Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Goodbye Cadbury, We Will Miss You!

Anyone who’s lived in America for a while, or even those that have been here on holiday and tried Hershey's chocolate will no doubt understand why us expats are getting all worked up over the lawsuit recently filed by Hershey to ban the import of British chocolate.  

Their reasoning?  They want to protect their copyright in the United States so consumers are not "confused or misled when they see a product name or product package that is confusingly similar to a Hershey name or trade dress."

Because these two are really confusing, aren’t they?

Apparently, it must be the colour of the packets, because I don't think there's any way, at all, that I could be confused about these two.  Not even if I was blindfolded and wearing boxing gloves!

And then, the most ridiculous of all, the Yorkie Bar and the York Peppermint Patty.  What the hell? These are so different, it's a joke.  It's the name, they say, it's too similar, they say.... so in general, American consumers can't read enough to be able to tell the different between Yorkie and York? Nice, Hersey, what a lovely way to treat your customers by insinuating they're all illiterate.

It started with the recipe change of Cadbury's Crème Eggs, making them taste gritty and bland (basically, just like Hershey chocolate).  They think we are just being typically picky expats when we complain about the bloody awful chocolate here.  And why wouldn’t we?  British made Cadbury’s Dairy Milk has a high fat content because the main ingredient is milk, leading to a nice creamy taste.  The main ingredient of the American version is sugar and some lovely Polyglycerol polyricinoleate and soy lecithin (yummy).  I think there might also be some sawdust and coal in there too, judging by the consistency. 

So what can we do about this?  Well, it might be a long fight, but the first thing would be to sign this petition:

It's not just us expats who are taking this badly, Andrew Baker of The Times wrote:

"It will seem more likely to anyone who has ever tasted Hershey's own-brand products, and its approximations of Cadbury's, that they are instead preventing consumers from buying products which taste much better than Hershey's own," 

Oh, and then there's this:

A situation in which a single company or group owns all or nearly all of the market for a given type of product or service.  By definition, monopoly is characterized by an absence of competition, which often results in high prices and inferior products."   [http://www.investopedia.com]

So go and sign that petition now.  And a note to my family - get ready to fill your suitcases with Cadbury's chocolate next time you visit!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Page 3 Debate

So Page 3 has gone and this is apparently a victory for feminist campaigners around the globe.  To that I would say “I don’t care.” There, I said it.  I don’t care that women are on Page 3 with no tops on.  They’ve been there since 1970 and in fact, I remember, when I was young, drawing bras and bikinis on the model of the day – not because I was prudish, but it was more of a game when you had nothing better to do. It’s never bothered me one way or another.   In fact, there were times, where the beauty (or otherwise) of the breasts were discussed and rated, i.e., too saggy, too big, weird shapes, etc.  [Yes, I've always been a bit judgy]

When I’ve mentioned Page 3 to my American co-workers, the usual response is a kind of flabbergasted, shocked and repulsed look.  Most of them are disgusted at having ‘porn’ in a newspaper. Which to me proves the American archaic attitude towards sex and the female form. I know people who would rather have their kids play Call to Duty than see a pair of boobs.  They will cover their children’s eyes at the hint of a nipple on the television, but let them sit and watch death and dismemberment all day long.  What’s wrong with that picture?  It’s only the human body and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.

Its not as if these girls/women are being forced into taking their kit off to be photographed.  They are choosing to do this in what, I presume, is an attempt for fame and fortune.  I’m sure everyone remembers Linda Lusardi, who’s claim to fame was posing topless, was then voted best Page 3 girl of all time and eventually became an actress.  Of course, there was also Samantha Fox who for some reason, I absolutely detested with a vengeance.  [it’s a long story]

Samantha Fox and Linda Lusardi (with clothes on)
Many of the models have gone on to other jobs and many have made an absolute bloody fortune doing what they do.  It's no wonder some of the recent models are a bit upset at basically becoming unemployed.  One current model, Rhian Sugden has been quoted as saying "Its only a matter of time before everything we do will be dictated by comfy shoe-wearing, no-bra wearing, man-haters."  A bit extreme!

It’s really nothing different to Kim Kardashian getting her massive arse out, greasing it up and posing all over the internet, but you don’t see feminist campaigners trying to ban her (oh, but we can only hope).

Rupert Murdoch has said it’s old fashioned to have a topless girl on Page 3 and that’s why he will stop publishing the pictures, while campaigners like “No More Page 3” have said “Whilst sexy pictures may have a place, the accessibility of the Page 3 picture, in the front of the paper, makes access to sexualized women’s bodies as much of a given as the TV Listings…” which is all very well, but if it’s the accessibility they're worried about, presumably they’ve never typed “Boobs” into Google.   I just did that (in the name of research) and got this:

‘About 120,000,000 results”

So, not much accessibility there, is there? – and that was only “Boobs” – I could have typed any other name in there and got much the same result.  So it probably is time to stop Page 3 because if you really, really need to see boobs at breakfast, you have the internet now.

Maybe I’m too broadminded on this issue and I’m sure someone will object to my opinion.  But what’s next? We’ve already got people objecting to mothers breastfeeding in public, saying it’s offensive.  Again, another natural thing.  Are the campaigners going to try and close all topless beaches now because people don’t want to see breasts?  

They may think they have scored a victory against a newspaper whom they say believe "women are here for decoration," but when you have people like the aforementioned Kardashian who takes and makes public her own naked photographs, its going to be a long battle because for every step forward the feminists take, someone like her comes along and makes them take a couple of steps back.

I just think there are more important things to fight about.  (Sorry)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A Crisp Sandwich - Yes Please!

So the crisp sandwich restaurant which opened Monday was a complete sell out in the first two hours.
Is it only me, or is anyone else not surprised by this?

In my opinion, crisp sarnies are the very best thing since, well sliced bread.  Thank goodness for John Montague, the 4th Earl of Sandwich (13 Nov. 1718 - 30 Apr. 1792) for his most fabulous invention way back in the 1700’s [Wikipedia].

Growing up, it didn’t matter what we had for tea, if there was bread you made yourself a sandwich from the bit of food you had left especially.  I think this was a requirement of British childhood.  It was the only thing to do whether you were eating fish fingers, chips and peas (a favourite in our house), egg and chips or even spaghetti Bolognese (when it was a fancy day) – they all went in between two slices of bread and butter.  Mashed potato and gravy was also a favourite of mine and who, tell me, has never had a chip butty?

But the crisp sandwich has got to be up there in the top ten.  Here’s mine (but not necessarily in top ten order)

Ham and Marmite – Back in the day, I used to sell programmes on a Saturday at Chelsea Football Club and had to be there early so wouldn’t get time for lunch.  Every week, without fail, I would pack myself a ham and Marmite and a mini pork pie.  Whenever I eat one now (minus the pork pie, of course as I can’t get them here) it takes me right back to Victoria Tube Station – ‘cos I could never wait until lunch time.
Needs a bit of ham (and a pork pie)
Fried Egg – My aunt was famous for her doorstep fried egg sandwiches.  I used to love going to see her as she would always ask if we wanted one.  Very, very thick freshly sliced bread and a lovely runny egg yolk.
Doorstep Fish Fingers - but imagine it with a runny egg!!
Chips – The ubiquitous chip butty.  Slathered with tomato sauce and lashings of vinegar.  Made even better if you have some fried egg to dip it in.

Crisps -  If you need a snack which is a little more than a bag of crisps, out comes the bread.  It doesn’t really matter what flavor, but ready salted and cheese and onion are my go-to’s.

Sausages – More than likely this would be for breakfast, with loads of tomato sauce.  Yum!  (Wish I could get some Wall’s Prime Porkie Workies here)

Bacon – Again for breakfast.  The only problem living in America is that the bacon is bloody awful. When it’s cooked right, it’s hard and crispy – basically overcook streaky bacon.  Not too good for a sandwich, if you ask me.  Although tomato sauce does a lot to disguise this fact.

Piccalilli on Toast – Although not a sandwich, I love this.  I first got the idea years ago when a cousin of mine was pregnant and this was one of her cravings.  I don’t know about her, but I’ve been eating it ever since.  The same goes for tomato sauce on toast.  Yum!
Possibly a bit too much Piccalilli
Paté and Pickled Onions – This is also something I liked to eat on toast.  I remember I would come home from school and be starving and as my mum was usually still at work, secretly I had the run of the fridge and larder.  I had to be careful what I would eat so I wasn’t found out. One day, this combination just happened and it was the most wonderful thing ever.  It’s funny how we always had paté in the fridge, you hardly ever see it here.  Oh and I hope my mum’s not reading this and has just found out what happened to all the pickled onions.
Needs pickled onions
Cheese and Tomato – I’m not really a cheese kind of person, but there is one time that really sticks out in my memory.  We were at the seaside and we went to a small café to have a cuppa and a sandwich.  My mum chose cheese and tomato and that particular sandwich had been sitting wrapped in clingfilm for quite a while.  The tomato was warm and had bled into the cheese, which was slightly soggy and the whole thing had a mild plasticky taste – and it was wonderful.  Needless to say, this is the only way I will each cheese sandwiches now.  My sandwich has to be left out for a while to get to room temperature..  In fact, if I’m having one, I will always make it ahead of time so it’s warmed up a bit. I know, it sounds absolutely terrible, but I’m a bit weird, I think.  *Smiles*

Now my taste buds are tingling and my mouth is watering looking at all these lovely sandwiches - and there’s nothing I wouldn’t do right now for a pork pie!  Oh how I miss those gorgeous little packets of meaty goodness!

What’s your favourite sandwich and how weird do you get?

Monday, January 12, 2015

An Idiot's Guide to the Super Bowl

(Also known as 'What I Think I Know About American Football')

Recently we were sitting in a restaurant (bar) having lunch and obviously there were televisions all over the place showing American Football.  It was mentioned in passing that it was the playoffs and the winners would go to the Super Bowl.  Well, of course, I had to ask (bad decision - *kicks self*) how the playoffs and Super Bowl actually work as there’s no knock out competition from what I could see and from what I had heard, you just needed to win more games than everyone else to get to the final.

Apparently this ‘very old’ competition (yes, 49 whole years) [sarcasm intended] is played between two leagues or divisions, the East and West.

Now although these divisions have loads of teams, there is no opportunity for promotion or relegation.  You have the same teams in the league/division every year and no other teams ever get in.  The east and west divisions never play against each other.  You only ever play a team that is in your division and you can play them three or four times a season.  Oh, and there are no points i.e 3 for a win or 1 for a draw – actually, I don’t think there are ever any draws either.

Somehow, a team in the east wins more games than everyone else and goes to the Super Bowl to play the team from the west who has also won more games.  I think…. Because by about this time I was nodding off into my margarita.

When the two teams meet in the final, it’s a big deal.  Super Bowl parties are BIG – it seems like everyone has one and the thing is, you have to watch the flamin’ game, it’s not a party at all. Although everyone seems to get more excited about the adverts (there are loads) which have been made specially to be shown during the game.  Ah yes, and Super Bowl themed food, there's a lot of that too.
A little over the top
When you win the Super Bowl, you don’t win an actual “bowl” you win a thing that looks like an American football (or even a rugby ball for that matter) on a post, oh and a ring. Americans have a weird fascination with rings, you can even get a “class” ring from your school when you graduate (well, only if you want to pay the $200 or so for it) and this is boys, as well as girls.  I think there are rings for other sporting events too, basketball comes to mind, but I could be totally wrong.  But the Super Bowl does get you a ring and not some nice little memento, but a humongous bloody thing that is so ugly you wonder why anyone in their right mind would even want to wear it.
Ugly, Gaudy, Big
Not a Bowl

I’ve tried, but I just don’t see the fun in it all.  Most people don’t have a home team they support through good and bad, thick and thin (and over land and sea – and if you understand that bit, I like you) and you don't get that excitement of waiting for your team’s number to be pulled out of the hat to see who you will play in the next round [and ultimately having to slog your way to a snow bound non-league ground with no seats]. 

But I digress.

The Super Bowl will be upon us any day now and I couldn’t tell you where it’s being played or who’s in it and I’m going to do my best to skip any “party” I might be invited to.  You can only drink so much, you know, to relieve the boredom!   So I say 'Cheers' and here’s to the FA Cup!!

I'm sure I've offended at least a few people with this post and my explanation may be extremely wrong, but this is just the gist I get from listening to the endless Monday morning talk.   *yawn*

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

At The Beach - In January!!

I have a dog and a pool - what could be more perfect I hear you say?  That dog has the best life in the world, his very own pool where he can swim and play and keep cool in the 100+ degree heat in the California summer.

Well actually no. I think I have the only dog in Southern California that will not, under any circumstances, get into that pool.  We've tried to coax him in with toys and snacks, (yes, soggy dog biscuits), we've splashed him and he loves playing that game as long as he doesn't get too wet and we've even tried to push him in or pick him up and throw him in (that was a mistake, just ask my daughter - she still has the scars).  So how do you get a 95 pound pitbull into the pool - you don't. You just give up and move along, it's never going to happen.

So this last weekend we went to the local dog beach as the weather was slightly warmer than the last couple of weeks and it was the last day before getting back to work properly after the New Year.  (*sigh*)

Of course, as the dog doesn't like the water we didn't take a towel or blanket.  Well, that was a flippin' mistake.  Would you believe it - that flamin' dog saw the water and took a flying leap right into the waves... I would have bet money against him dipping even a toe in the water, let alone actually going in up to his neck! Typical.  

We had a brilliant time - not as good a time as Charlie mind you.  Somebody even gave him a tennis ball and we spent an hour or so throwing it into the sea for him to fetch.  But that stubborn dog would drop it just before he got out of the sea so someone (me) had to wade in and get it... And there goes a lovely pair of boots! I know he does that on purpose just for his amusement.


But getting to the whole point of this ramble, have you noticed the date... It was January 4th - yes JANUARY and I was At. The. Beach. 

I can't think of a time I ever went to the beach before at least June or July whilst in England.  No flippin' way it would have been well cold.  And obviously, it's usually still cold in June and July ...

So here's to a whole new year living in sunny, but slightly windy, California where you can go to the beach any day you jolly well want to... And you can't get better than that can you?

Happy Dog, Happy New Year