Friday, 14 December 2012

2001- Separated by a Common Language

Charlie and I are going home to America for a visit soon, so I need to get my baking done before we leave. It's not always easy converting my recipe ingredients, supplies and measurements to "English". The first time I went grocery shopping in Waitrose, I cried. I didn't know where anything was, all the packaging was different, the labels weren't the same and some of the generic names weren't the same.

Let's start with Reynold's Wrap. Both Americans and Brits have a habit of calling things by their brand name, instead of their common name. Companies don't like that, of course, because their brand can become generic. That's what happened to Hoover in England and Aspirin in many countries. There is no Reynold's Wrap in Britain and I even struggled with the generic name of "aluminum foil". Store clerks (one says "clarks" here) gave me a bewildered look when I didn't say "alumin-EE-um". They would laugh at me, I would laugh at them. "There's no extra I in aluminum," I would insist. It seems there is in the UK, though.

And the list goes on. Seran Wrap (or plastic wrap), is cling film. Baking soda is bicarbonate of soda (reminds me of Bette Davis mixing up a remedy for Max in "All About Eve"). Finding molasses can be tricky (or treacly). Golden syrup and treacle are common in grocery stores, but I have to go to a health food store to find molasses. Vegetable shortening does not exist. Someone suggested "ghee", which is akin to clarified butter, but I don't think they are interchangeable. 

I brought my own measuring cups and spoons, so I'm OK there but I have to do conversions every time I bake because my oven temperature is measured in degrees Centigrade (or is it Celsius?) and Marks (as in Gas Mark 4=350 degrees Fahrenheit or 180 degrees Celsius). I also have to do conversions whenever I use butter, which does not come in sticks here! And so, many recipes call for butter in stick-quantities that I had to write the conversion (1 stick=1/2 cup) in the front of "Our Cookie Journal" for easy reference. Fortunately, I found a cheat-sheet in a notepad at a lighting shop, of all places, that I keep in my kitchen utensil drawer. 

There is no canned (or tinned) pumpkin either. Or chocolate chips. Or unsweetened cooking chocolate. My baking sheets are way too massive for the tiny ovens here. Peanut butter is not common. Christmas sprinkles and other decorations are scarce. Decorations seem to be of the Christmas-cake variety. Marzipan is plentiful; but not tubs of frosting. Coconut is referred to as "desiccated", and is unsweetened. Sigh!

Still, none of these hardships stayed me from my baking course. My "official" start this year was Nov. 25, when I made 7 1/2 dozen Nestle's Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies. The chips, of course, aren't available in Blighty, but Lisa sent me two packs and I brought two back from my Halloween visit home. I had made one batch last week, to test the oven, but they're already gone! I also brought back some Libby's pumpkin, so I made Mom & Dad's Pumpkin Bread, which produced six lovely mini-loaves - but they were for Thanksgiving.

I've decided to make, in addition to the CCCs, Lime Meltaways, Moravian Spice Cookies, Grammy's Chocolate Cookies (new) and Checkerboard Cookies (new). I'm also going to bake Sugar Cookies but this year I'm going to use Martha's recipe with Royal Icing.

The trick will be finding everything I need over here. It's also been tougher with Charlie around! I'll be able to manage only a batch a day. The hardest part, though, has been being so far away from Lisa and Mom. True, we weren't able to bake together the past two years, but this is worse. So I'm separated from everyone here by a common language and I'm separated from my loved ones by an ocean.

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