- Katie Rogers
Happy Repeal Day!
Yanks, raise your glass to the end of The Era of Prohibition in the US, which lasted from 1920 until 1933.
Here is a brief history, which of course blames the ladies, from RepealDay.org:
The turn of the twentieth century was a dark time in America. The Women’s Christian Temperance Union, which had been promoting Prohibition for many years, believed alcohol was the cause of many, if not all, social ills. Mistruths like this were spread. Lines were drawn. Bars and taverns were vandalized. People were killed. On January 16th, 1919, Congress passed the Eighteenth Amendment, outlawing alcohol and ostensibly putting an end to drunkenness, crime, mental illness, and poverty.
This was obviously a dark boring time in America’s history. Imagine life back then. Imagine happy hours in which people soberly spoke to each other about their dreams, goals and ambitions, and didn’t use whiskey or booze to address workplace concerns. Boring! Imagine being a lady, meeting a handsome stranger and having nothing to dull your nerves when he ends up being just another guy with a handlebar moustache who lives with his parents. Romance, dead.
Britain, on the other hand, clung to their freedom to drink themselves blind and never instituted a prohibition era. I say this round’s on them.
- Emma Keller
Is it Santa or the Baby Jesus who’s on his way?
My dad would give me an Advent calendar right up until last year when he died. He used to go to the shop at the Brompton Oratory in London or get one at Westminster Cathedral. Even when I had children of my own, he sent the calendar to me not them. It invariably had pictures like the ones above on it.
He loved a triptych, so often I’d get the more elaborate 3-fold variety.
One year my sister-in-law sent my daughters an Advent Calendar from Colorado. It was a Lego version of Santa’s workshop – at least it didn’t have pieces of chocolate ‘hiding’ behind the doors, thank God for that. The girls loved it, and I niftily re-used the pieces for dioramas at school, so it could only be an Advent Calendar once. But forget spirituality, there’s no romance in a kit like this.
And excuse me, Metropolitan Museum store, what’s a scene of people ice skating around a Christmas tree got to do with anything Adventy?
A couple of years ago on a pre-Christmas trip to Vienna we found the balance: it’s a candle you burn each night as you wait for Christmas to come. It’s warm and cosy. It doesn’t shove religion or materialism into anyone’s face. You can light it with Bing Crosby or the choir of King’s College Cambridge playing in the background and joy will fill your world.
Advantage: England – or Germany, Austria and Denmark to be more precise. That’s where the most beautiful calendars and candles come from.
(Photo: 32 North)
In re: scones vs. US biscuits, I'm not really seeing it. A US biscuit is sort of a hybrid between a dinner roll and the layered nature of a croissant, only flakier and much drier (too dry to eat without butter). Maybe it's just that the items marketed as scones here aren't remotely authentic, but to me a "scone" is a sugary pastry, generally with lemon flavoring. Somebody got some variety of baked good very, very wrong, and I'm honestly not sure which country is to blame.
I reblogged a post recently about the difference between biscuits. In the US, the south especially, biscuits seem to be savory versions of what are known as scones in the UK. Could you clear this up?
- Katie Rogers
America’s two days out from Thanksgiving, which means Americans everywhere are a) mentally checking out from work, b) preparing their Thanksgiving recipe rundown and c) getting ready to observe the spectacle that is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
I know that the British think Thanksgiving is “another silly holiday they don’t understand,” to quote Emma Keller, but I had to ask: are parades themselves a big deal in the UK?
Short answer: sort of. Long answer: in the video above.
Advantage: US, because our parades come with a hefty helping of non-royal pop culture
- Martin Pengelly:
As you, dear reader, are probably aware – because I won’t shut up about it – the chap-hop superstar Mr B the Gentleman Rhymer is currently gracing America’s shores. Here’s what he has to say about why many Americans seem drawn to things archaically English and chappish:
“It’s because they’re suckers for that particular type of Englishman. I say ‘suckers’, that’s a bad word. I mean it in a good way, obviously. But it’s an ongoing miscomprehension about Englishness which is quite handy for me. Most of the attention to England over here is about royalty and the royal baby and so on, about how we’re all gentlemen or peasants. It’s not so, of course, but I hope I can play on it.”
You can see him play on it this week, if you wish – here and here.
And if you really haven’t read enough about Mr B yet, my full interview with him – conducted in the White Horse Tavern in Greenwich Village, which is where in 1953 an almost equally distinguished British rhymer, the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, drank himself to death – is here.
Advantage: US. Still.
Happy Evacuation Day!
On November 25, 1783, the last of the British troops left the US so we could start doing that whole independence thing. The American Revolution had ended years earlier, but on this date, the redcoats left New York peacefully to head back across the pond.
This was once a big holiday in the US, but is not commemorated by history lovers and small bits on blogs and newspapers.
The facts are these:
• George Washington was in town to celebrate.
• A British ship fired on a crowd of angry people on Staten Island. This is called the last shot fired in the war.
• British soldiers left their flag flying over their now dismantled fort. And the flag pole was greased:
"On a closer view it was found that the flag had been nailed to the staff, the halyards taken away, and the pole itself besmeared with grease; obviously to prevent or hinder the removal of the emblem of royalty, and the raising of the Stars and Stripes. Whether to escape the mortification of seeing our flag supplant the British standard, or to annoy and exasperate our people were the stronger impulse, it were hard to say. It was too serious for a joke, however, and the dilemma caused no little confusion."
(Photo: Currier & Ives via the Library of Congress)
– Erin McCann
Over at the mother ship, we’ve collected legendary Guardian correspondent Alistair Cooke’s original dispatches from the days after President John F Kennedy was assassinated.
From the point of view of an outsider, and from his perch overlooking Central Park in New York, he chronicled Americans’ grief in the confusing time after Kennedy’s assassination. In those early days, though, he got one thing terribly, sadly wrong: assuming that Americans – unlike Europeans – would not be inclined to believe in conspiracies about the assassination:
The first palpable contrast between the American and European interest in the assassin and his motives seems to be a sharp one between a shamed nation anxious to know all the physical facts that cannot now be given to a court of law, and a suspicious continent that recalls the political content of a score of assassinations since the turn of the century.
Crudely put, the American tends to jump to the conclusion of an American housewife: “It wasn’t an international conspiracy, that fellow was just off his rocker.” The European tends to suspect, if not a conspiracy, at least an accomplice.
Advantage: no one wins here, but Cooke’s writing is sublime.
- Katie Rogers
The Washington City Paper, a DC publication known for gleefully raking people in the District over the coals, has apparently decided to torture a local mixologist this week. The task: mixing a Marmite cocktail. And you know what? I can’t really hate on this. I think if you’re going to force someone to consume Marmite, you might as well make sure there’s plenty of whisky in the glass.
Here’s what writer Adele Chapin had to say about it:
The drink itself was knock-out spicy, but the marmite made the cocktail taste as savory as a bouillon cube, followed by an odd, lingering sweet flavor. A lot was happening here. The grapefruit and smoky whisky was somewhat masked by the one-two punch of the spice and the marmite, but it did temper the heat somewhat. The drink had a gutsy, in-your-face boldness.
Knock-out spicy! In-your-face! This all sounds so un-British.
Advantage: USA. Because no.
London Underground announced it will offer 24/7 weekend service starting in 2015. This plan has angered some because ticket offices will close, resulting in approximately 750 lost jobs.
A 24/7 subway system is rare. Seoul, Moscow and Beijing – the three metro systems with the most passenger rides annually – do not operate 24 hours a day. Somehow, the US – a country that’s infrastructure was built around the automobile – has two subway systems with 24/7 service.
New York City’s 8.3m residents are spoiled with bus and train service all day, every day and Chicago residents get 24/7 service on a few of the ‘L’ train lines.
As a New York resident writing from my rat-infested ivory tower of 24/7 subway access, I appreciate the novelty of cities with limited metro hours. In Madrid, it’s bred this beautiful culture where people stay out past 6am since the trains close before most bars do. In San Francisco, trying to get home late at night forces you to embrace the city’s tech-heavy culture by enlisting one of the million apps created to help you find a taxi.
Actually, these things happen in New York too, because everything here is crazy. Embrace the struggle!
Advantage: New York City.
(Photo: Bob Mazzer)
- Katie Rogers
It’s not quite UK-US … but I have a different sort of cross-cultural request for you guys. In the US, Thanksgiving and Hanukkah are coinciding this year for the first time since 1888. It’s Thanksgivukkah!
So I’m calling all Americans, expats and other interested parties: we need your recipe inspiration. Pick a key ingredient and leave your recipe in the form below, or you can leave it in the comments below this post. Nom.
(Sweet potato latkes: Cookingwithsugar.com)
- Katie Rogers
English to English: Monty Python. The joys of tea. The Civil War.
I for one don’t think we talk about sex and dating nearly enough on this blog. So I escorted Emma Keller to a nearby park to talk about snogging and the US ‘base system’, employed by millions of teens across America in order to wildly exaggerate the things they’re doing with each other on the weekends. Sex education, E2E-style.
The living members of Monty Python confirmed on Tuesday that they are reuniting for a stage show. While this could be a catastrophic failure, it also offers a chance to celebrate a foundation of modern British pop culture.
TV execs didn’t think Python would make it in America, so sketches from Flying Circus didn’t air in the US until 1972, three years after it debuted in the UK. It was popular on the few public television stations that showed it, and those stations sought more British programming. This is a big reason why Downton Abbey and Sherlock air on PBS today (even if it is a few months behind).
These days, "the youth" watch Dr Who, then they start sharing online clips of Monty Python’s Self-defense Against Fruit sketch and finally end up being lured into Peep Show.
I’m from the era in between: one friend would watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail with her parents, then pass it on to her friends who would pass it on to their siblings a few years later. Or, alternately, maybe a teacher would abuse their brain-washing powers to show a clip in class. Then all of a sudden your love for the Spice Girls had more cultural resonance and you were willing to give this weird show called The Office a try, because it was apparently based on a show from England.
Advantage: Everyone, which I use gratuitously but actually really mean this time.
(Photo: Ronald Grant Archive)