Divided by a Common Language, United by Good Food, Good Wine and Friendship.

American English is essentially English after having been wiped off with a dirty sponge.

  1. R. R. Tolkien

Olive has been working hard to wind me up. Obviously bored, she sent me a list of articles about the differences between the United States and Britain. She thinks I have nothing to do all day.

Tilly, which is why I sent it. You don’t have enough to do. – Olive

Tilly: Nor do you if you have time to try to torment me.

Some were funny, some irritating – such as questioning why spellings are different in the two countries. Given that it was Noah Webster who did his utmost to distance and change as much as possible of American-speak and spelling, it was surprising that an American asked the question. I do think it was understandable after the American revolution – brought about by Britain’s attempt to restrict U.S. trade, the Royal Navy’s impressment of American seamen, and America’s desire to expand its territory.

Tilly, y’all also tried that in 1812. By the way, y’all lost that one also. Which explains why we decided to change the spelling. – Olive

Tilly: Well, God loves a trier.

I’d be hacked off, too, if the roles were reversed. I’m with Barbra Streisand – ‘Don’t rain (reign!) on my parade’.

That is not what she meant “reign” geesh. – Olive

Tilly: The reader will get that, Olive and appreciate it is a deliberate alternative.

Try acknowledging my scintillating wit …

 Another article about humoUr didn’t do it for me. We do have different senses of humoUr on either side of the ocean. At times, viewing American comedy, I have sense that the joke has to be spelled out for viewers, which spoils the joke. But America does have George Carlin, which is a win. We Brits enjoy political jokes, lavatorial and smutty jokes, and status-knocking jokes, as well as slap stick – I love them all if they are funny, witty or clever, regardless of non-PC content. Sometimes because of non-PC punchlines. But I’m not impressed with malicious or spiteful giggles, whether Brit or US. We all need to laugh at ourselves but don’t need to be unkind, let alone cruel.

Tilly, you might have a point here, y’all did have Benny Hill, but we had Jack Benny. – Olive

Tilly: Benny Hill was very good at finding  irreverent humour in everyday events and also good at poking fun at pompous and inflated egos.

Food is a biggie. For goodness’ sake, American pigs in blankets are sausage rolls! Sausages rolled in bacon are Devils on Horseback. And we don’t just eat best back bacon – back can be tough and dry. And expensive. I prefer thinly sliced streaky, which is more likely to be crisp and is definitely more versatile, in my book.

Tilly, so this means I can have your share of the bacon? – Olive

Tilly: Not if it is streaky bacon.

And speaking of crisps, what part of ‘crisp’ is misunderstood in the fifty States? That’s why thin/shaved potatoes, deep fried, sometimes flavoured (note the ‘u’, folks) are called crisps – that’s what they are. Crisp. Potato ‘chips’ are chunky so that they can be twice or thrice deep-fried, leaving the middle soft and the outside c-r-r-r-r-runchy. The crunchier the better. None of those pale, floppy things that emerge from many kitchens. French fries are matchsticks – all crunch and yummy. Argue at your peril.

Tilly, flavored  please get it right. Your crisps are our potato chips and your potato chips are just fried potato slices fried in bacon grease. – Olive

Tilly: Potato chips are not slices and used to be cooked in beef dripping – wonderful flavoUr –  but mostly cooked in oil these days.

Gravy has weird connotations in the US. White, lumpy stuff that looks oh-so unappetising … the white sauce in the UK that sometimes accompanies fish or cauliflower is a smooth, pouring sauce, well-seasoned and glossy. Used to be recommended for invalids. However, as far as invalid food is concerned, nothing more off-putting than steamed white fish, white sauce and mashed potato … yuk. Stick some parsley in the sauce and it will have more eye appeal and still be digestible.

Tilly, so you have never tried our sausage and gravy… which is why it is lumpy. I am shocked you did not use garlic but used parsley instead. – Olive

Tilly: I’d happily put garlic in the sauce! Leave the cloves whole and poach them in the milk first. Takes out the pungency and leaves a sweetness. Puree the cloves into the sauce. Add parsley too!

There is also a sweet white sauce, often served with Christmas pudding and other desserts. A slug of brandy makes it well worth the effort.

Tilly, it is liquified butter with a few spices with the Brandy I bet you drink it. – Olive

Tilly: You have never tasted my mother-in-law’s white sauce. Hell, it is not hot brandy butter!

Good gravy is made from chicken or beef stock, with the juices from the chicken or beef blended with flour to create a flavoUrsome pouring sauce.

Well, something you Brits do know how to make correctly. – Olive

Tilly: I shall accept that as a compliment to all British cooks, with grace and a curtsey.

Biscuits are another bone of contention. Scones are NOT biscuits. Scones are softer, more cakey-crumbly, can be flavoUred with cheese and other savoUry foods (olives, chorizo, ham, herbs, cream cheese, whatever your fancy). They should be pulled apart – that’s what the crease/split around the waist is for – not cut with a knife. If they need a knife, they are not good scones. Scones are terrific with crabmeat and mayonnaise (and a generous drop of chilli sauce) on a cold afternoon or evening. They are great with cheese – even if they are flavoUred with cheese. Butter and Marmite … drooling.

Tilly, Well, another part we agree on. Biscuits are Biscuits and great with sausage gravy. Our scones are sweeter and taste better. – Olive

Tilly: Sausage gravy here is made with meat juices, onions, stock and herbs. Delicious. Not having tried USA scones, I cannot comment. But a great many foods in the States are sweeter than in the UK.

And scones are terrific with butter and jam. And clotted cream. Not jelly – jam. (I always think of the line from a song when I hear ‘jelly’: ‘It must be jelly ’cos jam don’t shake that way’.)

Depends on the Jelly. Strawberry jelly would be perfect. – Olive

Tilly: Fresh strawberries and clotted cream are even better.

Biscuits can be crisp, crunchy and chewy – but not dipped in gravy. Well, maybe plain digestive biscuits would be okay with real gravy; they are more savoUry and mealy, and popular in the UK. They can also be sweet, with milk or plain chocolate on one side, also popular in the UK.

British biscuits are cookies Tilly, which is why you don’t dip them in gravy.- Olive

Tilly: Wrong. Biscuits are biscuits.

I wish British supermarkets would stock clamato juice – that stuff is swoonworthy. I’ve no idea when I will visit the States again, but if someone wants to send a year’s supply, I will be a best friend, for ever. Also wish British supermarkets would stock bagel chips. They are the bees knees – and what a great way not to waste yesterday’s bagels! Thinly sliced, deep-fried until golden and CRUNCHY and used with dips, avo, cream cheese, smoked salmon – anything you fancy. Or just snaffled au nature. A supply of those would be most welcome, too …

Clamato juice, invented in California and you are right it is very good. I can send you the recipe to make it yourself. – Olive

Tilly think Manhattan clam chowder, because that is what it is. – Olive

Tilly: Happy to make it but I don’t see fresh clams in fishmongers. Not sure tinned or frozen would work – sure the juices are an essential constituent.

Thinking of not wasting … the French have a delicious way with stale pain au chocolat. Yesterday’s pastries are stuffed with almonds to complement the chocolate. The pastry is flattened and more almond mix spread on top. Slap into a hot oven … heavenly temptation.

Tilly, having been in Paris I can tell you their pastry shops are pure heaven. – Olive

Right. I’m off to make risotto. Not risOWtto, risohtto. What shall it be? Prawn and pea? Mushroom and garlic? Red pepper, celery and walnut? Anchovy, parsley and lemon? No, that’s better with pasta.

Tilly, Mushroom and garlic is the best, just watch the amount of garlic, it can overpower the mushrooms. RisOWtto, risohtto, how much wine did you have when you wrote this. – Olive

Tilly: Think pronunciation, Olive … Americans emphasis the ‘O’ in a way Italians do not.

Whatever our differences, Olive, I’m sure Americans and Brits enjoy a glass of wine while they are cooking.

Your very good health.


Tilly: Hah! You filched that from me! And I filched it from Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. But I’m very fond of W.C. Fields’ observation: “I cook with wine; foccasionally I even add it to the food.”

Tilly: I most certainly did not filch it from you! Been punting that maxim for years – before I met you. I have the Fields’ comment on a magnet on the cooker hood. And on a chopping board.

I am very fond of another of W.C. Field’s pieces of wit – ‘I like babies, but I couldn’t eat a whole one.’

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