Monthly Archives: November 2010

Giving Thanks Properly

We don’t have a holiday for giving thanks in the UK. It’s probably because we were never saved from starvation by the natives of a country we just arrived in (although I find that hard to believe, considering we once had the largest empire in the history of the world and aren’t known for packing anything more useful than a change of undercrackers and a teabag), but it does seem a shame.

Company potatoes and yummy stuffing sadly out of shot

I experienced my first Thanksgiving this week, and came to understand its value. Before we ate the meal that every one of us helped to prepare, we shared what we were thankful about this year. I think I can easily get behind a holiday that’s about honest gratitude and happy greed.

In my part of the world, turkey is reserved for Christmas. Not having roast potatoes, gravy, Brussels sprouts, carrots, swede, peas and pigs-in-blankets was a strange experience, because I associate a turkey roast with those accoutrements, but I can’t claim to have pigged with any less vigour. I am a sworn advocate of company potatoes and my sister-in-law’s cranberry dressing was better than any I’ve had from a Christmas jar.

The dish I was most suspicious of was yams with marshmallows. Mixing sweet and savoury is perfectly normal over here, but in England we reserve the sweet taste for relishes, sauces and, well, dessert. I like sweet potatoes, but brown sugar and the white things you float in hot chocolate? That can’t be right.

As it happened, it was the first dish I was asked to help with, so I had a vested interest in liking it. I was tasked with slicing the yams while my six-year-old niece sprinkled the sugar over each layer and liberally in and around her mouth. My conclusion? Strange, but not nearly so strange as I expected, and rather nice for all that.

The desserts were divine: my grandmother-in-law makes a sour cream and raisin pie unlike any other, I’m told, and I’m prepared to believe it, while pecan pie has always been a favourite and pumpkin pie is less disconcerting than I expected. All of which were served with a whipped cream I made under the supervision of my niece, who diligently tasted it at each stage of the preparation. It mixed well with the brown sugar.

I ate until I felt sick, then napped a while and came back for more, then slept for the night and woke up for more. But, though the food was wonderful, the holiday itself was even more so, and I can’t help thinking they’re missing out back home. I think we’d benefit from the chance to tell people we’re grateful to have them near, and to hear them tell us the same, and to spend time working together and enjoying each other’s company. Especially if that was followed by company potatoes.


Welcome to Wyoming

I am a Londoner. Not born and bred, but a decade in the making, trained before that in the nooks of my green and faintly disapproving England.

Things I Understand

1. Queueing with minimal complaint.
2. The necessity of tea (and also cake).
3. Commuting and how to avoid the sweaty armpits of businessmen.
4. Biscuits. They do not come with gravy.
5. Walking at top speed, even to the corner shop.
6. Corner shops.
7. One should always carry an umbrella.
8. Which side of the escalator is for standing and which for walking.
9. Bus lanes and the pointlessness of cars.
10. Days in the office and evenings in the pub.
11. Celebrities need to pop into Tesco Metro on the way home too.
12. A postcode can tell you a lot about a person.
13. It will take you precisely an hour to reach any destination on the map of Greater London.
14. Never to look a human being in the eye.
15. The closest cafe will always have bland sandwiches.
16. You can get to work faster if you tread on other commuters.
17. How to dress for drizzle.
18. Be accepting of chavs, lest they belt you.
19. Successful navigation of the spaghetti-like public transport system.
20. Ultra-modern stores in Victorian buildings are perfectly normal.
21. Trusting a bar to get you tiddly without drinking at home first leads to instant poverty.
22. Nobody can afford to live in Chelsea. Or the rest of London.
23. There is far too much to do and see, but this can be avoided by staring directly ahead.
24. Nothing beats the BBC, it has Doctor Who and Eastenders.
25. Taxis after midnight accept your kidney as payment.
26. If London clothing stores have anything to do with it, the 80s will never go away.
27. How to express and accept expressions of faint disapproval.

Things I Do Not Understand

1. Everything else.

Only one thing could have coaxed me from my comforting nest of bad temper and shared habits: love. Less an Ideal Husband, more an inconvenient one, I finally found my perfect mate 5000 miles from home, in the wide open spaces and clean, fresh air of Wyoming, and so deeply do I love him that I have given it all up to be by his side.

Over the last few months I have slowly closed down the chapter of my life spent as a Londoner and opted for its polar opposite: rural America. I have said goodbye to everything that makes sense to me and stepped into a parallel universe, one in which it all seems mighty similar until you take a closer look. At present I am foxed by the currency, unable to work the electricals and have no idea how to get from A to B. As a visitor, I had no need to learn the differences, it was enough to be amused by them and hand control over to Hubby. Living here will be a different matter.

Old habits die hard, particularly for the British, so this learning curve is likely to be shallow.