Despite the fact that I miss so much in, and about, England, upon the last few times that I have returned Stateside, I have realised how Texanised I have become! My language is definitely altering. I have started to call a shopping trolley a cart. I referred to a shop as a store, and notwithstanding my mother's excellent cooking, (and I still maintain that she is one of the best chef's in this ever decreasing world) I crave Tex-mex! What is more, when going to a restaurant, albeit most choices are the same (Italian, French, Mexican) there is an addition; good ol' fashon' home cookin'! If we wanted home cooking when I lived in England, we would remain at home! After all, what is the point in spending our hard earned cash on something that is easily made in our own kitchen!
As I have mentioned, the home comin' starts with the immigration official. The 'Welcome home', followed by the word 'ma'am', is rather emotional for me. It has taken nearly ten years, but I do now refer to my lovely condo, and Austin, as 'home'. When picking up things in the supermarket in Blighty, I do now say, 'I need to take these home'. However, when asked what I did for Christmas when in the USA, my reply is always, 'I went home'!
Being back in Texas was not as welcoming as it could have been. It was freezing. In fact, on Monday, it was struggling to get up to freezing. Although not quite the polar experience that was being had in the north eastern block of the country, it was very cold. As we left home, the wind slapped my face with such force, that I felt the sting for quite some time. Dana rued the day he mocked me for bringing my winter woollies to Austin, as I reminded him, again, that it was a good thing that I did not leave them at home! My mother had given us all a little something for Christmas, to spend as each couple saw fit, and I bought two pairs of boots, which were now coming into good use. (When I purchased the footwear, Richard had reminded me that the gift was for both Dana and myself, and I promised I would show Dana what we got!) The day did not warm up at all. We left the office much later than usual, and my caring husband suggested that rather than go home and start cooking, we should take advantage of the daily special at our favourite home cookin' diner. The Monday special is good ol' fashon' meatloaf. I cannot imagine a scenario in my past where I would have ventured to order meatloaf at a restaurant. It is like ordering stew! Meatloaf was never on the menu in my home (although it was not alien) as a child, but anything with gravy was always considered (by me) to be sustenance rather than appetising! Although my tastes have changed over the years, and a nice casserole (as it is more commonly known here) is acceptable, old habits die hard, and cannot bring myself to order such items when dining out. However, I digress! Back at the diner, (anyone who has ever frequented 'Jim's' will understand that it is more of an affectionate term to call it a 'diner', than a 'restaurant' and not an insult to their culinary skills,) I noticed the seasonal special on the board had been replaced. Instead of the previous winter warmer, they were now offering one of my favourites; Chicken-n-waffles! What a dilemma! Meatloaf, or Chicken and waffles? I sat down and pondered. I amazed myself when I ordered the meatloaf. It just seemed 'proper' to have something conventional on a cold evening, and smothering my weekday dinner with syrup was probably more American than I could be at this stage. What was slightly more alien, was my comment of, 'Oh great, they brought back the Chicken and Waffles!' In my past, the two items would have been mutally exclusive on a menu.
The meatloaf was delicious. Mashed potatoes smothered in brown gravy (I still cannot come to terms with the white variety) was one of my sides. 'Fried okra, please', sort of confirmed that I had, indeed, arrived, and slowly, but surely, I was turning into a southerner! The fact that I still say 'please', and not 'ma'am', or 'sir', when I order keeps me from realising that I have relinquished my heritage completely. My boots and I left the diner, with Dana, and headed home for a nice cup of tea! (No milk, as I have never enjoyed tea with additives, but good ol' fashon' PG Tips!)
By Wednesday, the temperature had risen, and Austin appeared to be revived. Rain, cold weather and the threat of freezing precipitation causes an unofficial personal curfew in this city, and only the very brave venture out. As soon as the temperature drops below 50 degrees (Fahrenheit; about 10 Celsius, give or take) the air is filled with the smell of burning wood, and small pockets of smoke emit from chimney stacks. This year, the smell has been more prolific, and for a longer period of time, although winter did not really hit us until well into November. However, repeating myself once again, by Wednesday, the temperature had risen and the boots gave way to a pair of shoes. It was far from sandal weather, but then again, as I said, it was only Wednesday! We left the office later than usual, once again, and Dana did not want me to have to endure the hardship of making him dinner. I was grateful! (Although, as he always insists on clearing away and washing up, his motives are not entirely selfless, but who am I to argue!) It was my first week back at work, and although the jet lag was long gone, I was not opposed to being given a break! After all, the post festive holiday offers were filling my 'in box', and I had several 'buy one, get one' vouchers for a number of restaurants. We chose Mexican! Burritos were never on the menu when I was a child. I doubt my parents even knew they existed during the 60's and 70's, let alone considered ordering one at an eatery! A Chinese take-away was considered frivolous and exotic, and dirty rice, would have been the white specks that were swept up after ordering a number 39! A tortilla wrap probably would have been considered clothing for a Flamenco dancer! My Wednesday order was the Green Chile Burrito, which was apparently back by popular demand. Although after consumption my mouth was in need of a small fire extinguisher, and the word heartburn was because my entire upper torso felt as if it was like the previously mentioned chimney stacks, along with the fact that my breath could probably have heated a small home, it was fabulous! My shoes and I left the cafe, with Dana, and headed home for a nice cup of tea!
I cooked on Thursday! Perhaps good ol' fashon' cookin' was not what was dished up, but it was enjoyed by my husband, despite having to clean away the dishes. It was, in fact, a meal duplicated from a cafe we have frequented in the past; Salmon on a bed of pasta, tossed in a lemon sauce with mushrooms, artichokes and capers. Perhaps slightly more European than English, but more towards my homeland than not!
Friday was warm! The shoes had open toes, and the blouse was short sleeved, and it was still January! We had arrived at the office rather earlier than usual, as Joe was out of town, and Dana wanted to get ahead of the game as the busy start to the week had resulted in extra paperwork for him at the end! By 3pm, however, I was feeling slightly claustrophobic, and as I had not taken so much as a coffee break, I was in need of some fresh air. I took to the streets and strode along briskly. Perhaps, took to the streets was too much of a literal statement, as there is one more thing about Texas, or more specifically Austin, that I do not experience when I am at home (at least not since my late teens, early twenties) and that is the amount of times I am propositioned! I must say, I was slightly less than polite to my would be customer, as I raised my voice, significantly! 'What about this!,' I shrieked, as I lifted my arms, and waved my hands up and down, in a vague suggestion at my rather bland white, blouse, and navy trousers, but more specifically relating to my entire appearance, 'makes you think that I am on the game!' (Oh you can take the girl out of London............) The apology was profuse, and really quite genuine! I was wearing trainers (tennis shoes), not high heels, nor was my footwear red! The male who was accompanying the offender, thought it might be funny to add, 'Yeah, don't you be coming on to my girl!', but soon realised that his comment, too, was as big a mistake as that of his friend. I don't growl as a rule, but sometimes it just slips out! Both retreated quite quickly, and I ignored the 'do not walk' sign, as well as the 'blip blip, do not cross on a red light', from the parked police vehicle. Where was he when I was being accosted! By the time I had reached the office, I was able to see the amusing side of the incident, although Dana's comment that 'perhaps they wanted the more sophisticated madam' was responded to with a 'flippin' 'eck' (Despite all the burritos and meatloaf, you will never fully take London out of the girl!)
Friday night we dined with Samantha and Edward. Another coupon, another post Christmas saving. Southern spiced boneless wings and chili can really put things back on track! My open toed shoes and I left the restaurant, with Dana, and headed home for a nice cup of tea!
I did get to enjoy my chicken-n-waffles, on Saturday night. All was smothered in maple syrup and thoroughly enjoyed! We sat at 'Deborah's table', (everyone seems to ask for Deborah, much to the disappointment of some of the other wait staff) and when she said she had not seen us in a while (she was not serving on Monday), I told her, 'I went home for Christmas'. Home, they say, is 'where the heart is', and my heart, fortunately, is big enough to be on both sides of the Atlantic.
Next week starts the beginning of the norm, and my husband will be treated to good ol' fashon' home cookin', from his good ol' fashon' kitchen. He will be able to be the good ol' fashon' sothern gentleman and wash up for his English wife! The meteorologists have promised that temperatures will be above normal (always amusing, as there is nothing normal about Austin, albeit weather or otherwise!) Will I relent, accept to be wined and dined by my cowboy, and try something foreign? Well that is ............... another story!