren’t as sweet or as tart, the sour drops aren’t as sour and there isn’t any cinnamon in anything.
And, seriously, what is up with the Parma Violets? Whose idea was it to make a candy out of a dryer sheet?
What do you think of the new-found flavors in your host country?
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