Family travel with flair

The latest great American import: the doggy bag

TweetThe list of things America has given the food world is substantial: Velveeta, the Hard Rock cafe, the list goes on. But now one of our most widespread contributions has finally gained purchase on English soil: the doggy bag. So simple a concept. After your restaurant meal that you’ve paid for, you take home what you haven’t eaten to enjoy later. That might mean having yummy leftovers after a late-night drinking binge, say, or for breakfast when you just fancy some fajitas or beef and broccoli instead of Wheetabix. Now chefs Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Thomasina Miers are championing the use of goody bags and even some high-end restaurants are offering them. I know what most Brits are thinking, because it’s what my husband thought the first time he visited my hometown: “Why are all these waiters urging me to take home a box of food I didn’t eat the first time round?” In America it’s simple – because there’s no possible way (unless you’re dining in a trendy NYC eaterie with minuscule portions) that you could eat your entire entree. The food is piled high to gravity-defying proportions. The mashed potatoes evoke Richard Dreyfus’s mountain, the enchiladas hang off the edge of the plate. And don’t forget the two side dishes that come with your entree and the free trip to the dessert bar. But we don’t have those Grand Canyon portions here. Isn’t taking home a box of food on the Tube just too embarrassing and un-British? From experience I can definitively say: Maybe. The Brit in my life still finds it amusing in America when our waiter Tad asks not if we want a box but how many (and reacts with confusion if we decline). But slowly over time, after seeing the kids happily chow down on second-time-round pizza or avoiding cooking one evening as we combine (thoroughly) reheated chicken with fresh veg from the crisper drawer, he’s come around. We won’t request a doggy bag from Claridge’s (although we could!), but nothing’s wrong — and a lot is right — in not letting food go to waste....

Thanksgiving: it’s not the same for expats

TweetDon’t tell me you don’t know what today is! It’s just the biggest holiday in America outside of the gloriously commercial three months of Christmas. What – you don’t know? Well, me neither. Since moving to England, I’ve found that the fourth Thursday in November comes round just like the first, second and third ones and it’s not until a fellow American reminds me that I realise it’s Thanksgiving. It’s not that I don’t like it. I’ve always loved the holiday, whose name conjures memories of my mother’s fancy holiday tablecloth, the china platter with the picture of a turkey on it, the electric warming basket for the dinner rolls. Every year the menu and the guest list is reassuringly the same: my Aunt Elaine’s compulsively irresistible sausage ball hors d’oeuvres, my Aunt Sarah’s watermelon pickles and chocolate pie, the green bean casserole (Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup, Durkee french-fried onions) that my brother demands, and my mother’s greatest hits line-up: Grandmother Blanche’s cranberry relish recipe with an entire apple and orange ground in, my mother’s slightly burnt pecan pie (sorry, Mom), her perfectly cooked turkeys and homemade stuffing. (Fellow expat bloggers I Carried a Watermelon and A Modern Mother have suggested they’d like to have American-brand Stove Top Stuffing. Tsk tsk.) But the truth is, not only can’t I easily remember Thanksgiving is coming now – none of our friends from school are celebrating, nobody has the day off work, THERE IS NO TELEVISED SPORTS! – but I can’t get excited about doing the American abroad version. I tried that once when a New York friend came to visit. I invited several enthusiastic but clueless British friends. “I wanted to bring an American dessert,” one said excitedly when she arrived. “So I brought Krispy Kreme donuts!” We had plates of pecan pie a la mode, with glazed donuts. Bless. “I don’t like to celebrate here,” an American friend confided in me a couple days ago. “It’s a bit sad and lonely because it’s just us, not the extended family.” Being a transplanted American and now fully paid up British citizen, I realise there are some ways of thinking and acting that I wouldn’t give up for the world. But Thanksgiving doesn’t translate for me. When I celebrate it, I want to do so my family’s traditional way, with the traditional food, with my parents and siblings and aunts and uncles and cousins there. I’m looking forward to the traditional British mince pies and Chrismas crackers next month with...

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