Despite having not lived in the UK for just under 10 years, I’m still pretty English.
DH (who’s American) would agree: You can take the girl out of England, but not the English out of the girl, we say.
Mostly our different backgrounds complement each other, but if there’s one thing that DH does that annoys me, it’s when he CORRECTS me in everyday conversation.
For example, I’ll ask him (politely) if he can take something out of the boot, and he’ll shrug his shoulders and pretend he doesn’t know what the boot is. “The trunk, you mean?” he’ll say, in a soft mid-Atlantic accent.
And I refuse to back down. The way I speak, my British spellings and British tastes are so deeply ingrained, it’s like I’m holding onto them for dear life – and living in an expat society such as ours, I’m sure they define me.
This theory also applies, to some extent, to food. We’re lucky enough in Dubai to have access to all kinds of restaurants, from Lebanese to Vietnamese, sushi to Indian. While I enjoy most of these cuisines very much, occasionally all I really want is a shepherd’s pie, or fish and chips.
Or bangers ‘n’ mash, or a greasy spoon …. a proper sausage roll. I could go on.
What has become glaringly obvious, however, is that my expat children are having none of it. To my dismay, they reject nearly all my favourite English foods.
Case study: Chez Circles, yesterday evening
I’m in the kitchen, making an old staple: beef stroganoff with mashed potato and broccoli. It’s bubbling away nicely, smells delicious and I’m just waiting for the potatoes to cook so I can add butter and milk and pummel them to fluff with the masher.
BB comes in. “Mummy, are you cooking?” [clue no.1 as to what’s going on]. “What are you making?”
Then, “OH.NO. Not pie. Oh please Mummy, not pie.”
I made shepherd’s pie last week and the two of them sat at the table for a whole hour while DH and I practically force-fed them in a culinary stand-off.
BB’s eyes actually start shining with fright. “No darling, it’s not pie,” I say glumly.
We sit down to eat, I tuck in. DH politely does the same. I have a hopeful look on my face that this meal will be a success.
“WE.DON’T.LIKE.IT,” they wail, wiping the smile off my face in an instant and leaving me grinding my molars in frustration.
“Maybe you should have done rice,” says DH, quietly (clue no. 2).
Through clenched teeth, I tell them I used to eat potatoes every day when I was a girl, that mashed potatoes are yummy and that they’re being ungrateful. And then I try shock tactics and tell them (for the hundredth time) about the starving children in Africa.
BB eats slowly and silently. LB fidgets on his chair.
I go back into the kitchen to pour more wine, pondering to myself how my children could possibly dislike food I grew up on (the answer, of course, is that their taste buds lean towards Asia rather than England, because our Filipina helper cooks rice for them more often than I care to admit).
And that’s when I heard the yelling: “Mumm-eeeee, QUICK. EMERGENCY!” shouts BB.
His brother has reluctantly taken a few bites…and vomited. Everywhere. Bringing the meal to an unceremonious end.
[Thinks: it might be time to reclaim the kitchen - and use ear plugs at the dinner table.]