We Americans love our potatoes and my experience in England shows so do they.  Likely more so.

A few years ago our church pastor was a British expatriate who said this about daily English cookery, “When preparing dinner, first you start preparing the potatoes and then decide what’s for dinner.”

This gets laughs in the States.  I wasn’t brave enough to say that in England.

There are one or two important language differences to note regarding potatoes.  Most Americans know that English chips are about the same as American fries, but did you know that a chippy is Fish and Chip shop?  In the states we have baked potatoes while our English friends are enjoying a nice jacket potato.

That is a potato with its jacket still on. I find the term a bit amusing as I was taught that potatoes have skins and a jacket was something you wear when it’s cold outside.  Turns out on cold days your average English person will put on a coat while a jacket is something you wear to dinner.  I didn’t mention this while I was over there, but at one restaurant I saw this menu item:

Baked Jackets

At the time I thought I should explain to my brother-in-law why an American would find that an amusing menu item, but he seemed to be having trouble with his new hearing aid so I settled for drinking me tea and enjoying me sausage roll.

Thinking back, I am not sure I recall a dinner without some form of potato.  First night it was cottage pie with its mashed potato topping. I’ve been served shepherd’s pie here in the States and learned that cottage pie and shepherd’s pie are not the same.  Both have a meat filling topped with mashed potatoes.  The key difference I was told is that shepherd’s pie uses lamb for the meat while cottage pie has beef. Never did learn what it would be called if it was made with chicken.

Then there was the fish pie with mashed potato topping and just in case the potato wasn’t rich enough they added some cream while mashing it. I did think the name was a little boring, “fish pie.” You think they could has spiced up the name a bit – say something like, “Sailor Pie,” or “Quay Pie.”

Sunday dinner consisted of potatoes, roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, carrots, leeks, and parsnips all drowned in gravy. I don’t want you to think that it was just a few potatoes. Plate came with four large nicely roasted potato sections (no skins, er, jackets) which was about twice as much as I would normally eat. Then, just in case that wasn’t enough, they put a bowl of roasted potatoes on the table – right next to the extra gravy.

I am not complaining, but I do think I felt my arteries hardening and now don’t need to eat until November.

Till next week,

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Friday Wisdom – Skydiving

You do not need a parachute to skydive.

You only need a parachute to skydive twice.

More wisdom next week,

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50-50-90 Rule

The 50-50-90 rule: Anytime you have a 50-50 chance of getting something right, there’s a 90% probability you’ll get it wrong.

Andy Rooney

Nothing going on in the shop this week as I am still recovering from all our traveling.

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The Adventure of the Garden Centre

On our recent trip to England, I delighted in noting the various differences between England and America.  Language is one big difference. It turns out so is the humble garden center.  Excuse me, garden centre.  This became very obvious to me when the newly weds, Ron and Hazel, suggested a trip to a local garden centre.  At first this seemed a little odd since they live in a flat (condo) with no garden, but they explained that this garden centre had a restaurant that served lunch.

Several times I heard that we were going to the “Hot Pocket” on Wednesday.  This brought to mind that great American junk food treat from you local grocery store’s freezer section and filled my head with visions of hot toasty cheesy things with large amounts of salt and fat – two of my favorite food groups.

As we sped past hedges, and green fields with sheep grazing, the sign came into view declaring that we’d arrived at, “The Hop Pocket.”  I was a bit disappointed on the state of my hearing and thought that I might need to schedule a test. Since hops is a component of beer and not toasty cheesy sandwiches I was beginning to worry that I’d not get my daily requirement of fat and salt.

My sandwich fear was soon put to rest as we walked through the garden area and the gift shop before arriving at the restaurant where the menu listed a toasted ham and cheese sandwich – with pineapple.  You know, kind of like those Hawaiian style pizzas we get here in the States only in a toasty sandwich.

After lunch we went into the gift shop for a little light shopping and it was then that I discovered that the place was more of a shopping mall than garden center.  In the building next door; we walked up some stairs into a clothing store, a toy area, an art gallery and other things.  Ron then informed us that there was also a downstairs area.

Since Heather had slightly injured her foot the day before it was suggested that we take the lift (elevator) down to the ground floor.  It should be noted that in Britain, the ground floor is on the ground and often “0” on the lift controls.  The first floor, is the floor above the ground floor (“1” on the lift control) or what we Americans call the second floor and press “2” to get to.  Confused? Me too, I still am not sure what floors I’ve been on when over there.

When we got to the lift it turned out to be a small affair with a warning sign saying, “Max 4 people, 400 kg.” A bit of quick mental math told me that our party of four would fit nicely and all would be safe provided a kg is roughly 2 lbs and I was guessing everyone’s weight correctly.  Not everyone was as confident as I tried to sound, but we all shuffled in and pressed the “0” button.

On arriving on the ground floor we noticed the lift had a sign stating, “Max 3 people, 300 kg,” which did cause a bit of worry. However we also exited right next to a shoe store and all was forgotten as Heather and her sister Hazel saw an interesting pair of boots.  What followed was an interesting half hour as various shoes were tried and the sales staff was quizzed on the difference between American, British and European shoe size measurement systems.

Ron and I were fortunate enough to find two empty chairs to enjoy the shoe shopping show.

At one point Heather did ask me if she could buy a pair of shoes.  Which I thought an odd question as it was clear to me that she was going to buy a pair and I thought it best to avoid directly addressing the question and just answered, “My only requirement is that it fits in the suitcase.”

Shoes bought, and the sales staff calculating their commission, we made our way to the car park (parking lot) where we discovered it was raining.  Naturally the true Brits grumbled a bit at the weather while I marveled that this amazing thing of water falling from the sky.

Sadly, no one seemed to know how I could make that happen in California.

Till next week,

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