Monthly Archives: February 2011

The Great Drought

This world is a place of survival of the fittest. Or, in my case, survival of the person with the most bottled water and large soup pans. Yesterday afternoon, a water pipe cracked down in town and all running water ceased. We’re not entirely sure when it happened, because we only noticed when I turned the shower on and bugger all happened. Thus began my first apocalyptic adventure outside of the confines of a city.

4pm – An hour before our friends arrived to take us out for dinner, I wandered into the bathroom to get ready. I had, unwisely, delayed my shower so as to be fresh as a daisy for the occasion. It was not to be; instead, I was forced to wash and condition my hair and scrub myself down with the contents of 6 small bottles of water.

10pm – We returned home to a barren wasteland. A toilet that couldn’t be flushed, a toothbrush that must be used dry, pets’ water bowls that were getting rather low. The news was bleak: they were expecting repairs to take a full 48 hours.

11am this morning – Fortunately, Hubby’s parents are dab hands at getting through such situations and most generous in sharing their expertise with a useless daughter-in-law. I’d spent most of the morning melting snow in a pan over the hob, trying to fill the toilet tank , when father-in-law appeared with a huge barrel of water for exactly that purpose, two big bottles of water for cooking, teeth cleanings and other such necessities and a large pack of bottles for the drinking of. It was a relief to stop having to melt jugs of snow, the last batch having defrosted to reveal a tiny, solid lump of dog poo.

2pm – Hourly check of the taps rewarded us with a slow, plaintive trickle. It took a while, but I did everything I could think of involving water, just in case it disappeared again. I filled water bowls, washed up the ever-increasing pile of plates, filled a pan of water for dinnertime cooking and went about  my business.

5pm – The trickle had once again become a proper flow, albeit a little less enthusiastic than usual. I was even able to have a quick shower, so I no longer smell like I’ve gone off. All is once again well.

I’ve been through a few hours of water outages many times, but it’s not quite the same in the city (it was only ever a particular area that went without, and one’s social circle tends to be spread out. If I couldn’t shower before I left the house, I could always pop in to a friend’s place, or wait till I got to work and use the shower there). I vaguely remember quite a serious one when I was little, but all I really recall is sipping on a juice carton while feeling smug that nobody could make me have a bath that night.

I think I did quite well today, under the circumstances. Not that I can take much credit for it, to be completely honest; my contribution was limited to half a tank of toilet water and a small piece of dog poo.


Betraying My Homeland

In the land that saw me birthed, it is generally regarded as a sin to mix sweet foods with savoury. We do have the odd few exceptions, such as cranberry with turkey, apple with pork and pineapple with gammon, not to mention ham and pineapple pizzas, but, as a general rule, the eyes of the many would widen in disgust were I to announce what I had for lunch the other day.

Bacon pancakes with a fried egg and maple syrup, presented lovingly by Hubby, who had even fashioned my pancakes into a Mickey-esque shape. Such effort and affection went into this dish that I was forced, for the sake of my marriage, to put aside my natural inclination to gurn.

It was good. Really good. I began by gingerly separating the bacon pancake from the one with the syrup, but that didn’t last long.

I happened to be chatting to two of my UK-based friends at the time, both of whom, when I admitted my enjoyment, were more disgusted with me than the food:

Kitty: You’re letting the whole country down with statements like that.

I have failed my entire culture. On the plus side, I had a really nice lunch.

Bastard Electronics

Another lesson learned today. The PAL-to-NTSC adaptor box thingum arrived, with which we had planned to set up my DVD player so as to spend many a happy hour wading our way through my DVD collection (which, of course, is all the wrong region code for US players).

It didn’t seem to work. No matter which colour of wire we plugged into which colour of hole, using whichever set of connectors, it stayed black and white. Until, that was, we realised that the player’s menu system allowed one to switch between PAL and NTSC and all we’d been doing by fussing with an adaptor was confusing the poor sod.

My £1000 computer: required a small black hole and plug adaptor.

My £250 Xbox: required a small black hole, PAL-to-NTSC and plug adaptor.

My £250 coffee machine: required a small black hole and plug adaptor.

And yet my £20 DVD player from Argos required nothing more than a different plug before it was raring to get going. The lesson we learned today? Cheaper is quite frankly better.

The Omnivegetable

The bubble and squeak experiment went well. It’s hard to ruin this dish, to be fair, because it’s mostly a traditional English way to use up all the leftover crap from the Sunday dinner. Methodology: bung a load of leftover veg into a sizzling frying pan, pat it down into a pancake, stare at it for a while, turn it over, wait a bit more, serve proudly. I’m not entirely sure why it hasn’t caught on here in the US, but I intend to do something about it. Mostly by making people eat it, beginning with Hubby.

It gets rather browner, but this way you can count vegetables to fall asleep.

Every Brit has their own way of going about a bubble and squeak, largely because we all have different vegetable preferences for our roast dinners, but, to be honest, it doesn’t really matter what goes in, it’s still going to be tasty. Carrots, peas, corn, beans, swede – almost anything will do, as long it can hold up to a good sizzling. There must also be potato in there somewhere; roast are best, but if you’ve run out you can always boil up a pan. The finished fried deliciousness is served with cold meats, again left over from the roast, as well as stuffing or other roasty accoutrements and various pickles and sauces.

Most official recipes call for cabbage, but, in my opinion, that stuff tastes like shredded printer paper somebody peed on. I prefer Brussels sprouts, which add the same sort of tang without getting stuck in your teeth. This evening’s experiment was to see whether Hubby would eat his dinner without whinging about the sprouts, which he believes are the very worst the vegetable world has to offer.

It worked. Once he’d hoovered up everything on his plate, I asked whether he’d noticed them; he had not. “T0 be fair, though,” he added, “It all sort of combines to taste like one big vegetable. It’s the Omnivegetable.”

He makes an excellent point.

The Roast Beefs

The English are known, largely by our dear neighbours in France, as Les Ros Boeufs, because of our love for a good Sunday roast. Last night I plucked up the courage to make one, having inherited a joint of beef from the Parentals-in-Law, and the result was most pleasing.

Not bad for a first go, with different ingredients, using a roasting pan I’ve never witnessed the likes of before, eh? I’ve whipped up many a poultry and stuffing in my time, and I’m a dab hand at a roast potato, but beef I had not yet tried.

Hubby enjoyed it, after peering at me for several minutes to learn the process of eating English-style. Apparently, putting a little bit of everything on my fork is a strange way to go about it. I find this opinion boggling because, well, what’s the point in slaving to produce a plate of flavours that complement one another if you’re going to eat them one at a time?

Tonight he will be introduced to another staple of my homeland: bubble and squeak. I’ve mentioned it over here before and been met with blank looks, so this will be an interesting experiment. Also a good way to get him to eat his sprouts.

The Youth of Today

A weekly treat for me is accompanying Hubby to college and waiting patiently in the car, accompanied by a vast array of potential pastimes, until he has been educated for the day and can ferry me to the supermarket.

It’s always an amusing opportunity to people-watch, despite Hubby’s penchant for parking as far away from every other car as possible, but this week’s trip was almost exciting: in the car next to ours was a dead body.

For half an hour I watched her, growing increasingly concerned and wondering whether or not I should tap on the window and ask her if she’d demised, and in all that time she didn’t budge an inch, simply sat motionless, head hanging, hair covering her face.

Another quarter of an hour later, just as I was contemplating a stealthy wander around her car so I could take a look at her face before calling 911, she finally moved. Her head bobbed up and her hand appeared, and all became clear.

For almost an hour, she’d been playing about with her mobile phone, presumably texting the world at large and playing a few games of Angry Birds. She then drove away, scuppering my theory that she, too, was waiting for somebody.

Lost in the social possibilities of technology, oblivious to the real world, for extended periods of time without a break or body movement: it’s nice to see that some things are the same on both sides of the Atlantic.

A Biscuit Conspiracy

I have uncovered new evidence in the Great Biscuit Debate. For the three people in the world I have not yet bored senseless with this question, here is a brief recap:

1. A biscuit in England is called a cookie in America.

2. A biscuit in America is a scone (minus sugar) in England.

3. A scone in England is called shortcake in America.

4. Shortcake is a type of biscuit in England.

It’s a circular sort of problem, as you can see, and I can’t imagine what in God’s name possessed everyone to start swapping names about. Americans look at the jam and cream on a scone in horror, while Brits are constantly perplexed at the concept of putting gravy on a biscuit.

I’d just about got used to it, but now I feel cheated. While watching an episode of Lost this afternoon, I noticed that Sawyer referred to the yummy treat he won from the bear-training cage as a fish biscuit.

Fish biscuit. Yes, biscuit.

It then occurred to me that, when we give out treats to the pets, we use dog biscuits.

Dog biscuit. Not dog cookie.

It would appear that you buggers have known what a biscuit is all along. The only question remaining is why animals are allowed them, but not humans.