shamelessness

You know what sucks? Waking up in the middle of the night from a dream in which Santa Claus is making you cry.

MOVING ON, THEN.

As usual I’m a mite gut-wrenched about this post because it is just so casual and personal, and because somewhere along the way I’d decided that unless I publish only the finest in wordsmithery that my stubby fingers can manage to tap out, you will all delete my blog from your readers faster than I can mumble “wordsmithery” while crying into a drink. As if my blog is intended to be the most consecrated text ever rendered in UTF-8, or something.

Well, screw that. I’m ready and quite willing to besmirch its golden eminence in favor of feedback. Because, friends, I desperately seek your counsel on a two-part crisis of first-world concerns.

Part 1 — What to Make

Here’s the deal: I’ve been invited to a dinner tomorrow night for my American friend, who is currently visiting the states from Scotland with her new husband. I’ve been tasked with bringing dessert. These are the facts:

  • At my friend’s request, the dinner hosts will be serving barbecued chicken and ribs. Apparently barbecue, along with proper Mexican food, is something my friend feels is not well-represented in Scotland.
  • Every internet search I’ve conducted that includes the words “barbecue” and “dessert” results in thousands of hits for lemon bars, fruit salads, peach cobblers, and American flag cakes featuring strawberries, blueberries, and whipped cream. I don’t need to remind you that it’s November and none of these things are currently in season.
  • I am not aware of any guest food allergies/aversions, but I’ll probably want to avoid nuts anyway just in case.
  • At their wedding celebration on Saturday my friend and her husband served coconut-pineapple cake and chocolate cake, so I should prooooobably not bring either of those items to the dinner.
  • My friend’s husband is Scottish. Everyone else at the party will be American.
  • Poor guy.

What the hell can I make that’s seasonal, enjoyed intercontinentally, and won’t clash with the flavors of the main course?

Part 2 — What to Say

My friend’s husband is an absolute delight. However, when I had an opportunity to talk to him at the wedding celebration it became horrifically clear that I suffer from Dumb American Syndrome.

I’d start in on some witty banter, see, and then immediately freeze up because everything I could think of to joke about seemed to be related to American culture or American politics or American quirks or just plan AMERICAN, ALL CAPS, WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS MY FRI-IENDS. I didn’t want to actually blurt out any of this stuff because I was afraid of coming off as the quintessential American stereotype that spends her life safely ensconced in a little American bubble, so I desperately wracked my brain for every bit of topical information I had about the UK. But all I could come up with was “Topshop sure does make some piss-ugly outerwear, don’t they?” or “So I hear Downton Abbey is priddy good, huh?” Neither of which I was quite drunk enough to actually inquire of a man wearing a kilt.

In the end my method of interacting basically boiled down to saying absolutely nothing and then laughing uproariously at everything he said. He really was a quite brilliant man, but I’m not sure my bouts of hyena-like “AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!” hysterics did anything to make an positive impression on him. I’m fairly certain, in fact, that he believes me to be a few potatoes short of a full sack. This is why I’m terrified to ever meet my UK blog friends — as soon as I leave, they’ll all shake their heads slowly. “Nice girl, quite jovial,” they’ll murmur to one another. “But she hasn’t quite got any sort of personality, has she?”

So — what the hell can I say to an Edinburgh boy who’s currently stuck working in Glasgow?

Suggestions? Ideas? Topics? Recipes? Prayers?

31 Responses to “shamelessness”

  1. What about an apple/cranberry pie? This is my go to recipe: http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/apple_cranberry_pie/

  2. Being married to a Scottish guy myself, and a Glaswegian none the less, I am obviously an expert. Also I lived in Texas where bbq & mexican food were born. You wrote this post just for me didn’t you?

    So RE desert:
    a) Pecan Pie with ice cream.
    b) Everyone always loves cheese cake
    c) Everyone always loves tiramisu

    Re: what to talk about:

    Scottish people always DELIGHT in complaining about Scottish weather. Seriously. Ask him if he’s enjoying the weather while hinting that you know how bad it’s got to be in back in Glasgow. Ask him if he’s enjoying the food or if he wouldn’t secretly rather be eating a flat sausage roll with an irnbru. Ask him if he’s for or against Scotland becoming independent (this shows that you’re aware that such a question is on peoples tongues). Do not under any circumstances talk about your celtic ancestry, should you have any. Ask him if he’s finding the SF weather to be hot. He’ll probably say yes. Shocking I know.

    Let me know if you need more.

  3. If pecan pie doesn’t work because of the nut thing, sweet potato pie is also delicious and in season. Alternately, pumpkin pie, or apple/pear cobbler are also delicious.

    You can also make sweet potatos savory, like baked wedges or something. So tasty.

  4. I vote apple pie. With crumbly topping instead of crust. YUM. But I like pie.

    Aaand as to talking–just talk. Because foreigners are strangely aware of the stupidity we do in our political system and happy to laugh at it with us. Otherwise you can say mundane shit like “seen any good movies lately?” or “would you rather be frozen to death or burned alive?”

    lol.

  5. I second the apple pie/crumble. Can you also deliver me some? I’d like it with ice cream please!

    As a foreigner (though just barely), I have faith in your conversational abilities. If you’re desperate, how about the financial crisis in Europe? Granted, it might not be help you convince him that you have a personality, just that you’ve seen the news at least once, so maybe just stick to movies/weather/scottish independence…

  6. i vote for a salted caramel apple pie. nice and traditionally american but with a little twist.

    • Salted caramel apple pie? I’m totally sold. I don’t have enough time to make all the desserts that I actually want to make now…

      • if you make this, make extra salted caramel sauce because if you won’t have enough for the pie once you start taste testing for, you know, quality control…

  7. SALTED CARAMEL apple pie?? I die.

    I was going to suggest crumble but Jessica’s suggestion takes the… uh… cake.

    Have you been anywhere that he’s been? New York? Japan? Dallas?

  8. Apple pie with bourbon! It will also allow you to talk about how great America is. Wait, did you say you DIDN’T want to constantly talk about America? Well, that’s absurd.

  9. Lyn, you are NOT a dumb American. I agree with Emma that talking about travel is a good option. Books, movies, neighbours (!) and holidays are also good topics.

    You will find common ground with him. And the fact that you WANT TO is uncommon enough tat he will appreciate the effort.

  10. Okay. So. First of all, thanks for the link! Second, your friend is totally correct. Barbecue and Mexican are not strong points here. Indian food though – mmmmmmmhmmmmmm. That doesn’t really help you though.

    For the dessert, I think all of these suggestions sounds delicious, and any Scottish person would be delighted to eat them. When you’re in America, quintessential American food is what you want – you’re not expecting only food you would get at home. Although pumpkin pie looks bleurgh. Orange slimy pie. But maybe that’s just me. In fact it’s almost definitely just me.

    On conversational topics, I always enjoy a game of Let’s Compare America and Britain! “Ha ha, you call your bum your fanny! Ha ha!” “Ha ha, you have to pay for healthcare! Ha ha!” “Ha ha, you live in a city where it rains every day and gets dark at 3.30pm! Ha ha!” That sort of thing.

    We get a lot of American cultural references here, so don’t be afraid to go there. Personally I find it really interesting to hear about stuff that goes on in other countries, and he married an American for God’s sake so I’m sure he knows way more than you think.

    Another couple of don’ts to add to Lauren’s list:
    Don’t ask him if he’s a True Scotsman (i.e. going commando under his kilt). Awkward.
    Don’t ask him what football team he supports or what school he went to. These questions have a lot of subtext in Scotland (Protestant or Catholic? Posh or not?) and it’s better just not to go there.
    Don’t ask him what clan he is in, or tell him he has an “American name”, or compliment him on his English. All of which have happened to me. Yikes.

    Wait, aren’t you into rugby? If he’s from Edinburgh there’s a chance he might like rugby (if he’s posh). Or you could ask him if he knows me – working out who we know in common (and there is always, always somebody) is our FAVOURITE GAME OF ALL.

    • Funny, I overheard the beau get into a conversation with him about the Protestant v. Catholic thing in terms of rugby teams. AND I overheard him say something about being interested in the Civil War (because as you know lots of Scots came over to fight), and through my parents’ interest in the Civil War I have been to nearly every battlefield and monument that exists on the east coast. So maybe I can find something to say about THAT.

      I was actually reluctant to bring up the weather because I thought it was too easy… but your reassurances are happy news to me. I LOVE weather talk. I’ll keep that one up my sleeve for sure.

  11. 1) I know everyone is saying apple pie, which I’m 100% for – I mean, I adore apple pie. But if you don’t want to do something like pie, my favorite barbecue place here in NC does a FANTASTIC cream cheese pound cake. Just another option.
    2) Maybe I’m just shameless, but I would just start asking questions about Scotland. His favorite things, least favorite, what it was like growing up there, etc. The idea of compare & contract USA and Scotland is brilliant too – both approaches let you learn about Scotland, therefore feeling less like that dumb American. (Which, really, we all are if that’s your definition. But when you live in a country this big, think about your knowledge of regional differences as equivalent to them knowing about different countries – geographically, they’re equivalent.)

  12. I say chocolate pecan pie. It’s super easy. Here’s a recipe:
    3 eggs
    1 c light corn syrup
    1 c sugar
    2 T butter, melted
    1 tsp vanilla
    1/8 tsp salt
    1 c pecans
    1/2 c chocolate chips
    1 9″ pastry shell, thawed
    Beat the eggs, add corn syrup, melted butter, vanilla and sat and mix with an electric mixer really well. At the pecans and chip, stir and pour into pie shell.
    Bake on a cookie sheet lined with foil (sometimes the shit bubbles over and it makes your oven dirty and a bitch to clean) at 350 degrees for 50-55 minutes. Let is set/cool for 45 minutes before serving with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. You’ll have that Scot drooling in your lap before the night is over.

    As for conversations, ask him how he feels about the Battle of Cullonden and the Jacobite Rising in 1746. That should at least earn you some “I know Scottish history” points.

  13. That should read: “Add the pecans and chips.”

  14. you know i am more about cake than pie, so i shall recommend a pumpkin spice cake:

    http://www.joyofbaking.com/PumpkinSpiceCake.html

    wish i still had the apple bourbon cake recipe…

  15. Dude, I agree with everyone in terms of an apple dessert. Fall + America + dessert = appleness. Although the first thing that came to my mind was a Brownie Pudding. If someone doesn’t like that, they’re an asshole.

    As for what to say, I always try to ignore the big stuff, and keep it person. “Oh, I hear you started a new job/adopted a dog/went to France/gained 80 lbs/etc. How’s that going?” I HATE when conversations feel like tests. You know, an oral exam on what I know about the state of the world? I have to pass in order for you to think I’m smart/worldly enough/etc.? EFF THAT. Seriously. If things come up naturally, that’s cool, but I wouldn’t go in with a list of topics written on my hand. Because that hand will be holding a beverage, natch.

  16. Smitten Kitchen’s Pumpkin Bourbon Cheesecake is seriously All Of The Good Things, Yes Please: http://smittenkitchen.com/2006/11/candy-corn-for-really-lucky-grown-ups/ . And not that hard to make! Though I found the topping needed more booze and sugar (always the correct answer, yes?) There are pecans in the crust, but I suspect that you could find an easy substitute. Seriously, it’s the best. Also, you can bring in some American booze for the star-striped flavor without the flag-cake. So there’s that.

  17. This might be the greatest post and comments thing EVA.

  18. Ooh, I’m with Kirsty on the Scottish Independence thing being just a little controversial :-) not necessarily a reason not to talk about it, it’s just that a lot of people here feel uncomfortable discussing politics in general and it’s a topic that gets pretty polarised reactions….
    You can tell him that while he’s in the US on vacation he’s missing pretty much the only days of dry weather we’ve had in months, ha ha! (I exaggerate, but not that much…)
    Definitely the mexican/barbecue thing is lacking here, and I definitely recommend something properly American for dessert (maybe not tiramisu, which I love, but which we get here a lot too)….
    Personally I think anything with pumpkin is amazing, even Starbucks pumpkin latte (why that hasn’t reached the UK yet I have NO idea….) and peach cobbler sounds delicious!

  19. While I’m late to this party and I’m sure you already made some sort of salted caramel pumpkin apple cheesecake, I still must share this. For a real taste of America, one should always turn to Paula Deen. Her Gooey Pumpkin Butter cake is insane. It’s like pumpkin pie with a yellow cake crust.

    http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/paula-deen/pumpkin-gooey-butter-cakes-recipe/index.html

    I have no idea how to talk to people from across the pond. I end up discussing Princess Shinylocks and how much better it sounds to describe things as posh and why do they put mayo on burgers and why can’t we call champagne champers? And then I talk about the Revolutionary War.

    I wish I were joking.

  20. I make a kickass cherry pie cake and the whole world loves it.

    1.Bake a white cake from a box and stab holes in it with a fork.
    2. Halfway make strawberry jello (mix it up, but don’t let it gel), and when the cake is cool, pour the liquid over the cake.
    3. Let cool for an hourish in the fridge.
    4. Dump tinned cherry pie filling all over it.
    5. Cover with whipped cream (homemade whipped cream if you’re feeling really showoffy.

    Best of luck!

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