Despite the oceans between us, a lot of the everyday things we eat in the UK, USA, Canada and Australia are pretty much the same. Roast beef, spaghetti, potato salad, omelets and cheese sandwiches travel without much translation. But how do you explain the nursery school appeal of a fluffer nutter to someone who hasn't grown up with this particular gooey sandwich? Or why childhood memories make a sauce of canned cream of mushroom soup the the secret, guilty pleasure of a sophisticated gourmet?
The truth is, there are some foods you have to grow up with. In Britain, the appeal of beans on toast or a baked potato as a whole meal is tied in with the history of a postwar generation who grew up on rationing. And, while foreign visitors may learn to enjoy these things, they'll never really get the warm cozy nostalgia of them.
Sometimes, though, it's just a matter of language - familiar foods and dishes traveling incognito so that, as a tourist, all you need is the key. And other times, all you need to do is pay attention to language to see something that seems exotic morph into the most ordinary food and drink. I remember once ordering a hot fruit crush in a small cafe in Scotland because it sounded interesting and different. Then I watched the cafe owner pour a bottle of fizzy orange soda - Orange Crush, as it happens - into a saucepan, heat it until all the carbonation had escaped and then serve it to me in a mug.
In the interests of helping you navigate the intricacies of ordinary, everyday food available in British homes and the British equivalents of lunch counters, check out these handy guides:
- Eating in the UK - A Quick Guide to Some Mysteries of the British Table
- You Call That What?! Deciphering British Food-Speak
Photo by Girl Interrupted Eating Creative Commons Licence