Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The appeal of an All American smile

It's a cliche, but true as all the best cliches are, that Americans have good teeth. I didn't meet a single person in the States whose teeth weren't straight and white. Some (especially in LA) may have been a little too white. A bit startling, somehow. And of course they've all had years of expensive and uncomfortable orthodontic treatment to achieve those All American smiles. Still, those teeth look good to me.

I got used to seeing them. Now, back in dear old Blighty,  I notice snaggle, discoloured, wonky, gappy teeth everywhere. It's a shame really. The British smile is - to generalise, but indulge me - harder won than the American one. It's sincerely meant, in the main. And yet, when the teeth are so bad... you might almost wish some people didn't smile so much...
No-one with these teeth would ever get elected in America
My teeth are fairly straight and reasonably white, but a little bit gappy. The kind of teeth no-one British would ever worry about. The kind of teeth an American would not tolerate.

I noticed the gaps a couple of years ago, on Skype calls. Not sure if it's because I was making those calls from Malibu, Home of the Perfect Smile. Or because the gaps really had got worse. I asked TLOML what he thought about the gaps.

A British boyfriend would have said 'they're fine, you've got perfectly good teeth'.

TLOML said, 'well, they'll only get worse with age.'

After two years of brooding over this comment and gurning at myself in the mirror to see if they really wore getting worse, I'm taking action. I'm getting Invisalign. It involves wearing clear braces for 22 hours a day, for a year. The braces get changed every 2 weeks to gradually train your teeth to be more American. At the start of the process they're tea drinking cricket fanatics who are obsessed with talking about the weather. After a year they call petrol 'gas' and are avid NFL fans. They'll probably be displayed in a broad smile more often, too.

The wearing of the braces for 22 hours has dramatically narrowed my snacking window. From about 16 hours to, well, 2. I don't mind, I could use a little restraint where snacks are concerned to be honest. It's a bit like having your jaws wired.
Me with my invisalign on: still at the British end of the spectrum

I should have had it done a year ago, then I would have perfect white teeth for my wedding. But I was a bit slow about it. The other advantage of having it done in the States would have been that there, no-one bats an eyelid if a 37 woman starts wearing braces. Here, I suspect most people think it's vain and silly. Especially since, as I said, I had 'perfectly good' teeth to begin with.

Ah well, call me vain and silly if you like. Living in Malibu for a while will do that to a person.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

When TLOML's away, me and my cat can play

TLOML went away for a week, to see his old clients and mates in California. In his absence, all manner of mischief took place.

We have a screen, which is designed to prevent Jack (the fat cat) from ever gaining unsupervised access to the living room.
 Under no circumstances must Jack be allowed free range in the same space as our nice new sofa and TLOML's prized club chair.
Except when TLOML is away, when I leave the screen open, and turn my back for a moment and.. oops...

...Jack rapidly became very comfortable making a nice black furry patch on our nice new sofa.

Well, that's all over now. TLOML is back, throwing around phrases like 'It's so cold here!', and 'I think I'm only going to get my hair cut in Vegas from now on'.

His return spells the end of dinners consisting solely of snacks and peas:

And an end to the wanton storage of eggs at room temperature (you know how Americans hate that):

The good news is that life is more fun when he is around, despite the constraints on cat/ egg freedom.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The shrimpiest of prawns

You know that nickname 'shrimp', which usually denotes someone of smaller stature? I bet they don't use it in the States. There, the shrimp and prawns are big. Sometimes obscenely, weirdly big.

Here... not so much. Our prawns are decidedly, well, shrimpy.

Exhibit A)
A 'tiger style prawn' from Ravel's, our local, nice but not great, bistro.
You hear 'tiger style' and you think 'great big prawns', don't you? (or 'great big shrimps' if you are American). Like the kind you can take two or three bites of. Not at Ravel's.

Exhibit B)
'Large' 'King' prawns, from Co-op. I know, I know, what do I expect, buying unsustainable, discounted prawns from the supermarket? But I'd promised TLOML bouillabaisse, and was too late for the proper fishmonger. Needs must.

What I needed were some nice big juicy shellfish to toss in the bouillabaisse.What I got were some rather undernourished little prawns.
 Don't believe me? Here they are next to a teaspoon, for scale.
I mean, it's not the world's smallest prawn or anything. But does it really merit the 'large king' label?

Sigh. I am dangerously close to 'everything is bigger and therefore better in America' territory here. And I really don't feel that way. I love British seafood, our lovely mussels, our nice briney oysters, langoustines, sweet brown crab.

It's just... well, these prawns are, undeniably, small. Delicious, but small.

In America when they call something 'large', or 'king', it is enormous. Too big. I think the prawn labelling people should exercise a little restraint. It's just a bit embarrassing, 's'all.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Jubilee fever hits Fox Corner

Despite my scoffing tone in earlier posts, I am happy to admit I fell hook, line and sinker for the whole brilliant Jubilee shenanigan.

The garden was bedecked in bunting.
While TLOML prepared his outstanding burgers for the grill, I brought the British food to the table: I made coronation chicken and slightly malformed strawberry cakes. Asparagus is officially the next most English fruit / veg after strawberries, so we grilled some of that up too.

And I made a quiche, with the Union Jack created out of roasted peppers on the top. Well, it was raining outside and I had some time on my hands...

A large quantity of Pimm's was made, poured, and consumed. Then we made some more.

 And a fine time was had by all.

Except Jack, who doesn't seem to be a big Jubilee fan at all:

Sunday, June 3, 2012

'One pan' dinners

A recipe caught my eye in Bon Appetit magazine lately, for a sort of deconstructed caesar salad. Chicken, baked with a crust involving parmesan and garlic, and roasted romaine with anchovies on the side.

The recipe was in a feature on 'one sheet pan dinners'. That is, meals you can make with just one baking sheet in use.

I prepared my ingredients.  It was then that I started to have my doubts. Could this really fit into just one pan?

Clearly not. Where's the lettuce going to go?

The lettuce had to have its own pan.

The meal was delicious, quick and easy, and I've made it a few times since.
But I ask you, as I asked TLOML, 'What kind of person has a pan big enough to fit 4 chicken breasts and 4 half heads of romaine?'

The answer...? 'An American'.

He's right, of course. Our standard size oven and my standard size roasting tins just are not equipped for American 'one pan' dinners.

Still, as I type this, I'm watching the jubilee preparations, people setting up street parties under makeshift tents in pouring rain. I'm reflecting on British spirit, defiant in the face of slightly faulty equipment and unhelpful conditions. I will make the American recipes I like, against all odds.