Ah, England. The fields of carpet and rivers of tea. And coffee which has apparently become a luxury foodstuff. I had this conversation in a cafè last week:
'One latte, please'
'That'll be £2.60.' Thump. (Sound of me fainting)
Actually, I didn't faint, I said:
'That better be one hell of a latte'. Spotty cafè boy = not amused. Isabel rather predictably woke up as soon as I sat down and put my head between my legs to recover from the shock, so I couldn't even take my time over my scalding hot, bitter coffee. That's cafè culture for you.
When I come home to England I love nothing more than going round the supermarket to marvel at the mind-boggling variety of stuff on offer. It makes me dizzy. I want to buy everything. I feel sick. When I spotted cans of Baxter's Italian Wedding Soup, however, I nearly crashed the pushchair into the fifty different types of baked beans on the other side of the aisle.
'Italians don't even have soup at weddings', I scoffed to my mum. Nothing more irritating than a food snob, I know. I just can't help it.
'Err, actually,' she replied, 'you had soup at your wedding. Which was in Italy. And very Italian.'
That'll teach me for being a smug expat. I do dimly recall a kind of chickpea soup at our wedding, which brings me to the next thing I've noticed about English food. I bought some chickpeas two days ago and prepared a delicious chickpea and vegetable salad with so-called 'crunchy' carrots (Mr Sainsbury, are there any other kind?), celery and chopped 'vine' tomatoes (ditto)(perhaps the other tomatoes on sale are grown in test tubes). Guess what? The whole thing tasted of NOTHING. Absolutely nothing. I ended up adding so much salt that an otherwise healthy lunch became a heart attack on a plate.
But, if the glow-in-the-dark carrots let me down then the insane optimism towards the weather always picks me right back up again. The forecasters don't mention the rain, just the sunny spells. As soon as the sun comes out everyone puts on shorts and t-shirts and never mind that it's only 8 or 9 degrees. It's sunny!! Gale force winds? Pah. I'm wearing my new Marks & Sparks vest top if it kills me (it probably will when you all develop pneumonia). But the Brits are tough, whereas I've been living in Italy for 10 years so I now actually suffer from 'colpo di freddo' - which is when you get cronic bronchitis from sitting in a cold draught even if it's 35 degrees. A food snob and a wimp. How annoying.
But most of all you can't beat the sense of humour. There was a toasted and buttered tea cake in the kitchen the other day and I asked my dad,
'Is that yours?' To which he replied, quick as lightening,
'No, it's just my current bun.' Love it.