Now that I’ve been quarantined for the last few days, I think I’m settling in. My days, if you want to call them that, are still a blur in slow motion: I’m jet-lagged, my body still thinks it’s living in the Eastern and Central Time Zones; most of my personal items are still in transit, I came with just two suitcases and a laptop bag; I’m sleeping on a half made bed because my washer/dryer nemesis has not yet coughed up my sheets; the only people I’ve talked to in person are delivery people and, I think, one of my pod-mates; and I continue to be amazed by a whole host of strange little quirks and surprises that keep popping up. I’ve been forcing myself to wake up around 9:30 a.m. British Standard Time to get acclimated. I keep busy during the day with little tasks, video calls, and preparing for the eventual exit from my small, shipping container-sized room. Unfortunately, it gets dark early, and the evenings, which are filled with new noises (i.e. cars, college kids walking home after a night at the pub, church bells, etc.) make it hard at times to fall asleep. Over all I’m staying upbeat, but there have been some moments when I can’t sleep and the mind starts to wander into less than positive territory. I’ve given up so much to be here, and I know it will be worth it in the long run, but for now I have to crack on.
Searching for, and ordering food, is been one of my daily tasks. I need to thank UberEats for their service, it is the source of 90 percent of my food, and my friend Erin Bradbeer for her guidance. By way of background, Erin and I worked at Exelon, Inc. together in 2005, and when she met her Prince Charming she moved to the UK. Over the past few months we have chatted about the challenges I will face getting here (i.e the visa application process, shipping my belongings, getting from Heathrow Airport to the Stonemason House, etc.) and what I will experience once I arrive (i.e. AmazonUK, banking, switching over my cellphone, TV taxes, getting around, the veiled passive aggressive behavior of some of the locals, clothing, the weather, etc.). I’m grateful for her guidance, support, and daily check-ins.
Since I’m not working out any more, thank you COVID-19, I’m not eating a large volume of food each day. Even before I arrived in the UK, I would usually have black coffee, hard boiled eggs, and raw spinach for breakfast; skip lunch; and then eat a solid dinner. For those of us who are Facebook friends, you probably have seen the pictures of the meals I made when I was living with my parents after leaving Philadelphia. I’ve tried to recreate that trend in quarantine with some success. I say “some success” because I’ve come close to hitting the target with every order, but there always seems to be some surprise, unknown, or confusion on my end that derails my culinary hopes.
One of the things that I continue to be surprised about is that things in the UK don’t always taste the same way they do in the US. Take for instance these two drinks: 7up and Schweppes. One evening I ordered from a local restaurant that offered a selection of Asian dishes. So, I placed an order for mixed vegetables and noodles, spring rolls (more on this later), a 7up for dinner, and a 750 ml bottle of what I thought was flavored soda water for another time. Much to my surprise, I got liquid candy and, apparently, a product that came from the “Creator of Bubbles”.
Each of these drinks did just fine, but in comparison to their American counterpart, they are very different. The 7up is sweeter, the Schweppes is not lemon flavored soda water, it is clear, carbonated lemonade. Imagine my surprise when I went in for a sip and got way more sugar than I bargained for. Additionally, as a communications and marketing professional, I laughed out loud at their slogan: “Creator of Bubbles”. Since they have been around since 1783, that may be close to being true, but it’s quite a bold claim.
Who has had a bap? Do you know what a bap is? I’m not the most cultured foodie, so for me, the answers are: not me and nope — until this week. Apparently, a bap is a sad bun with some kind of grilled and seasoned meat in it. That is it. There is no cheese, there is no schemer, and from what I’ve seen, not too much from the vegetable garden. I was expecting something like a breakfast sandwich, but that is not how we do things here. But in all honesty, it tasted pretty good with a cup of coffee.
This little number was today’s breakfast. It was from Leon, something that seems to be a non-fried, healthier, environmentally-focused, little bit of everything kind-of-place. I think they are pretty big chain. This breakfast feast, according to the menu, includes: bacon, gluten free sausage, two free range poached eggs, grilled halloumi, saucy beans, and fresh roasted mushrooms in a box. This was a complete unknown, and I very much enjoyed it. Saucy beans? Think beans stewed in a seasoned tomato brew, and the halloumi was a nice, fatty treat.
Some you will see the irony in what I’m about to tell you, and it is, and I continue to be confused. Pictured above are the spring rolls I referenced earlier. They were pretty good, I think they had too much wrapping, but they were tasty. Now the reason I’ve added them under the confused section of this post, is not because of the food itself, it is because of the menu description. In the past, when I wanted to order spring rolls, I would look at the description and if I wanted one spring roll, I would click one. If I wanted two spring rolls, I would click two. So, the other night, I wanted two spring rolls, so I clicked two, and I got 12 because the menu did not specify how many spring rolls come in each order.
It seems to me, important information like amounts and sizing are rare at best here. I cannot think of an one order that I have placed that matched my sizing and amount expectations. To me, this seems like a no-brainer, but I’m not from here, so my working theory is that ordering is a game, and if you guess right, you get your food in the right size and amount, and if you don’t, you’re a member of the confusion club of which, it seems, I’m a member.