There is a scene in the movie Splash where Daryl Hannah’s character learns to speak English in one day by watching TV. In many ways, I have been in the shoes (flippers?) of Madison, the Mermaid. I've learned many nuances of the British language by watching television. However, it’s taken far longer than a day…and I still haven’t mastered it.
Come Dine with Me is my favorite British television program. I don’t know what it is, but I just LOVE IT! The premise of this reality show is that 5 strangers each host a dinner party over the course of a week, and secretly score each other for a cash prize. Entertaining AND useful, it's helped me identify people by their accent as the show is held in a new city every week.
In the beginning, it was hard to understand some of the dialogue as I was adjusting to the accents and colloquialisms. But over time, I found I was learning so much about how people speak, cook and… insult.
One of the best parts of the show is listening to the contestants skewer each other while evaluating their cooking. Plonker, tosser, git, wanker, prat, sod, naff, toff, manky. My new insult vocabulary is vast and impressive, but I’m also smug because I now know that:
- Jelly is not something you put on toast, but serve for dessert
- Rocket is not something you launch into space, but part of your salad
- Courgette is not a place in France, but a vegetable
- Terrine is not a geographical term, but a starter
Only Fools and Horses is another favorite. A classic British comedy, it’s been a savior in helping break the ice with well known one-liners. In the right circumstance, a sprightly ‘Lovely Jubbly’ or self-deprecating ‘Mangetout, Mangetout’ can bring out a smile from just about anyone. Del Boy and Rodney have a special place in the hearts of Britons… and me!
Absolutely Fabulous is in a league of it’s own. It features the exploits of two middle-aged women in search of eternal fabulousness. Along the way, they use their considerable resources indulging in alcohol, drugs, smoking and shopping. To give you an idea, one of the main characters keeps a entire cooler full of champagne at all times.
I was familiar with Patsy Stone and Edina (Eddy) Monsoon before moving to the UK, but never watched an episode. When I did (in a marathon viewing as though my life depended on it), it was like I had been baptized in font of British knowledge. The references to UK-specific traditions, celebs and pop culture have come in handy, especially with pub quiz. Mainly, though, I’ve enjoyed refining my version of their most famous catch phrase ‘Sweetie Darling’. It’s particularly effective when I need Perry to do me a favor and I’m holding a cocktail.
Jamie Oliver’s 15 Minute Meals (or 30) rounds out my TV faves. I’ve learned a ton about how to cook fresh, flavorful food quickly but also developed a vocabulary to describe my new dishes. Beautiful. Lovely. Brilliant. Gorgeous. These are not words I grew up using to describe hotdish and jello salad.
I’ve also learned to prepare some exciting new international favorites I had never heard of before:
I have yet to make anything in 15 or 30 minutes (a frequent joke by those that attempt Jamie’s recipes), but I keep trying.
If you make it to my house, it’s very likely I’ll serve you something from one of my Jamie cookbooks. My advice? Tuck in and whack it in your gob, sweetie darling.