What I like about you is…

strawberry shortcake gum

So it’s been three glorious months in the United States. And somehow, despite my staggering foreignness, I have not been kicked out, thrown in jail, or even spat at in the street.

I think this is because I can match (and sometimes surpass) the American enthusiasm for Things We Didn’t Know We Needed. I’ll admit that I spent quality time last week opting Rebecca and myself out of marketing lists for our email, phone and postal addresses – but I do delight in coming across the new and exotic:

Kraft MioAmerica TV commercials often celebrate the country’s pseudo-informality  yet hangs onto words that shouldn’t even live in the fantasy world of advertising, like beverage or apparel. But here, where nothing is ever quite enough, “drink” needs just that bit more.

  • MiO Liquid Water Enhancer – just calling it “water enhancer” pleases me greatly. Because water…hey, it’s just not good enough on its own. This stuff isn’t just a teeny bottle of stuff you add to water to make it taste like it isn’t water. It’s also a taste of freedom, because if you add MiO to your water and you don’t have enough flavor, then just add more MiO until it does!

You might be thinking you don’t need MiO, but truth is I love products like this. And at least they’re trying to make a virtue of less packaging, which might be a first over here.

Some of the things I didn’t know I needed until I came here are sorta kinda good for me. For example, I didn’t know how neglected my ears were until I found NPR, which is like BBC Radio 4 with local news and without the touchiness or a race to the finish line. A much-needed antidote to the frenetic noise of commercial radio, and now that WPLN Nashville Public Radio has bought a second FM slot, it’s like having BBC Radio 3 here as well.

If we get to Nashville too late for church, our reward is not a lightning flash but the chance to hear NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. If we actually go to church, the public radio reward afterwards is The Splendid Table, which feels like listening to Americans talk about their favorite restaurant/sauce/potato chip but with even more self-satisfied enthusiasm. It’s alllll sooooo goooood.

I partly hate the program but I keep tuning in, because one day I hope to have a kitchen of my one, and one day I’ll have the problem of wondering what to do with tomatoes that are past their prime, and on that day I’ll be glad I can call The Splendid Table.

Which leads us neatly back to food, and where we buy food (when we’re not at Nashville Farmers Market):

  • Kroger virtual coupons. Outstanding. You have the traditional option of cutting out coupons from the weekly ads and giving them to the cashier with your groceries. But that’s a lot of work I can never find the scissors. So why not download digital coupons to your Kroger key fob and they will automatically discount your groceries when you buy them.

If I want to save a dollar on Save $1.00 on Dove® Men’s Deodorant (and I surely do) I just click and that’s it. I think there may be a level of absurdity to this, and there’s a part of me that wonders if Kroger really wants me to save money they could just lower the price, but I’m doing my best to shake those bad thoughts.

Almond Joy coffee creamer

Kroger is filled with entire aisles I’ve yet to explore. Things that at my age, I’m better off not knowing about, for the sake of my waistline. But I have eyes, and it’s impossible to ignore all the things that are unnecessary and/or bad for me, for example International Delight Almond Joy creamer,  which for British tongues is like stirring your coffee with a Bounty bar.

In American supermarkets, even food you think you had nailed down can surprise you. Those enormous apples – can you eat a whole one? I used to get so judgey-judgey of small children picking up food to only discard it half-way, but over here, I’m an apple toddler. Can apples be too big? Nonsense, that must be a dusty Euro-thought I’ve yet to shake.

I’m trying to be open-minded about what’s on offer here. I’m not going to reject anything out-of-hand. I think next week I’ll be a little braver and explore the “frozen entrees” aisle. It could be life-changing.

Although as it turns out, the meals we’re eating here aren’t so different from the ones in the UK, given that it’s still Rebecca doing the cooking. The key difference is that these days we can actually find everything listed in the Rachel Ray recipe; that’s the magic of Kroger.

redbox DVD rentalsThe final thing I didn’t know I needed until I got here handily sits right outside Kroger…and Wal-Mart, and CVS, and McDonalds:

  • Everyone else…in the country, probably, has a NetFlix account but I remain loyal to Redbox which was clearly designed with me in mind. It doesn’t think I have a funny accent (unlike the woman in Wendy’s yesterday who greeted my order of a Pib with a where’s-the-hidden-camera level of incredulity and “You mean a Peee-yib?”).

With a swipe of my debit card Redbox offers DVDs for a dollar a day (plus tax) and hey, if you don’t manage to return the disc the next day, no problem! You can keep it for as long as you like…for a dollar a day plus tax. Of all the DVDs I’ve rented from redbox since April, I’ve managed to return just one the next day. The rental charges are so cheap that if you forget to return it on your way home, it’s not worth the price of gas to go back out, and that’s how they getcha.



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