One of a miscellany of short observations from a trip to Scotland.
We don’t want anything.
Sounding resigned, not cranky, the speaker is a pleasant if somewhat shell-shocked-looking 40-ish mother. Having given up on shopping, I am sitting in the airport equivalent of a mosh pit. The seats are at about 90% capacity, with a steady churn. In the hour I’ve been parked here, my row mates have included two old English women in mauve (little girls, it seems, have had purple as their fave colour for a long, long time), a young mother/son duo from Spain (I catch one word in 30 or so, just enough to identify the language beyond doubt, but not enough to follow the conversation), and now a not-quite middle-aged German couple.
I overhear their conversation with their teenage daughter across the aisle. Well, ‘overhear’ overstates the effort required. Conversing in German, they make no effort to keep their voices down, even though the topic is a bit discreet. I catch what I think is ‘toiletten’ from the kid and can’t misinterpret the universal ‘beats me’ shrug from the mother. The Toilets signs aren’t visible from here, but I saw them while reconnoitering. I pause for a nanosecond and jump in.
Adequate vectoring of the daughter breaks the ice. The talk—now all in English—turns to our respective travel travails.
We have been travelling since 16 hours. We don’t want to eat. We don’t want to drink. We don’t want anything.
Except, of course, for the day to end. In their own beds. Soon.
She has me trumped, no question. I have only been travelling since eight hours, across five time zones: coming from the Seattle area, their 16 hours en route (thus far!) have seen them cross eight time zones.
Having said pretty much all there is to say about this day, we move on to her impressions of Seattle. What struck her most, it seems, is the sameness of American cuisine.
It is all burgers and schteak.
I demur, gently. Surely they’d found other food? Nope, just burgers and schteak.
Their daughter back from der toiletten, their gate announced, they are off. But they leave me thinking about my own impression of American cooking. Burgers and schteak (including the Philly cheese variant) are ubiquitous, no doubt: also pizza and hot dogs. Not that that’s all bad.
But there are also the funky delis and coffee shops selling the homemade trifecta: soups, salads and sandwiches. Both coasts offer crab cakes and salmon; Alaska serves fresh halibut and king crab. The Southwest has seemingly endless variations on Mexican food; South Carolina glories in scallops, shrimp, and savoury and sweet hush puppies. Anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon line you can get fabulous pulled pork and barbeque. If you need comfort food, the Ohio Amish and the Pennsylvania Dutch stand ready. And if you broaden the descriptor from ‘American food’ to ‘food in America’, you can choose from spring rolls, curry, sushi, shwarma, and yes, even schnitzel in most decent-sized cities.
Of course my impressions of American cuisine have been formed with the benefit of a lifetime of cross-border travel, rather than the limitations of a two-week excursion. And, of course, Scotland isn’t as big as America, but as we set out on the last leg of our travels I remind myself to try not to generalize too quickly or too much. Even in a country as small as Scotland, in 18 days we can’t do more than sample the history, geography, culture, and food. One thing I know for sure, though: it won’t all be burgers and schteak.