Tag Archives: sweet

The sweetest thing

Sweetness is something towards which your attitude changes the older you get. When I was a kid, I loved being regarded as sweet by my grandparents, especially if it resulted in getting a toffee or a twenty pence piece as a result. Most kids quickly learn to perfect their ‘butter wouldn’t melt’ look, and I was no different in that regard. Although, fortunately, butter actually wouldn’t melt in my mouth. Ahem.

Of course, when you get to the point at which you’re spending half an hour in the bathroom in an attempt to look good enough to impress girls, sweetness is the last thing that you want to be associated with. “You’re very sweet” has always been one of the ultimate female-to-male putdowns, after all. There are two things that you can categorically say about the statement “you’re very sweet” when hearing it from an attractive member of the opposite sex:

1. It will always be followed by a ‘but’ (ie. “you’re very sweet…but I’ve just this second remembered that I am leaving the country for three years. Tomorrow.”)
2. The implicit meaning is “I find our school’s one legged alcoholic caretakerjanitor more attractive than you. And he’s been dead for five years.”

Now I’m a bit older and – erm – more mature, I’m better able to cope with the sweetness tag. The Special One calls me sweet whenever she wants somethingall the time, and I have to say I quite like it. Don’t get me wrong, I still assume that she finds her dead peg-legged alcoholic janitor more attractive than me, but maybe I’ve just come to terms with my position in life.

Sweetness is something you have to get used to very quickly when you move from the UK to America. Largely because you have to accept that all your favourite foodstuffs come with 50% more sugar in them.

I love bread. If bread could have worn a dress and walked up the aisle, I’d be married to a nice piece of focaccia right now. If you told me tomorrow that I could eat nothing but bread (and bread-related products) for the rest of my life, I’d probably be happy. It doesn’t even have to be great bread either. Sure, I love an artisan-produced baguette as much as the next man, but if thick sliced white bread is all you’ve got then it’ll do for me.

But here in America, bread should come with a dental warning, such is the amount of sugar (or high fructose corn syrup) that goes into it. I’ve had doughnuts that taste less sweet than the vast majority of pre-packaged bread that you can buy in supermarkets. I’ve resorted to rye bread to make sure I get my savoury hit, although even that doesn’t quite hit the mark when it comes to a cheese’n’onion crisp sandwich, it has to be said.

It’s baked beans that upset me most though. While you can buy British Heinz baked beans in certain shops, you’ll generally have to part company with a week’s wages to do so. Fortunately, most supermarkets carry baked beans made by Heinz for the domestic market. Called ‘Vegetarian Beans’ (presumably because tins of baked beans often contain sausagesfranks, rather than because Americans assume that everything is a meat product unless otherwise labelled), the beans are the closest thing you can get to their British equivalent. They’re not bad, it has to be said, but it takes a while to get used to what seems to be a whole bottle of maple syrup that’s been added to the ingredients. Sure, the beans are cholesterol-free, but do they really have to be flavoured with treacle toffee?

I wanted beans on toast for lunch – the ultimate student meal-cum-comfort food, as all Brits will readily confirm. But here at Brit Out Of Water Towers, The Youngest and The Eldest stare at me with a look somewhere between pity and quizzical disgust.

After all, in America, beans on toast is practically dessert.

Short not sweet

As I’ve said before, sometimes it’s easy for me to forget that I’m in America. Aside from the fact that I moved here from London and one city is generally pretty much like another, it’s difficult to avoid the fact that wherever you are in the world, you slowly get used to things. As another UK-to-US migrant Fish Without A Bicycle recently said in the comments on this blog, she’s found herself abandoning her knife in favour of just using a fork despite her better efforts. I imagine that the crumbling of the British Empire many years ago began in a similarly (seemingly innocuous) fashion.

One thing that has definitely lessened in my consciousness is the US accent. Unless I hear a particularly extreme accent, the days when I quietly used to think to myself “for some reason I appear to be surrounded by Americans” seem to have long gone.

But every so often, somebody will say something – or more often, I’ll read it – and I will be brought kicking and screaming to the reality that I am in a country that speaks a language that is sometimes as foreign to me as, say, Cantonese.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that English is a fluid living language that continuously evolves. And the UK can hardly be considered innocent of all crimes against language. It’s not easy to be proud of a country whose kids have invented the word ‘gopping’ for ‘disgusting’, after all.

But in New York it seems that every existing word needs to be shortened in a bid to use as few characters as possible. It’s almost as if some people believe they are taxed for every letter they use in conversation. Or maybe it’s just an attempt to limit any movement of the mouth that’s not for stuffing popcorn in?

I guess I don’t mind some of the more comic-book shortenings such as ‘shrooms’ for mushrooms, or even ‘toon’ for cartoon. But is there really any need for ‘gator’ or ‘roach’? Does it really save you that much time?

My current bete-noire is the replacement of neighbourhood with ‘nabe’. Every time I see it, I cringe with embarrassment and shame. Even news organiszations are using it now, such as the New York Post sub-headline here. In reaction, I might just have to start lengthening all my words, becoming some overly-verbose English buffoon who takes ten minutes just to ask where the nearest bank is.

Now if you don’t mind, I’m off to ask the superintendent of the condominium in which I am currently residing to give me directions as to where I might catch an omnibus. I’ll be back for some more weblogging soon.