How can it be possible that there is something known as 'American cheese'; one type from sea to shining sea, that huge mass of states, cultures and people? England is tiny but referring blanketly to 'English cheese' is unimaginable. Wensleydale, Cheshire, Cheddar: town to town there are variations and innovations. Is anything else in the US so homogenous as its cheese appears to be? Even McDonald's has carb-free options and gourmet coffee now. And American cheese always seems to refer to horrible processed stuff in a can, or a canister. If you're looking for a cheese to represent the nation, it shouldn't be squeezable.
We have a walled garden which mainly exists to provide our cats with shaded areas to sleep in. I'm no proud gardener, but I was very happily surprised to see mangoes growing on one of our trees, particularly as I'm pretty sure it's a guava tree. That blip aside, I think I might get more into this Growing of Stuff; we just created a cocktail from ginger beer, vodka and lovely mangoes not just freshly-plucked but still warm from the sun, and a shred of peel from one of our lemons too. Now I need an Angostura tree and we're set for summer refreshments.
Food, good food, like human beauty, art, and probably some other stuff, is all about contrast. Across all food cultures. Sweet and sour go hand in hand, like crispy bacon and runny fried eggs do; like crunchy walnuts in a smooth blue cheese sauce; like hot chilli salsa tempered by cool sour cream.
Ice-cream sodas have managed to pass me by. I've seen them being sipped by The Fonz's coy conquests on innumerable episodes of Happy Days, and when in the US I always favour diners over other eateries (they make me feel like I'm in a film). My first one was the other night at Nando's...their Coconut Crush sounded like it might be refreshing enough to wake me from my espetada-induced stupor. Zingy lemonade and creamy coconut and vanilla ice-cream, bubbles and smoothness, just lovely. I get it now. I got brain-freeze and nose-fizz at the same time too, another first.
I tried some very traditional Thatcher's; a strawberry and lime version; and a Swedish pear-based cider. The food was similarly international: foie gras with roasted apple discs and a lime jelly, then wasabi-crusted tuna with a lemon puree, followed by a beautiful piece of halibut. All menus should have at least one of the following words on in order to make guests feel gourmetish: Emulsion. Micro herbs. Artisan.