The following article which appeared in the Guild of Food Writers Newsletter, 
gives some idea as to why the books American Cooking in England and 
The Pocketbook Guide to American Cooking in England
were written.  
(For any Americans unfamiliar with British food, some explanatory notes follow the article.)

You say 'tomato' . . .
When Delora Jones moved to England from the US, she never imagined the culinary minefield that awaited her.  We invited her to describe some of her problems and how she came to write and publish her own books on the subject.

The other day on Radio 4's The Food Programme, I heard Richard Erlich extolling the virtues of Julia Child's (et al.'s) Mastering the Art of French Cooking but, he said, unfortunately it is written for Americans. Quite. It is a problem -- the same problem I faced when I moved here, equipped with around 20 of my cookbooks (all written for the American market). I knew there were myriad language differences that trap Americans who've moved here, and Brits who've moved there, but I was not prepared for the very real problems these differences present to cooks.

The first dinner party I planned here was a minefield, requiring no end of ingredients known only to Americans, or the names of which were American. That shopping list included cornmeal (I was sold cornflour), shortening, graham cracker crusts, and corn syrup. This shopping trip should've taken 20 minutes; it took 45. Even still I was not properly equipped to prepare the meal I'd planned -- the ice cream which I let soften for ice cream pie turned to a mass of bubbles, and you can't make cornbread from cornflour.

Another meal disaster involved lasagne, but this time it wasn't an ingredients problem, it was the pan. My American lasagne pan (I found after I'd filled it) did not fit in my English oven! But not only were the dimensions of the ovens different, their heating was different as well. Most gas cookers here are 'directly-heated', and this creates zones of heat so that the only shelf corresponding to the set temperature is the middle one. I guess I don't need to tell you what the cookies baked on the top shelf were like.

I decided to find a solution. I looked in the new and used book shops and, although I turned up some books with a few pages of translations, these did not go into the detail I required. I wished someone would write a book about it -- after all, I couldn't be the only one who needed this. When I later found myself out of work, I decided to start researching the subject myself. My husband asked whether there were enough different terms to merit a book. I thought so but at the time, I'd only compiled 10 pages; five years on, it's grown to 110 -- and these are just the translations.

When I returned to work, I did not want to let my research drop so I arranged to work a 4-day week, giving me an extra day to continue with the book. My background in graphic art and knowledge of word processing proved invaluable: I was able to design and structure the book so that it would be 'camera-ready' (i.e., ready to print as is), just in case I could not find a publisher.

While I researched and wrote the book, I also looked into how to approach publishers, to see what would interest them. In the early stages, Bantam requested a draught and considered it for some months but then the draught came back. Later, someone at another publisher wished to pursue it but the next time I wrote, found that person had left and no one there had heard of my book. HarperCollins were then interested, to the point of requesting my biographical details, but in the end I was turned down again. There was further interest, but this too came to nothing. Although most of the publishers wrote back very kind refusals, often extending helpful advice, I occasionally found myself in a catch-22: no, they wouldn't publish it (too small a market, and I wasn't known) but could they buy a copy once it's printed?

In the end, I'd written to more than 50 publishing houses -- without success. I had to decide: abandon 5 years of research, or publish the books myself -- I chose the latter. The up side is the books will finally be printed; the down side is I pay for them. In the late 1950s, Simon & Schuster published a book by my father called Those Were The Good Old Days, and this book sold well. Later, my father self-published a similar book which did not sell well and which left him out of pocket, and with a cellar full of books. Speaking with my father the other day, I mentioned that the cost of printing the 2 books was more than I'd ever spent on a car -- that I'd always bought used cars. He said I should ask them to print the books used. You can't beat a father's advice.

-Delora Jones, Burton upon Trent


To learn
how to 
order the

Photo appears courtesy 
The Burton Mail.



Some explanatory notes regarding the article, ‘You say ‘tomato’ . . .’ in the Guild of Food Writers Newsletter:

Cornmeal can be difficult to find in English supermarkets, although many ‘Asian’ (i.e. Indian or Pakistani) shops carry it, usually labelled ‘polenta’.

Cornflour is the British word for corn starch.

In England, shortening is sold in 500g boxes in the refrigerated section of the supermarket -- not on the dry goods shelf in 3-lb. tubs like in the US. And the British don’t know it as ‘shortening’ but instead by a variety of names and brand names including White sunflower vegetable fat; White Flora; and Trex, amongst others.

Graham cracker crusts
Not only are graham cracker crusts not sold in British supermarkets, but graham crackers aren’t either. You need to make your own crusts from Digestive biscuits (which are widely available in England, though not in the US).

Corn syrup
Corn syrup is not sold in British supermarkets, but is available from specialty shops and mail order businesses. Many cookbooks say to substitute using golden syrup but golden syrup is twice as sweet as corn syrup so this is not a suitable substitute. By the way, although golden syrup is widely available in the UK, I have not seen it in American supermarkets.

Ice cream
British ice cream comes in ‘dairy’ and ‘non-dairy’ varieties. It also comes in a heavily-aerated ‘soft-scoop’ variety. To substitute for American ice cream in a recipe, you need to use the ‘luxury dairy’ variety. Unfortunately, the first time I bought ice cream here I was unaware of these differences and the type I picked up to use in a recipe, just dissolved when I left it ‘to soften’.

Another word about British ice cream is that the good stuff is prohibitively expensive. In 1999, Safeway’s own brand of ‘luxury dairy’ ice cream cost Ł2.19 for a 500ml tub -- roughly $3.66. But Americans, unless they’re buying Hagen Daaz or Ben & Jerry’s, buy their ice cream in half-gallon containers, and the equivalent of a US half-gallon of this ice cream works out to $13.77! And while we’re at it, a 500ml tub of Hagen Daaz here costs Ł3.69 -- roughly $6.16!

Coming from a country where even the cheapest ice cream was delicious, it’s difficult adjusting to paying inflated prices for it here, and especially defeating when, as a guest, I’m offered ‘the wrong kind’. If I’m going to ingest the calories anyway, I want to enjoy them -- not eat something made from vegetable fat that simply looks  like ice cream.

English ovens
Size: The ovens in British cookers (i.e., stoves) are typically less wide than American ovens, and with less room inside from top to bottom. English hobs (i.e. stovetops) are also less wide than their American counterpart -- they don’t tend to have that handy space in the middle between the two rows of burners, like American stovetops do.

Heat: Unlike many American ovens, most British gas cookers are ‘directly-heated’. This means that zones of heat are created in the oven so that the only oven shelf that actually corresponds to the oven setting is the middle one.