Saturday, November 27, 2010


Odd Products

Than what?

Gravy that's better than gravy?

"Naturally flavored with other natural flavors"

Yummy - if you like turds

(I'm not putting this on my glasses!)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Supersize Everything

We all know that everything is bigger - if not always better - in America.

I had not expected the same to apply to books. Imagine my surprise, therefore, when my son came home with the classic Ted Hughes tale 'The Iron Man':


Today is Thanksgiving in the US, the day the Pilgrims - and everyone since - celebrated the bounties and fruitfulness of the newly-colonised America. 

The traditional meal at Thanksgiving is turkey served with cranberry sauce and followed up by pumpkin pie. Nothing odd about that except that rather than cooking it in the oven for hours (and hours), as you would in Britain, here in the US turkeys are often if not mostly broiled.

It's hardly surprising that the citizens of the country that invented doughnuts and which deep-fries everything from Mars bars to beer and even butter (I kid you not) should also deep-fry  Thanksgiving turkeys.

Unfortunately, the process of immersing a very large bird in boiling fat is a delicate art at the best of times, and houses are burnt down year after year by inexperienced chefs. To give you some idea just how many, consider this: in 2008 alone, fire crews were sent out to 1800 home fires at Thanksgiving - twice as many as on any other day of the year.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Dreaming of a Jewish Christmas

Today I found out what American Jews do on Christmas Day: they go to the movies and then have a Chinese meal ("Nowhere else is open").

I wonder whether British Jews head for the Odeon before settling down to a curry.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


It may be the norm in the many developing nations, but haggling is probably one of the last things I thought I'd be able to do in the US. How wrong I was!

Although I've only tried it on a few occasions (and then only because the situation presented itself), it is amazing what you can haggle over - even when the official price is clearly marked. I have, for example, saved hundreds of dollars negotiating down the price of our cars and even new furniture. But my most recent haggling success was by far the most lucrative.

At a visit to the electronics superstore Best Buy, I was approached by a man who asked me who my Internet provider was. I told him that I get my Internet access, TV and telephone through the cable company Comcast. Was I satisfied, asked the man, whose shirt I noticed bore a Comcast logo. I said that yes, I was satisfied on the whole, but was considering switching to the competition because my triple-play subscription had shot up from an initial $99/month for the first three months to $176. "Let's see whether I can make you a better offer," he said.

After typing in some figures on his computer terminal, he said, "How does $122 sound?"
"Very good," I replied, "though not as good as $99". This prompted yet more fervent number-crunching (presumably he was calculating the margin), during which I again reminded him how ready I was to abandon his company. Finally he said, "The best I can offer you is $114". For how long? "At least a year."

I shook his hand and thanked him - and without having had to sign anything, I had saved myself $741 a year on a subscription for a service with a fixed price.

God bless America.