Sunday, May 30, 2010

It's the Little Differences

Vincent: ... But you know what the funniest thing about Europe is?
Jules: What?
Vincent: It's the little differences. I mean, they got the same s--t over there that we got here, but it's just – it's just there it's a little different.
(Pulp Fiction)

It's the little things, as Vincent -- so convincingly portrayed by John Travolta -- says. That's what makes hutzlaaretz -- that land overseas -- feel foreign.

I look at the little old ladies on High Street. Sorry, but they look nothing like the little old ladies of Rishon LeZion or Tel Aviv. First of all, they seem to come out in droves on weekday mornings, when younger, pre-pension-age folks are at work. As I mentioned before in my other blog -- they all wear straight legged polyester trousers, a squarish, light colored parka, and possibly a kerchief or scarf around their neck. Their white non-dyed hair is neatly coiffed; they wear sensible shoes or sandals, and they carry a plaid shopping bag or pull a plaid shopping cart. Aside from anything else, Israeli little old ladies wouldn't be caught dead with white hair; why, it makes them look old!

Or take the water taps, and not just in the older homes. There's a cold water tap and a hot water tap, and never the twain shall meet. How is one supposed to wash one's face in nice warm water, rather than in ice cold or boiling hot water? (Yes, I know. You stick in the plug and mix water in the sink. My mom used to do that for me when I was a kid.) Even in the newer faucet, like the one in Mum's kitchen, that does sport a single spout, the H & C simply won't mix. Cup your hands under the stream, and one hand gets the C flow while the other gets H. Incredible!

Take the cellophane or plastic wrapped fruit and veg, bread, or other foodstuff in Sainsbury's, the Co-Op, Waitrose. They all indicate, on the wrapping, which recycle bin said wrapping should go into. Because, you know, there are at least three bins: the green for food and garden refuse; the blue for recyclables like paper, glass, soft plastic, tin cans; and the black for non-recyclable. (And that's getting off lightly. Other cities have far stricter laws.) In Israel, consumers have more-or-less accepted that papers go in the paper-bin, large plastic bottles go into the large metal cages on street corners; and small bottles can be returned to the supermarket. If you remember, you hand in the refund slip to the cashier and get a few shekels deducted from your bill. I have no idea what percentage of the population actually go to the trouble. But here, in London, if you do not separate your garbage properly, it will not be picked up. It'll just sit there in front of your house until you learn your lesson and mend your ways.

Last example for now: Cream cheese. Israel has a huge range of soft white cheeses -- cream cheese, cottage cheese and the like. Diet-conscious consumers stick to anything up to 5% fat. They consider 9% too fat, and 30% is positively scandalous. Telling the cheeses apart is easy. The fat percentage is clearly marked on the container. Not so here in the UK. First of all, their selection of soft cheese is laughable. Secondly, they obfuscate the fat issue with adjectives rather than provide plain, unequivocal percentages. It seems that Philadelphia Light = 10% fat, but you need a magnifying glass and a calculator to figure it out. Philadelphia Extra Light = 5%. You'll encounter a similar problem with the milk. I don't care if it's called skim or semi skim, or whatever. I want to know the percentage of fat. Yes, percentage. Not how many grams in "one serving", or in 30 gr, or in a standard sized teacup, whatever that is.

Before I sign off, I wish to make it clear that I love it here... and in a future post, sooner or later, I'll dwell on the up side of "different".

1 comment:

  1. You must admit that even though we've all gotten used to fat percentage for cheese and other dairy products, it's actually rather useless dietary information as far as RDI goes.
    The only reason I end up staring at yogurt containers forever here in Canada in hopes of finding the fat percentage is to ensure I don't buy 0% yogurt... blah...