Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Britspeak - Lesson 1 - Food

There are very few differences in the words for foods and very little difference in the three main meals. However there may be some slight regional differences. If you're stepping outside any of the big cities, knowing which meal you're talking about will be helpful when talking to locals.

Breakfast is the same all over the place - the first meal of the day.

Brunch (combination of breakfast and lunch - designed for Sunday late sleepers or church attendees) hasn't been found over here, though we know what it is. When in the US you know that on Sunday in any state in the union, you can park yourself in most restaurants and indulge in some genuine North American gluttony. There isn't a finer Sunday brunch better than brunch at The Amana Colonies in Iowa.

The second meal of the day is where confusion starts to occur. Lunch can sometimes be referred to as dinner. School children will often "go home for dinner" and people at work can be "on their dinner break". In the US, dinner is almost always the evening meal. Now I am not sure about regional variations, I hope that my British readers will fill me in on their own regional word for lunch. Over here, we (people who live in the UK) do recognise lunch and do have "ladies who lunch". In some circles, though not the circles in which I travel, there will be a luncheon. Pastel suits possibly with hats and gloves always spring to mind when somebody mentions luncheon.

Tea can be confusing. First and foremost is it the popular beverage served hot or cold - though here in the UK, it is mainly hot. Builders' tea is strongly brewed tea with milk and two teaspoons of sugar. I like builders' tea, but with less sugar. Most everybody who works at a regular job will have the benefit of a tea break. It is the same as a coffee break. Sometimes it will actually be referred to as a coffee break.

The British working population used to have their main meal of the day at noon or 1pm. Then they would have a light meal or tea after work. This was about 6pm. It wasn't as substantial as the main meal at the middle of the day but it was a proper meal. This was high tea. I don't know if this is still the practice anywhere, but it isn't the standard out here in the part of Scotland where I live. The third and main meal of the day is referred to as tea. Family members will often ask me what we're having for our tea? "Mum, can Gordon stay for tea?" This is all about the evening meal.

There are wonderful cream teas that can be had at our village hall on Sunday afternoons in the summer. The cream teas are sponsored by the good Christian women of the village. You get a bottomless cup of tea or coffee and a scone with jam and cream. When seated at the table there will be a plate of home baked goodies where you can help yourself. The proceeds of these cream teas go either to the general fund for the upkeep of the village hall or towards the upkeep of the church. I think they alternate years.

Supper is a light snack just before bedtime. We often have toast here at Whitelees. Sometimes, if I've baked cakes or some other little morsel, then we'll have that with a mug of tea or chocolate.

Most everybody knows that cookies in the US are called biscuits here in the UK. Biscuits in the States are scones here. Nobody would ever thank you for biscuits and gravy in the UK. Can you imagine inadvertently offering somebody cookies and gravy? Ew! Keep your terminology organized.

I use an old US recipe for biscuits supreme straight out of the Better Homes and Gardens cook book and it helps me to crank out the nicest scones in the area. The recipe is easily modified to make cheese scones (a savory delight to serve with dinner) or fruit scones with raisins and currants.

Knowing all of this, I can't bring myself to say chocolate chip biscuits. It just sounds wrong to my ears. I must say chocolate chip cookies.

One thing I did stop pretty sharpish was the American pronunciation of herbs. I say it with the "H" . The US pronunciation of "Erbs" just doesn't sound right any longer. The word has an "h" in it and in my opinion, really ought to be said. I also pronounce basil as BAAsil (as in Basil Fawlty) and not BAYsil. It took about eight years but I also now say TOmahto instead of TOmayto. I have digressed.

Sausages can be referred to as bangers. UK sausages have less meat in them than the US counterpart. I have grown accustomed to these sausages, but US pork sausages are preferred.

I'll add in more terms as they come into my head but that's all I can think of for the moment.


This was in response to a comment from Annie - a new reader from Arkansas. Welcome Annie, stop by again sometime.


Bob said...

Did you feel the earth tremor I believe they had up your neck of the woods?

Peggy said...

Nope - We were in Carlisle at the time buying a sofa in the Boxing Day sales. Go figure.

Thanks for askin though Bob.

susan said...

Now we know!

This reminds me of when my parents moved to Texas. All of a sudden, lunch became dinner and dinner, the evening meal was now called supper.

Betty said...

I never knew what meal I was eating when we were in England and Scotland a few years ago. I had long heard of scones with jam, scones with clotted cream. When I finally tasted a scone I though, "Well, for heaven's sake! It's just a biscuit!" LOL

Joe said...

I followed you until you got to sausages. What is in them, if not meat? Other than sage and pepper, that is.

Also: is there something called "elevenses"?

Peggy said...

Sausages will contain "fillers" mostly cereals and other mystery products (best not to ask) herbs and spices.

Elevenses is what you have at eleven a.m., normally your coffee/tea break. Sometimes I'll set some extra nice cookies or a couple of slices of cake aside for elevenses.

Jay said...

It's just so hard to keep it all straight. I think I'll probably have to make a "cheat sheet" if or when I get to come over there someday.

Libbys Blog said...

I found you whilst blog hopping and thoroughly enjoyed your descriptions of our meals!! We are an odd lot!!! Made me laugh.
All the best

Bob said...

Have you been to a UK panto Peggy? now that would take some explaining to US readers, what with cross dressers and the principal boy is a girl and the dame is a man; "he's behind you" If you have never been to one this would be total gibberish.

Xtreme English said...

What you call "builders tea" is what they serve in the bodegas and street carts in NYC: strong black tea with milk and two sugars. I LOVE it, and whenever I go to NYC in the winter, I make sure to order a cup. If you want it plain, like we drank everything in the Midwest, you have to tell them "no milk, no sugar," and they actually look at you to make sure you're not a chimera.....

Xtreme English said...

In fact, my favorite starving student breakfast when I was getting my master's in NYC was a buttered bagel (50 cents) and a cup of hot tea (another 50 cents). Real butter on a very yummy bagel, not toasted...just plain. gee whiz....when I'm on my death bed and my life is flashing before my eyes, I hope those bagels and tea show up....

OutHouse Capital of Canada said...

When I lived in England, we used to call it "British Railway tea", the station cafe never removed the tealeaves from the pot, just added more tea, you could almost stand the spoon up in it.
We used to call digestive biscuits, Diggies. the best biscuits here in Canada are imported from britain, we feel that most of the north american cookies are cr*p. when we visit down to USA, the stores never have the English biscuits