24 November 2010

Thanksgiving Feast

Photos from a recent walk at Wimbledon Common
 Tomorrow is American Thanksgiving. A fact I keep having to remind myself of. I am in full realisation now of how necessary marketing is to holiday-making. Haha. But the US' marketing ploys and/or swindles are not the point of this post. 

No, this post is about food. As in food comparisons between the US and the UK. 

You see right now, I am in the process of making my Thanksgiving "feast" for myself, my flatmates, coworkers, friends, etc. Which consists of me baking my mother's amazing pumpkin chipper bread - except in the form of teeny muffins. Yum! What a classic. It's a pumpkin bread with chocolate chips and all the spices that scream AUTUMN!!!! (like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, etc). 

Regardless of the fact that I do not eat turkey and therefore do not cook turkey and regardless of the fact that this is the only real celebration I get because I am working tomorrow, these are going to be good. (I just had a 'sample' *wink)

But they are not amazing. They are not exactly like back home. I think this has to do with a few factors.

1. Ovens: Over here, ovens are in degrees Celsius. Well, most are. But they are in 5 degree increments, which if you have ever converted Celsius to Fahrenheit, you know that my oven temp will never be the exact same here as it will back home. But then there's the fact that I have a gas fan oven. Which comes in numbers. Right now, I am using gas number 4, which according to this chart, is equivalent to 350F. But there's still something off about my muffins.

2. It could have to do with measurements. One of the best thing about the UK, at least by the average American standard, is that they use a lot of similar measurements...miles, feet, pounds (even though they through the odd 'stone' in there), and more. But with cooking, they use grams. And let me tell you, it is difficult to get 1 cup of butter (what the recipe calls for) out of 250g (what I have. FYI the conversion is 229.something grams). So, there's always something a little off. 

3. Or it could have to do with the fact that its missing key ingredients. (not any of the normal ones. I really think it would be difficult to change flour, eggs and even baking soda aka bicarbonate of soda between countries. I could be surprised though. If so, I will let you know) In this case, its the walnuts. You see, the store I went to to get the ingredients (good ol' Sainsburys) did not have walnuts. Granted it was a small shop, but this is quite common here in the UK. Which is the actual point of this post... (and actually walnuts don't make a lot of difference in the recipe).

In the US, we become accustomed to always having items and always having options. Lots of options. We can choose between 4 different brands of chocolate chips, 6 brands of flour, and who knows how many different nuts. Well, at Sainsburys, they had slivered almonds or ground almonds. Thats it. And that is quite normal. It is normal to walk into a supermarket and find that they have run out of most of the fruits and veggies, or pasta sauce, or vegetarian soup, or loaves of bread. Stores here have limited stock. 

But here's the real kicker. While it can be slightly frustrating to have to change your dinner plans based on lack of ingredients available, it really is not that annoying. Do we need 20 different brands of toothpaste? Really, how many types of butter do you need? I am not here to argue that the US is too capitalist to the point where it just gets insane (standing in the condiment aisle trying to decide between heinz ketchup and whoknowswhatotherbrand for 5 minutes is just a waste of time), although I do think that. I am here to say that walking into a grocery store to find that there are no bell peppers makes you appreciate just that much more when they do. 

My pumpkin chipper muffins are not ruined because Sainsburys did not have any walnuts. No, they are the food version of the fact that I am thankful that I live here in the UK for the time being, getting to experience new things, seeing how a 'Western' nation can be quite different - and appreciating that difference! -, and making great new friends I get to share my almost amazing muffins with. 

23 November 2010

I really need to be more diligent about writing.

I have lived in the UK now for over a year. And its been almost a year since my last post. And a lot has changed...and a lot hasn't. 

 - I moved from my house in Clapham to another house in Acton. This house is with friends and we have an amazing garden, and my room has a window. All things you appreciate when you lived in a box that would kill you very quickly if there ever was a fire, since you would not be able to get out. I still live with a bunch of Aussies and Kiwis. And yes, they are awesome. Most of the time :P. 

 - I finished uni. All done. And according to the all-powerful external examiners, I passed with merit. I am quite proud of that. Wish I could have passed with distinction, but who am I to complain about a great grade. So, you can now refer to me as: Angela Huddleston, MA. thankyouverymuch. :)

 - While things are getting figured out, I work at a local pub. Its ok. It's nice to have something to do, but I work evenings and weekends, which means I do not get to see much of the aforementioned awesome friends/flatmates. 

 - At said pub, the customers all reckon that I am an aussie or a kiwi. I wonder if my accent has changed. But then I hear a North American accent and hope that my accent has changed! even a little. Its very grating. I am going to have massive culture shock upon my (who-knows-when-it-will-be) trip back home.

 - In the meantime, I am trying to learn French through this awesome website: www.livemocha.com. Its online and completely addictive. At the very least, my French vocab is increasing ever so slowly. Still waiting for being forced to move to a French speaking country so I can force myself to become good. Sigh. Sooner or later.

 - I still miss: mexican food, bagels, and lots of other junk foods. 

 - Best London things: lemsip (a lemony cold medicine that you drink hot. it feels oh so good and gets rid of the cold right quick!), autumn (definitely my favourite season), and being able to eat soup whenever I want because it is cold enough for soup.

 - My parents are coming next week for my graduation. I am hoping for snow then. Because that would be awesome. 

And here are a few pic of London in the snow from last year, just to show you how gorgeous it is.


"skating" down the sidewalk to the tube. Somehow I made it through with no major falls!

 Because there should be a cow in the snow... ?

Jumping for joy on my first ever (and probably last ever) Snow Day!