Lockdown Blog 35: Do you grill or do you broil? and other culinary lessons from our cross-cultural household

My first question today is this: how do you cook your bacon? Both Jessie and I cooked bacon for different reasons yesterday. She for a cobb salad at lunchtime, and I to go with socca for dinner. She fried hers in oil on the hob, whereas I put mine under the grill. We almost came to an impasse when we realised our vocabulary for describing these cooking processes (and indeed, the food itself) was completely different.

When I explained that I was going to grill my bacon and then opened the oven door, Jessie was troubled. (She was also confused by my choice of bacon, but that story will take too long to tell, and is definitely too divisive.) To her, to grill something required a heat source from below – which, for us Angles, means something like a barbecue. This certainly does not exist in our domestic, urban kitchen. But when we Brits say we want to grill something, we’re talking about the heat source coming from above, which in the US is a “broiler” (a word no Brit believes really exists). 😂 Both of our processes resulted in delicious, crispy bacon, at least.

Our lexical mismatches didn’t stop there, though. Making socca is something we’d discussed for a while (and for those of you who don’t know what it is, socca is a delicious kind of Italian pancake made predominantly of chickpea flour), but given that neither of us frequently use chickpea flour, we wanted to check our measurements. In England, we tend to be very boring: our recipes are full of precise numbers in grams and kilograms. In the States, however, I learned that we deal instead with wonderful measurements like cups (which have very specific sizes) – not even just imperial measurements like ounces and fluid ounces, which I can just about comprehend. I’ll tell you now, it takes several Google searches to work out how exactly to convert millilitres into cup measurements (and vice versa), and even then, they don’t add up easily. Then there’s the fact that an American pint and an English pint are different things, of course (which is really unhelpful when you’re pouring an English pint of fluid into an American pint glass for the first time, believing the contents will fit). Needless to say, we were in a position where the dinner was nearly a disaster because we couldn’t translate what the other was saying when they needed it understood.

What have I learned? In the future, we’re always going to have British and American version of a recipe open at the same time when we’re making a new dish. That way, there’s less chance of burning the bacon or over-flouring the pancake. What else have I learned? That I still can’t take the word “broiler” seriously.





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