Wednesday, August 15, 2012
"Would you like roast potatoes, russet potatoes, mashed potatoes, potato salad, baked potato, or rice pilaf with that?"
Admittedly, most of this has to do with food. For instance, the choice to have a Dairy Queen Blizzard at 10:00 p.m. at night, the choices of five different types of tortilla chips in the grocery store and the choices of smoothie combinations at Jamba Juice (or my personal favorite, Emerald City Smoothie) still blows my mind. The other day, Alice came up to my desk at work and said, "I just had the most amazing ice-cream flavor - you'll never guess. Although you might, since you're American. It's called ... rocky road?" I pitied her. I did. What I also did, however, was laugh at her (which was mean). I can't imagine what the ice cream freezer at Tesco was like before the introduction of Ben and Jerry's. Chocolate or vanilla? Even now, B&J flavors are extremely limited in British grocery stores - even the big ones.
Americans are, as the saying goes here, "spoilt for choice" (cue obesity jokes).
Having lived abroad for quite a few years now, I'm no longer used to all this variety. I've simply adapted to the pared down options offered to the rest of the general British public. I can tell I'm used to it because my parents pity me when I go back to visit them, just as I pitied Alice, standing before me at my desk describing her first interaction with rocky road ice-cream.
My mom's favorite phrase to use when I become indecisive over which flavor of chocolate covered pretzels to buy (they come in white, swirls, dark, milk) is, "Buy them all! They're 10 for $10! Buy them all!" At the conclusion of dinner, my dad pushes away from the table, looks at me with a laugh in his eye and bellows, "BLIZZARD!!!" It means that he'll drive to Dairy Queen and pick up the Blizzard of my choice (usually Heath Bar or Banana Cream Pie). When I politely decline after my fifth consecutive night of Blizzards, he looks crestfallen. "Ok-ayy," he says, throwing his hands up. "Up to yo-uu."
This is a long, roundabout way of telling you about the choices that delight me the most when I'm "back home" dining at a typical, suburban, middle-class restaurant: deciding on which salad dressing and side to have.
I love how they come out in a tumble from the server's mouth: "Wouldjoulike (deep breath) ranchcaesaritalianthousandislandfrenchbalsamicvinaigrettesundriedtomatovinaigretteorhoneymustard with your salad?" Seasoned pros like my dad will answer with a confident, "Thousand island", and a nod. I now have to ask once, twice, sometimes even three times for the poor man/woman to repeat him/herself. Then they're on to the sides: "Wouldjoulike (deep breath) roastpotatorussetmashedpotatopotatosaladbakedpotatoorricepilaf with your steak?" The fact that these salads and sides are often on the mediocre side of things doesn't matter to me. What matters is that I'm paying $18.95 for my lobster tail and it comes with a salad and potatoes, y'all!
My heart breaks when I return to the UK to dine in restaurants where "sides" cost upwards of £4.95 each. Sigh.
What's your favorite "side"?