Monday, July 11, 2011

Pudding Confusion

As I have mentioned before, we are learning English in our new country.  Here are some food related words that can potentially cause a considerable amount of trouble for the uninformed:


I know, right?  How can you possibly get into trouble with these words? I am glad you asked.

Disclaimer: the following scenarios are not based on real people we know and are purely made up and hypothetical.

Scenario #1: Tea


You are asked to tea by a Scottish family.  

"How British!" you think delightedly to yourself.  You eagerly accept as jumping right into the incessantly tea drinking culture is part of the reason you're here is it not?

"What time should I come?" you ask.

{Insert Scottish accent here}"How about half 6 (equals "half past 6" to the un-anglicised)," Angus and Shona reply.

Thinking how this will interfere with your rigidly scheduled dinner time for your own family, you hesitantly accept deciding you will just have to eat a little earlier tonight.  Tea and biscuits will be a very nice end to your meal.  You even forgo making dessert, your favorite course.

You and your family show up to the MacKay's house well fed and ready for some tea and biscuits when Shona shows you to the dining room where the table is spread for a full Scottish meal of steak pie, roasted carrots, and boiled potatoes.  There are even soft cheese covered oat cakes topped with smoke salmon for an appetizer.  You look over at your spouse with a weak smile and say a quick prayer to the Lord thanking him that your son's vocabulary is limited to "mama," "dada, "dog," "hi," and "no" not, "Moooom, we just ate dinner.  I'm too stuffed to eat again!"   

So you do the polite thing and eat the delicious if second meal with your new friends, and note to self: "Tea =dinner if scheduled during dinner time. Check."

Scenario #2: Pudding


You've just finished your "tea" at aforementioned friends' home and they offer you pudding.  Relieved that it isn't a tempting dessert because you're stuffed to the gills, you politely decline.  Thinking to yourself, "Shona sure looks like she has it all together; I'm glad I'm not the only one who looks to J.E.L.L.O. when life gets too busy. It's great to know that it's acceptable to do that for guests and not just family here in Scotland.  I'm really beginning to like this place!  It's so laid back."

Shona returns from the kitchen with the most delicious looking dessert.  Your mouth waters at the sight of it and wonder when the pudding is coming out and wait to be asked for a piece of that cake she just proffered.  The invitation is never extended.  You watch forlornly as the MacKay's youngest child, Finlay, asks for a second helping of the "sticky toffee pudding" and Shona scrapes up the last of the gooey cake and puts it on his plate. Trying to console yourself, you remember the fact that you ate dinner twice and can't afford pudding on top of that.

{Sticky Toffee Pudding via}

You look around the table as everyone, including your delighted one year old, is enjoying the last morsels of pudding and note to self: "don't decline pudding. Ever."

Scenario #3: Jelly


After the secret second dinner and pudding enjoyed by most, your family is so tired and full and is invited to stay the night to avoid having to wake up the sleeping baby who went down after pudding.  Waking him up to ride the bus back to your own flat seems like a terrible idea, so you accept.

The next morning you wake up and are offered tea or coffee and toast to go along with breakfast.  You agree to coffee and toast.  You are American after all.  You managed your tea quota after "tea" the night before.

When asked what you would like on your toast, you reply, "jelly would be lovely thank you."  You are pleased with yourself that you threw in a "lovely", and wait for your toast.  Your coffee is delivered to you.  It's not quite as black as you would have made it, but coffee made by someone else is fine by you.  You sip it and wonder what kind of jelly will be offered.  Angus brings in a nifty little toast holder that holds the toast triangles upright and places it in the middle of the table. As you reminisce back to elementary school when you envied the kid sitting next to you with his triangled PB and J, you help yourself to a piece, butter it, and then notice no jelly.  You wait a little longer, stomach growling a bit, but not wanting to be rude, you wait.  You wait a little longer.  

Then it dawns on you that maybe you were misunderstood, so you begin to eat your toast.  Angus gives you a sidelong glance, but when you catch his gaze, he just smiles at you.  You start to wonder what happened to Shona, and just as you finish the last bite of your third buttered piece of toast, she brings out some Jello - we're talking the jiggly kind.


"So sorry it took me so long to whip this up.  It must be an American tradition to eat jelly on toast.  We prefer jam.  Maybe because it spreads a little easier," Shona smiles.

You try to decide if you should just eat the jello or break it to her that Americans don't eat jelly on toast as you note to self: "jelly equals jello not jam."

Now to be fair the Scots are actually way more schooled in the use of American English and none of these scenarios have actually happened to us, but we have been confused in conversations about tea and so forth and surprised by the wonderful desserts brought out after being told that pudding was the next course.

Tomorrow, I'll fill you in on a real life story of pudding confusion complete with a recipe!


lynneguist said...


Came to you blog through another and wondered whether mine might be of interest to you. All about the differences between British & American English (and has included tea, pudding and jelly!).

or particularly for food discussions:

(I'm twitter-linking to this post--hope you don't mind!)

Taylor and Robin said...

Lynne, it's great to "meet" you. Thanks for sending me the link to your blog - I am so excited to read it! I don't mind that you linked it to twitter. Cheers!

Alan (Fred) Pipes said...

There's an old joke that when visiting a (mean) Scottish home around teatime, you'll be greeted with the question: 'You'll have had your tea then?'

Judy Dominick said...


I meant to comment a few weeks ago when I first read this. I love this post! I've thought about it several times since then in various circumstances. So funny and very clever :)


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