Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Eggy Bread and Figgy Pudding

London is in a country that speaks a language similar to ours, except if you're talking about lorries, loos, lifts, petrol, and gloveboxes, just to name a few of the myriad words they use for the everyday things we call something else.

Despite what we seem to have in common from here, life is quite foreign in actual practice over there. From the money to the different spellings we use for the same words. 

Offence and defence v. offense and defense, for  example. They use a "c." We use an "s." Since we're talking sports, we both have the same word, football, for two different games. 

On the other hand, when they use an "s" we use a "z." Organisation v. organization. If we use an "o", they up the ante to "ou."  Color vs. colour. Their computer keyboards are different too. Quotations marks are switched with the @ for starters.

Pronunciation also takes getting used to. Encephalitis, if you ever have a need to use it corrrectly in a sentence over there, has a hard "c."  Aluminum is pronounced al-U-min-I-um.

The British drive on the other side of the road, something most of us know. But you may not know it can kill you. For instance, you will probably die if you step off curbside [they spell it kerbside, by the way] without first looking right, instead of left. The odds of your demise increase exponentially when you're driving.

The innumerable English/Welsh/Scottish/Irish accents which change from neighborhood to neighborhood and town to town are delightful to listen to but almost impossible to decipher at times. Meanwhile, the English do a rather passable imitation of New Yawkers and claim they like to visit Chicago.

Have I mentioned using the phone? Instead of the number ONE in front of their numbers, there's a ZERO. That wouldn't be so bad except that we do our numbers in a three-three-four sequence, leaving the one by itself. Theirs is a four-four-three sequence beginning with the zero. Think it doesn't matter? Just having the first set of digits in a group of four makes it impossible to remember the rest of the number.

There are shops in the UK that sell only one thing -- nothing but meat, nothing but fish, nothing but wine, nothing but gloves, nothing but cheese, for example. Unlike here, the butcher, the baker, and the candlestickmaker still have their own establishments. The term fishmonger is still used when you're going to buy fish from the guy that sells gilled creatures. It's not just a word in a Dickens novel. 

There are no Wal-Marts. No Costcos, Sam's Clubs, K-Marts, Targets, etc. While Marshall Field's, Hudson's and the like have become homogenized or extinct in just a hundred years or so here in the U.S., there will always be Harrod's and Selfridges over there. Count on it. 

There are no strip malls as we know them. Just charming little shops, one after another, lining both sides of the thousand-year-old roads in that two-thousand-year-old city.

How can I express my happiness that London exists?

One morning I made French toast for breakfast. My daughter provided me with a wonderful loaf of thin sliced English white bread, perfect for the task. Like everything else, the bread was different. It had a homemade, not polymer texture, with the ample girth of sandwich bread. I made a batter of eggs, milk, a little sugar, and lots of vanilla. After soaking the bread I shook a bit of cinnamon on each side as it cooked. We ate it with real maple syrup from English sugar maples, along with servings of thick, smoked bacon, sliced by the butcher, which he then wrapped in white paper. Bacon as we know it in the U.S. is called striped bacon for that strip of tasty fat that travels down its length. Nothing I've tasted in the U.S. has ever been so good. Traditional English bacon on the other hand, looks more like Canadian bacon with a skirt. We had some of that, too.

While we're at it, yogurt tastes like it's supposed to -- made with whole milk so it's rich and sour creamy, not sweet like Jello pudding.

The evening after we had had French toast for breakfast, one of my daughter's friends said he preferred his eggy bread with catsup folded up in asandwich. Being an American who can appreciate the cultural differences between our countries, I said, "EWWWWW!! What's eggy bread?"

Thank goodness it turns out that the batter for eggy bread doesn't include anything like vanilla or sugar. Just eggs and milk. So the catsup doesn't sound quite so disharmonious. Or inedible. Apparently while visiting the U.S. for some cycling event in Utah, there was French toast being offered to the competitors and hot dogs to the spectators. So my new eggy bread aficionado friend took some of the American French toast and walked over to the hot dog stand to slather catsup all over it to make himself a reasonable fac simile of his English hometown favorite.

As for figgy pudding? This traditional English Christmas dessert is made with figs for starters. Nothing mysterious there. You can find any number of olde tyme family recipes for it, using a new fangled modern invention: Google. That's what I did -- centuries of information kept in a wooden box in a countryside farmhouse have been distilled into a click of a mouse on the internet. What's old is new. 


suzypwr said...

I was surprised at how hard it is to walk across a street when the traffic is driving to the left. In England, doesn't "pudding" also mean "dessert in general"? I haven't been there - I was on an island that must have been British.

I can't believe you went to England and didn't get me any Cadbury bars. The British made ones are far superior to the American ones. I always bring a bunch back from Toronto, where they also use some Britishisms.

Congrats again on your daughter getting engaged! Will they be getting married there - giving you another chance to get me some good Cadbury bars?


sunnyside46 said...

I think if I ever drove in England, I would never be able to straighten out when I got home.

ally123130585918 said...

Mrs L - welcome to England - I hope you enjoy your stay - Visit all those quaint little shops - and take care crossing the road,  Visit us in Norwich we still have a cobbled stoned street, (Hell to walk on in high heels). and you probably wouldn't understand the Norfolk dialect at all....but you would be more than welcome here...and don't forget to visit the market place - where they sell just about everything...and whatever you do don't miss having fish and chips wrapped in paper and eaten outside - plenty of salt and vinegar....best meal you can possibly have.........Take care.......Ally

shaz19743 said...

Your over HERE !!!!!!!!
Mrs L on British soil and i didnt even know it ....sheesh ive been in a post christmas food induced coma !
Congratulations on your daughters engagement by the way and i hope your having a brilliant time in London .
Hey if you think the language is different down south you should get yourself on a flight up to Scotland for the day hehe
Have a wonderful time x

onemoretina said...

    Glad to hear you are enjoying your visit.  Make sure you leave some room in your carry-on bag for shopping at the duty-free shopping mall in Heathrow.  If I had known about it beforehand, I wouldn't have spent as much of my vacation time as I did looking for souvenirs and toting them around with me all week.  Have fun !  Tina     http://journals.aol.com/onemoretina/Ridealongwithme

njmom72 said...

Thank you for the wonderful info about London, England. I absolutely adore the country, even though I have never been there, and want to someday call it home. Your entry brought it a little closer in my mind. :-)

~ Susan

floralilia said...

this makes me want to make me own eggy bread this morning!

thanks, mrs. L.

homeohearn said...

The English do like these little oddities - as an Australian who moved here more than a decade ago I still delight my friends and relations be saying things the way they should be said, rather than the way that the English say them.

A classic is the street in London called Beauchamp Place. My French is pretty awful but even I know it should be something like "Bo-shomp" (assuming that they would have anglicised it by pronouncing the "p" unlike the French." Oh no no no no no.. it's Beecham isn't it. I give up.

Anyway just to correct one thing on defence/offence/defense/offense. The English use BOTH versions but there is a clear rule about when to use them. The version with a "c" is when the word is used as a noun, as in "His offence was to mispronounce words...". The "s" is when it used as a verb, so "His behaviour was offensive..."

ber144 said...

We might talk "sports" but the Brits talk "sport."  My other favourite (notice the Brit spelling...) is that they say that so and so is "in hospital" rather than in the hospital.

I love it over there!