20 August 2012


There are certain food and beverage items that represent true comfort. A cup of hot chocolate with foamy marshmallows, a cup of true New England clam chowder, mashed potatoes, apple pie – these are all American comfort foods.

Sometimes, a little taste of home is all one needs to feel just a little bit better and, after the week I have had, I definitely needed a little pick-me-up Friday (a.k.a. Funeral Day).

I started the day with Starbucks. Though I did not like coffee at all 10 years ago, I have grown to crave a latte and appreciate the feeling a good cup of coffee can create as it fills my entire body. Yes, a good latte can warm my soul. And I did. The rainy weather brought cool breezes – so cool in fact that my bare legs were chilly. I switched to sweatpants when I got home.

After a morning with the American women, I ran a couple of errands, not quite yet desiring food. When I go to the store, however, I had one thing on my mind – Velveeta shells and cheese. A box filled with 100 percent processed unhealthiness, it is an amazing form of comfort food that I just need sometimes.

As soon as I got home, I started the pot of boiling water. I dropped in the shells, salted the water and stirred around the beginnings of a little stomach pleaser. When the pasta was done, I dumped it into the colander and started squishing the gooey processed cheese pouch into the hot pot. Mix it all together and then you have lunch! Mmmmm. Processed cheesy goodness.

After a quick lunch and a race to make two kinds of Rice Krispies Treats (the cocoa kind and the standard), I headed over to Nicola’s for girls night in. I came armed with all the essentials: buttered popcorn, kettle corn, gummy bears, cereal treats and Red Vines. This, my friends, is how a movie is done.

The joy of the evening, and what I had most been looking forward to, was an authentic English meal cooked by Nicola’s mother-in-law. Until Friday night, my only experience with British foods came from a pub – not exactly authentic. My husband said it best at last weekend’s dinner with the Browns: “All of our British knowledge comes from you people and Top Gear.” Obviously, we do not know much.

I was so pleased to be invited over for a true English meal (though I may have invited myself over when I heard Clare had plans to visit). We started with a sampling of scones and jam, and I received a lesson on the proper pronunciation of the word, “scones.” If I were a (paraphrasing here) normal English person, I would say, “scahns.” If I were a (paraphrasing again) snoody woman from the north, I would stick up my nose, purse my lips and say, “scoons.” I replied with, “Well, I am American so I say, ‘scones.’”

However you prefer to pronounce them, they were great. In America, we call them biscuits, but that is a whole other discussion. I learned that the secret to a great top is an egg and milk wash, which makes the tops sweet and creates a glistening effect. I will steal this trick.

Dinner consisted of a starter salad with ham-wrapped asparagus on a bed of lettuce, drizzled with balsamic vinegar and a cottage pie made with beef and vegetables and covered with a mashed potato topping. I regret forgetting to take a photo. I should have taken a photo.

When I heard I would be consuming an English classic, I immediately Googled cottage pie. At the table I asked if the pie was made from beef and Clare confirmed my observation. I stated that I had read the pies could be made from beef, lamb or mutton but was quickly corrected. “No, that’s shepherd’s pie. That’s different.” Lesson learned.

After dinner we gathered in the living room to watch The Artist. Since we obviously had not yet had enough food, Clare came in with apple crisp and ice cream. And then we continued to pick at the junk food the rest of the evening. The best memories are made around some good old fashioned comfort foods, no matter the country of origin.

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