So, because it has endless possibilities and is very entertaining I’m gonna just continue for a little bit more on the lines of my previous theme, namely, what I find mad (funny) about America and, for today’s particular delectation, we will be gorging on something sweetly bonkers. But first, like a little tray of amuse-bouches to start us off, here are a few more unlinked funnyosities that have popped into my head since my last post:
- I think everyone knows that they adore a bit of British blue blood over here, but actually they (those with whom I’ve ever had a royal chat at least) hate Camilla vociferously and deeply, still affronted by her usurping of the goddess Diana, whereas the lady Cam is one of the few I quite warm to because she seems to be a bit of a laugh.
- Americans eat pickles a lot. That’s one from the list I’ve mentioned before, but as a bonus illustration of this love affair, if you take part in any long distance run or bike ride here, you’ll get sliced pickles, pickle juice and sometimes even a great big whole one along the way. Apparently it stops you cramping, but even so!
- Public loos are, indeed, public. That would be public in the sense of not private. Cubicles often don’t go above shoulder height, never go down to the floor and the inch wide gaps round the doors actually let you see in (or out, so you can catch the eye of the person who’s looking in on you, for example). Another from the list above, but just so odd and disconcerting that I thought it worth drawing your attention to.
- Sticking on the loo (humour me, do), portaloos are called portapotties and the phrase ‘to go potty’ doesn’t mean to go loopy, it means to go to the loo. Which is loopy. Yes? I mean actual grown-ups use this phrase.
- Now, I could go on about the words literally forever, but I’ll finish (for now at least) with just one more: entrée. It is the word that is ubiquitously used in restaurants for the main course. I don’t think I need to explain why this is hilarious.
Moving on, then, to the entrée of this piece (admire what I did there, please!). If I said “Girl Scout Cookies” to you (and you were not American or hadn’t spent time in suburban America in early Spring) you might imagine a group of noisy, laughing lasses, surrounded by a puff of flour and with greedy fingers wiping clean the bowls of cookie dough while soft-baked, all-shaped, choc-chip-ful, nutty, fruity biscuits lie cooling on racks. In other words, home-made. And by young girls. Maybe with some supervision, at home or by Brown Owl or whatever the US equivalent of the pack leader is.
And if I list the following ingredients, I suspect that, wherever you’re from and whatever time of year it is, you’d visualise some kind of highly processed and packaged sweet food stuff: whole grain wheat flour, enriched flour (wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), sugar, canola [rapeseed] oil, dried cranberries (cranberries, sugar, sunflower oil), malt syrup (from corn and barley), invert sugar, natural flavor, baking soda, ammonium bicarbonate, salt, mono calcium phosphate, soy lecithin, distilled monoglycerides (BHT and citric acid added as antioxidants).
If we put the two together what we actually get is: Cranberry Citrus Crisps Girl Scout Cookies = highly processed and packaged sweet foodstuff. It’s bordering on the libellous isn’t it?
Girl Scout Cookies, I’ve learnt over my two short Spring seasons here, are an American institution. We’ve bought quite a lot of them, off friends whose daughters are Girl Scouts and who (the friends not the daughters) are heavily engaged in their selling via email and face-to-face supplication, and off strangers who set up week-long stalls, aka barricades, outside all the local supermarkets. This year we majored heavily on the afore-mentioned Cranberry Citrus Crisps as well as Mint Thins. Neither are very nice, to be truthful. I’d rather buy Jaffa Cakes or Ginger Nuts or HobNobs or any number of American equivalents on the shelves of Kroger. If I have to eat processed biscuits I don’t really care how much they cost, price doesn’t come into it, it’s all about that nom taste, and GS Cookies don’t deliver.
Oh I do understand how important it is for Girl Scouts to raise money for and awareness of their undoubtedly worthwhile activities. But per-lease! I’m sure it could be done more imaginatively and, for the girls themselves, more engagingly. Like really baking for instance. On the packet of my Cranberry and Lemon Crisps is proudly printed: “Selling Girl Scout Cookies helps girls develop 5 skills that they use throughout their lives: 1. Goal Setting 2. Decision Making 3. Money Management 4. People Skills 5. Business Ethics”. What bullshit! It makes them lots of money, doubtless (the troop buys in boxes and boxes, the parents commit to buying then selling on x number, and, I’m guessing here, probably end up with an excess of the worst flavours which they only just manage to chomp their way through before next year’s onslaught starts again), but it’s hardly Harvard Business School stuff. And no fun for anyone. That mixture of homespun, homegrown, nurturing, Mom’s-apple-pie fakery with the grooved, seasonal, this-is-what-we-do-in-March tradition with the hard-nosed, boring, bringing-it-back-to-business reality is sooo American. And, yes, it’s also weird.
I have no pudding for you to round off this mealtime metaphor but do feel free to fight back, you Yanks out there, and entertain me with what you find strange about other nations (like the word pudding in this context which my Belgian friend V finds so funny). I suppose that would be just desserts…