Posted by: sheenastrain | February 26, 2009

All things American


It’s impossible to live somewhere new for any length of time and not compare things to the way they were at home. For me it mostly revolves around food, what I can and can’t find in the way of food from home, and getting used to the local cuisine.

Velveeta is a popular choice round these parts, it’s used mainly to make rotel dip which is palatable only when hot, when it’s starts to cool down there’s no mistaking the delicate plastic flavour. Wikipedia says “Velveeta features a soft, creamy texture and a distinctive taste that advertisers compare to cheddar cheese”. That’s wishful thinking, it’s like cheddar cheese in the same way that tofu is like fillet steak. Goldfish crackers, well that’s a whole nuther story. We’re big fans in this house, and I had to find something to replace the oatcake crumbs in the furniture.

We like to eat out, probably more than we should, but it’s so much cheaper than in the UK, about half the price in most places. If you like fast food and chain restaurants,then you are spoilt for choice in this small town. I prefer the locally owned places, the food is much nicer by a long way.

And in America there are lots of Americans, and I like them too. Southerners are friendly, warm and very hospitable people. Like the Scottish Highlanders they like to feed you more than is necessary, and they make great cakes and desserts – pound cake anyone?

People often ask us how we are settling in here. I would say it’s a work in progress for me, the boys though have settled in quickly and without too much trauma. It’s been hard to ignore the fact that within a matter of weeks they were starting to talk like the natives. We stepped outside one day last week, Joel looked at the sky and declared that it was “fixin’ to rain.” Euan is generally more fluent in American than Joel, especially when in the company of American children. David has worked tirelessly to convince anyone that will listen that ‘aluminIUM’ is the correct spelling of the word, not ‘aluminUM’, so far no one is listening.

One thing we are excited about is taking time to explore the USA when we are able, we’re returning to Florida in June, this time Orlando, for the PCA’s General Assembly. I’m told that it will be hotter and sweatier than Mississippi at that time of year, oh joy. Still, we’re going to go to Disney and do all the other touristy things that are obligatory in Florida.

If I could be permitted one complaint it is that America is so huge. To visit the Hays in Seattle is 2,589 miles, which would take 1 day and 13 hours to drive. In reality that’s 4 or more days driving. The Hales in California are 1 day and 4 hours, so slightly closer. The Skwareks are only round the corner up there in D.C., it’s a mere 14 hour drive and only 860 miles.

It would make my travelling plans so much easier if there were reasonably priced, high speed rail links between the major cities. I have heard that there is some provision in the stimulus package for that, but given that London’s Crossrail project [a rail link through central London] is estimated to cost upwards of £16 billion, which is round $23 billion, It would probably cost more than the whole stimulus package to build anything that would go across country. So for the meantime, we’ll have to make do with flying and driving.



  1. No, say it ain’t so!

    Stay calm everyone…put the fake cheese down…slowly…slowly…now run away!

  2. Good to know I can annoy someone else by saying ‘aluminum’! 😉 And Goldfish crackers – YUM!!!!!! Can’t get them here. 😦

  3. I know, it is very sad to be so far away and yet in the same country. But we may be moving a smidgen (how’s that for Southernese?) closer (will keep you posted). And please stay far away from Velveeta — yuck!

  4. Sheena,

    You know 14 hours can really fly by quickly…especially through the countryside between Mississippi and Washington, DC. If you start before sun-rise, say 2:30 am, and focus on getting mileage before anyone wakes up (driver included) the majority of the trip just passes by. Before you know it your stomach will be craving lunch and your car will be asking for its 2nd fill-up and everyone will be ready for a stretch. Make that at about 12:45 pm and a brief three hours later you will be pulling in beating all of the evening DC commuter traffic.

    All the best,

    Vincent and Ruth Skwarek

  5. I loved this post!

    I experienced the exact same thing–but in reverse–when we moved to EDI.

    I couldn’t find some of the ingredients I needed for my favorite recipes. It’s so funny that you mentioned Velveeta…that’s one of the things I couldn’t find in Scotland & therefore my Chicken Spaghetti recipe had to have a few tweaks.
    After 4 years abroad, we completely lost the taste for velveeta. We bought it for the first time in years recently (to make rotel dip–just as you mentioned) and it literally made my stomach hurt. I felt like I was eating an industrial ingredient.

    Oh–and I love the “fixin to rain” comment. very cute.

  6. Haha!! Hilarious. Yeah…Velveeta is a black mark on America’s cheese industry.

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