When the chips hit the fan

It’s always strange to find out how other people view your nation. For example, every single day, somebody talks to me in a faux British accent that suggests they’ve come straight off the set of Mary Poppins or Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. To the majority of Americans, the British are posh and haughty. Even the fourteen year old from the council estate who was knocked up by her drug dealer and now pushes around baby Britney in a pushchairstroller all day talks like the Queen as far as most residents of this fair land are concerned.

Why people feel duty bound to talk to me like I’m a Cockney is beyond me. I don’t go round talking to people in their particular accent or dialect, however tempting it might be sometimes. I tried it in a WalMart in Tennessee, and it almost led to the cashier refusing to sell me a cheese ball – a harsh punishment if ever there was one.

The slightly unsure attitude to Britain is particularly apparent in the world of entertainment, where the baddies are almost exclusively played by Arabs or the British (just watch 24 if you want confirmation).

And who cares about our history or beautiful countryside when you can obsess incessantly about Princess Diana? I still get asked about the ‘People’s Princess’ to this day, as if somehow we were close and my insight could prove useful to laying her ghost to rest. At that point in the conversation, it seems difficult to confess that Mr MacBottom and I didn’t even cancel a barbecue on the day of her death as, well, we’d already bought the meat and it wouldn’t keep for another day.

Of course, when it comes to food, everybody thinks Britain is a third world country. That is, until they go there and realise that some of the best cooking in the world now takes place in the UK.

Such high culinary arts caused a problem for the “Bizarre Foods” series on the Travel Channel. The basic concept of the show is that Andrew Zimmern (of whom it was famously once said “Who?”) travels the world eating strange and disgusting food. And when it comes down to it, the UK just doesn’t produce enough gruesome food.

Admittedly sheep intestines don’t look great when raw, but in haggis they seem pretty appetising. Eels aren’t my bag, it has to be said, but do they really require a dedicated segment in a bizarre foods show? And pigeon, cockles and hare just don’t seem to compare to deep fried rat if you ask me.

The show reached a new low on the bizarreness scale when the show turned its attention to Christmas pudding. I mean, dried fruit, nuts, peel, eggs, flour and sugar may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but it’s hardly monkey brains is it?

Strangely there was no sign of black pudding, although given that even The Special One has tried that now, maybe it has begun to lose its bizarre charms? Thankfully, she’s a full convert to the Great British Banger, and didn’t even bat an eyelid when I ordered sausage, chips and beans for Sunday lunch in Bay Ridge.

Now that’s love.

14 thoughts on “When the chips hit the fan

  1. fishwithoutbicycle

    What….you mean you didn’t know Di? I swear you must be the only one!!

    I hate it when I have to put on an American accent to be understood at the deli.
    “Can I have a tuna and tomato on wholewheat please”
    “What? A what on wholewheat?”
    “Tuna and tomato”
    “Tuna and tom…oh for God’s sake. Toona and Tom-AAAAA-to”
    “Ahhh toona and tom-aaaaa-to. You got it”

    I hate that!!

  2. Dylan

    I have to check around me to make sure there’s nobody who looks British when I use the word ‘toe-may-toe’…I go bright red everytime, and feel like a part of my soul has just died.

  3. LolaBloom

    Hi there, Been reading your blog for a couple of weeks now and I really enjoy your posts and your humor. Had the urge to pop out of “Lurkville” to say hello when I saw the mention of Bay Ridge in this post, I’m originally from there although I’ve lived in Washington (state) for many many moons.
    Take care!

  4. Rachel

    Talk about bizarre and gross foods. In the south most love Chitterlings or Chitlins for short. Its basically stewed pig intestines. I have never gotten up the gumption to try them. Its hard enough to stomach the smell when they are cooking. Also, I laughed when you brought up beans. My best friend just returned from her first trip to London and all she could talk about were the beans on the breakfast buffet. 🙂

  5. Dylan

    Lola – really pleased to see you exit Lurkville and make a welcome entrance into Comment City! I actually love Oak Ridge, and Big Ed’s Pizza is without doubt the best pizza that I’ve ever had…

    And Rachel – what are chitlins?! I think I’m going to regret asking. You need to try proper British Heinz baked beans though – ten times better than anything you can buy over here…

  6. Gabrielle

    oh fer cryin’ out loud, ya big baby. Try living with a husband and two teenage stepsons, one of whom is called Andy, who completely RAG on me every time I pronounce it AAANNdee, in my native accent, instead of AHHHHHNdeh as they so ‘properly’ do.

  7. Expatmum

    I have taken to asking for my Subway sarnies without tomatoes, as I can’t bring myself to pronouce it the American way (I can manage basil and oregano, but tomatoes requires too many changes.) I sometimes point, hoping that they will know which condiments I mean, but otherwise I just say lettuce, onions and olives please, and hope they don’t notice my accent.
    A few months ago I was in a big Chicago department store and the sales assistant started imitating me in the loudest, worst English accent I have ever heard. I often think that if I was from Bangladesh, or Bolivia there’s no way anyone would do that.

  8. Paul Sheffrin

    Dylan – Heinz Baked Beans on Toast. Sooooo good. And best of all is if the toast has been spread with a neat layer of Marmite. Now that’s haute cuisine.

  9. Almost American

    I acquired an American accent as a defense mechanism – I got fed up with my graduate school advisor (who should have known better!) ‘imitating’ my accent. Of course, he sounded like a Londoner as apparently that’s what all English people sound like, even though I’m most definitely a Northerner.

    I am now genuinely surprised when the kids that I teach English as a Second Language to (oh, the irony of them not being able to find an American to do my job!) parrto bakc what I’ve just said and it sounds English! Doesn’t happen too often, but when it does it amazes me! Mostly I can switch the accent on and off though – I’ll blog about that some day. And baked beans too.

  10. Alison

    Well said!! And they all think they’re doing a faultless British accent too – much like Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins. I can’t tell you how many people have said ‘oh you’re a Brit do you like ‘Arry Potter’. Plus, I have a northern accent so people have actually said to me ‘no, that’s not a British accent, I have friends from England and you sound nothing like them’.

    On the Di note, the chuffing wench was buried on my wedding day. Enough said!

  11. Jonathan Jones

    Believe it or not, when a salesperson makes fun of your accent, it’s actually a compliment. It implies that he believes a few flattering (and possibly unfounded) things about you:
    1. that you have a good sense of humor and are able to “get” American-style joking;
    2. that you are self-confident enough to be immune to the barbs;
    3. that you are different and therefore interesting, and therefore worthy of conversation not strictly related to the sale.

    Items 1 and 2 are not likely to be assumed of Bolivians or Bangladeshis; hence the different treatment.

  12. Jonathan Jones

    I should add that the best response to this would be to start parroting the other person’s accent in an exaggerated, annoying, and persistent way.

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