Just A Little Brit
By: Ted Peterson
I’ve been an Anglophile for at least thirty years. The first Brit I fell for was James Bond, and I’ve remained true through his six incarnations. To this day, no one can beat me in Bond trivia, and I specialize in the worst of the movies, like “Diamonds Are Forever,” “The Man With The Golden Gun,” “A View To A Kill,” and … okay, whatever the second Timothy Dalton movie was. After him were a series of literary icons and Merchant-Ivory film actors, men with fabulous accents and lovely hair, and names like Rupert, Simon, Hugh, and Jeremy. My last British crush was Ian, who I married.
Our son, in addition to being biracial and parented by a same-sex couple, gets the additional gift/complication of having multiculturalism right in his home. Ian has embraced his adopted American culture in so many ways, not the least of which by becoming a citizen last November. But as Mike Myers, who grew up in Canada with a father from Liverpool, once observed, “No one is more British than a British man abroad.”
We have a pillow with a Union Jack on the sofa, and at least two cufflinks which also show off the British flag. We have a signed photo of Princess Diana on the shelf together with tea cups commemorating the crowning of her mother-in-law. And there’s Pimms #5 in our liquor cabinet, which we drink with either lemonade or ginger ale in the summer.
There’s the language. Mikey’s had to learn that when Papa asks for a torch, it’s the same thing as Daddy asking for a flashlight. He frequently answers a question in the affirmative not with a “yes” but a snappy, insouciant English “of course.” The first adverb that Mikey ever uttered was “properly.”
Not that he’s fluent. Last week, we’re driving in typical horrible Los Angeles traffic, and Ian growls that the people ahead of him are idiots.
“Don’t say ‘idiots’!” Mikey cries from the back. “That’s not very nice.”
We agree, but I decide to use British slang to get around it. When someone seemingly won’t let us merge, I mutter, “Come on, wanker, let us in.”
“He is a wanker?” Mikey calls from the back. “Where is the wanker?”
“That guy in the Escalade ignoring our turn signal, he’s the wanker,” I reply.
“He’s letting us in now,” Ian observed.
“Oh, that’s nice, let’s give him a thank you wave,” I say.
“Thank you, wanker!” Mikey cries.
Just so you know, a wanker is more or less synonymous with douchebag.
There’s the food. Those of you who haven’t tuned into Hell’s Kitchen and the hundred other shows featuring Gordon Ramsay or Jamie Oliver may be under the impression that British food is still synonymous with bad food. You may not know that thanks to the likes of Ramsay and Oliver, as well as Marco Pierre White, Nigella Lawson, Heston Blumenthal, Raymond Blanc, Gary Rhodes, Marcus Wareing, and others, there are few more interesting cuisines in the world, particularly when you start combining it with the “colonies.” In my house, all things British belong on our table. Mikey knows that coffee is for grown-ups, but sometimes is allowed some tea, in a 20 to 1 milk to tea ratio.
On a recent Sunday, Mikey began the day by demanding Marmite on toast and then helping me to make sure I did it right.
If you don’t know what Marmite is, it is – seriously – a byproduct of beer brewing, thick and black, salty and bitter, and so questionable that the best the English ad agency that handles it could come up with for a logo is “Love it or hate it.” You smear it on toast and hope for the best.
Here’s Mikey slathering it on:
That same Sunday night, we had friends over, and served onion tarts, mashed turnip (called swede by the Brits) and carrots, and steak and kidney pie. After he devoured those kidneys, I’m at a loss about what we can serve Mikey and he’ll refuse.
What, you may be asking, is the American culture I’ve given him? I think that’s pretty obvious. Being excited about other cultures. Until fairly recently, that was understood by everyone to be the American way.