Costco is There for You.

Costco (or Sam’s Club or BJ’s) has been a fixture on the American consumer landscape for quite some time.  They are called wholesale clubs, and what you do is pay a membership fee every year, in theory, to take advantage of being able to buy household and office goods in bulk at wholesale prices and to get a limited supply of retail goods at a lower cost.  Remember, that’s the theory; the reality is you have to comparison shop like anyplace else. In the United States’s Costco stores, anyone who is able to pay the membership fee can be a member.  In the U.K.’s stores, only certain people are allowed to be an individual member or a trade member.

So is it worth it to be a Costco member?  Here I go being mealy mouthed again.  It depends.  It’s the cheapest place to get gas in town, so that makes it worth it for us alone.  Considering the price for our favorite cereals too, we have our membership covered in no time.  Plus, we sleep at night knowing we will never run out of bog roll ever again.  If only I weren’t too lazy to put it away.

"Why is there toilet paper in your living room?" "We're trying an alternate fuel source in the fireplace."
“Why is there toilet paper in your living room, Karen?” “We’re trying an alternate fuel source in the fireplace.”

For $55/year, you can’t beat the entertainment value of shopping there either. I personally love the gift card section because you see stuff like this pack from Einstein Bros.

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I know this is meant for a boss to give to his or her employees, but let me explain my amusement. There is one Einstein Bros. in this town, and it is a pain in the ass, as far as driving or walking to the place . The food and drinks are mediocre, so you can get much better things for breakfast and lunch in the area. By giving out five of these puppies, it is a dead giveaway that the boss bought the 5-pack at Costco, so the employees are only worth 80% of the gift card’s value each.  Gee, thanks.

Costco is also a place of discoveries. I found out where all those flowery sleepers the Sprog received when she was born came from. No, I am not complaining. I valued every stitch of clothing that came my way during her infancy, as parents understand what happens with babies and their orifices.  Which only goes to show Costco is there from cradle…

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To grave…

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Non-emotional and non-threatening…imagine a Costco employee scanning your card while you are being lowered into the ground.  Are we talking do-it-yourself funerals now?

Don’t look for this display. They don’t have them in the stores anymore, but Costco sells the caskets, urns, and sympathy flowers online.  It’s nice to see there is expedited shipping on most of the items.  So what do you do, if the casket is on backorder?  If they can stick Nelson in a brandy cask after Trafalgar, I bet a hot tub and whatever beer is on offer at Costco…

You can certainly get enough food there afterwards to feed the guests after the ceremony. The cupcakes alone are obscene enough.

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Go big or go bigger.

Pick up a movie while you there. They love the Anglophiles.

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Although I though every romantic Anglophile had to be in possession of this movie by law.  (For the record, I still haven’t seen it.)

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On that note, I leave you with a parting thought.

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(Snicker.) Knob (Snicker.)

English Bread?

Prevalent as a chain in California, we have a Japanese market complex called Mitsuwa in our town.  Inside the grocery store, the bakery, Pastry House Hippo, lies nestled in a corner close to the checkouts.  Apart from the standard buns filled with custard or red bean paste, they produce another curiosity.

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I am trying to figure out what the hand is trying to do. Vibrating a giant Mento?

When my sister-in-law and her husband were over, they pretty well confirmed that, “No, it’s not.”  Let’s look at the scale of it.  It’s 3/4″ thick and check out how high it is.

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And at $2.10 for 6 pieces, even as expensive as things are in the U.K., bread is not that costly.

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But, as a treat, it makes a decadent plate of toast, as my sister-in-law and her husband can attest.  (And you can tell how long I have been part of an Anglo-American household, if I am entertaining the decadence of toast.  There is no hope anymore for me.)  I believe they said something to the effect of “We’ll take the blame for that.”

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Of course, when discussing bread products of this nature, you have to ask about English muffins.  They were invented by an Englishman, Samuel Bath Thomas.  He emigrated to the United States, became a U.S. citizen, and opened his bakery in New York City in 1880.  The name, Thomas’s English Muffins, was first documented in 1894, according to the trademark filing in 1926.  The muffins were designed to be a “toaster crumpet” that kept the nooks and crannies when the muffin was sliced, and they were designed to be easier to toast.  The hotel caterers loved this invention, and business boomed for Mr. Thomas.  Such deliciousness could not be kept a secret, so the muffins were exported back to the U.K. where they are known just as muffins.  Eggs Benedict hasn’t been the same since.  English inventiveness + American backing and promotion = Awesomeness!

So what can we conclude after all of this?

  1.  We can get excellent bread in this country, but because we are such a huge nation, not everything can get to everyone.
  2.  English muffins are English by nature of the inventor.
  3.  Japan obviously idealizes English bread to the point where they have improved upon it, although you would have to be in the 1% and work out for 3 hours every day to eat it.
  4. I did not realize I inherited the British Toast Obsession until I wrote this post.

A Spirited Recommendation for Oprah

Some time ago, The Boffin and I were in Binny’s, the big chain liquor store known to those in the Chicagoland area, and I was fortunate enough to stumble across this recommendation.

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Now that was very nice of you, Oprah, and I will certainly keep that in mind next time I have $270.00 lying around to buy a bottle of liquor that will make me punch random passersby in the genitals. But please, let me return the favor.

I offer you this.

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Yes, you read that right. 192 proof. The 750 ml bottle only costs $22, so it provides a hell of a lot more value for your money than that tequila you are hawking. You can use it to make your own flavored vodkas and baking extracts. You can liquor up your fruits and use them in cakes and other baked goods. You can use it for medicinal purposes, even if the medicinal purpose is to forget about what ails you.

You know what, Oprah, I even have a craft idea to go along with it. I made a biodegradable personalized carrier sleeve to go with the bottle. Check it out.

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I should stick that on Pinterest.

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Ask the Boffin #1 – Hot Dogs and Informality

Thank you for responding so quickly with questions, and The Boffin got right on the case.  I have had no input into these answers.

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A Political Science Graduate Student Originally from the Philadelphia Area Asked:

Is a hot dog a sandwich?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a sandwich as “An item of food consisting of two pieces of bread with a filling between them, eaten as a light meal.”

However, a hot dog is defined as: “A frankfurter, especially one served in a long, soft roll and topped with various condiments.”

Therefore, a hot dog exists in two states, either with or without a bun. In both cases, two pieces of bread are not required in order for it to constitute a hot dog. Therefore, a sandwich, it isn’t.

Knowing the background of the person who asked a question and the use of hot dogs in their hometown American football stadium, I would also like to question whether ‘projectile’ is a closer way to define the item?

Hitting Swoop gives you a Triple Bonus score.
Hitting Swoop gives you a Triple Bonus score. “Philadelphia Eagles Mascot Swoop” by Kevin Burkett from Philadelphia, Pa., USA – Originally posted to Flickr as Philadelphia Eagles Swoop. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons

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Shadowseye Asked:

Is American society or are Americans, in general, more informal than Brits? Or vice versa?

Dictionary time!!! Formality is defined as: “The rigid observance of rules of convention or etiquette.

The stiffness of behavior or style.”

Therefore, it comes down to who defines the rules of convention and etiquette.  Guess what? In 1776, the US wrote a little document which basically lanced the part of society that defined the rules. People sitting in diners in New Jersey are rarely seen as purveyors of etiquette. However, guess what, in the U.S., they are! The U.K. is held hostage, meanwhile, by a small group of people who hold the keys to the mythical ‘Upper Class’. This is the group who set convention and etiquette. They know how to hold a fork (guess what Americans…. you have no clue). How to drink soup. How to have polite conversation. How to have affairs with married women called Camilla. In the U.K., formality (and therefore informality) is driven by this group of people, who really should have no greater say in how we should act as a people than Bob in the diner who is on his third stack of pancakes.

However, if you remove the cream of society (rich, thick and full of clots), then you actually discover that society can make up its own mind over what is acceptable. We still have our rules in the U.S., but they are always in flux. Our definition of formality is not set by someone who’s great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather once let the King borrow some troops to help bash down a few monasteries. Instead, we make group decisions. There is less stiffness, but we are still bound by rules of convention. However, as there is no single set of rules, you get to pick the one that best suits you. As a result, the U.S. is more informal because we really can’t agree on what being formal is.

So to all the Brits who come over to the U.S., either as tourists or expats, I say enjoy the freedom of U.S. informality and stare at somebody else’s shoes for a change.

Ask the Boffin

Photo portrait.  We got his good side.  "Cuff Hill logan stone 2" by Rosser (talk) - I created this work entirely by myself. Roger Griffith.
Photo portrait of The Boffin. We got his good side. “Cuff Hill logan stone 2” by Rosser (talk) – I created this work entirely by myself. Roger Griffith.

I am adding a new feature to the blog.  Every so often, The Boffin will answer some of your questions.  Do you want to know why he came here?  Are you curious about how Margaret Thatcher ruined his life?  He will tell you.  All you have to do is ask.

He also loves giving advice, and some of it may actually be useful.  But don’t ask me to guarantee the results.

The only way that can happen is if you submit the questions in the first place.  So how do you get a hold of him?  E-mail him at theboffin@thisbritishamericanlife.com.  You can also go to the Contact page too.

I can’t wait to see how this experiment turns out.

The Vocal Stylings of Morrissey

Is that some sort of expression of pleasure?  “Morrissey” by Charlie Llewellin from Austin, USA – morrissey interview. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

I can’t expect everyone who stumbles upon this post to know who this guy is. Morrissey, born Steven Patrick Morrissey, was the frontman for the highly influential 1980s Manchester, England band, The Smiths. The Smiths are usually classified as alternative rock or indie pop with a 1960’s pop/post-punk fusion style and are known for their witty but depressing lyrics and Morrissey’s distinct warbling vocals. After their breakup in 1987, Morrissey has since pursued his solo career but also kept himself in the public eye with his activism.

For a good chunk of Americans around my age, The Smiths represented a cool, alternative band who spoke to our adolescent miseries and personal angsts with some catchy tunes. And Morrissey became cool as a by-product of being a Smith and with some of his solo work. But the music was not played on the Top 40 stations. It was like a well-kept secret.

However, let’s put The Smiths into context in their country in the 1980s. They were mainstream and were expressing their views on being an individual living in Thatcherite Britain. So they were part of the zeitgeist. The Smiths were also ubiquitous media-wise. That did not mean everyone was a fan though. The Boffin was watching the societal divisions on the telly as far as the miners’ strikes, the poll tax protests, economic inequalities, and other turmoil.  Let me put it this way.  The Boffin is a problem solver and spends his whole life trying to make things better for those around him.  Even as a child, he didn’t want to listen to a bunch of Dirge Weasels telling him how miserable they were when he already knew things were shite.  And he was far from the only one who thought that way.

Which bring me to Morrissey’s life after The Smiths and how he has become more known for what he does outside of the studio and off the stage. Morrissey’s main cause is animal rights, and he walks the walk with his veganism to the point of trying to make sure no meat is served at his concerts. However, instead of being measured in his activism, he is extreme and still loves to point out how crap everything is when things don’t go his way. He also loves to take down the Royal Family by verbally proclaiming about how horrible they are (even though their power really is limited). Google him, and you can see just how outspoken he is. Voicing his opinion issues matter more to him than people’s feelings, and he is still essentially carrying the same image that he had in his 20s. Even while maintaining a fiercely loyal fan base, a fair number of people in his native country have grown tired of his pontificating and complaining. Taking pot shots at him has become a British national pastime with that crowd.

Meanwhile, the Americans who learned to enjoy The Smiths and Morrissey without the baggage of the British social context and the decades of his whinging on the British media have become puzzled when people like the Boffin react to “Girlfriend in a Coma” deep sighs and eye rolls. Either that or the Americans understand the animosity but can overlook his obnoxiousness because they love his music so much.

So, if you know Morrissey, he is just one of those love him or hate him sort of guys.  If you don’t, you may be better off staying out of the whole thing.

Addendum: I just talked to the Boffin about this post. He said that at least Billy Bragg has a purpose. He would have rather have him round for dinner.

The Boffin Can’t Do It.

When I checked in at The Bloggess, she posted a link to one of my worst nightmares.

It’s a Tumblr blog called Tinder in Brooklyn.  For those who don’t know, Tinder is a dating app that allows you to chat with your potential date, and you swipe through photos to find somebody with whom you would like to chat.

Well, all I had to do was read the first 10 posts to realize how lucky I was to be married and to formally announce to The Boffin that he was not allowed to die.  I will stick every single tube I can find into him.  He will not be allowed to leave this planet.  Cattle prods will be used to recharge his brain.  I will turn him into a ventriloquist dummy.  Anything to keep him going.  Sorry.

Me:  “I don’t care.  I will haul your body to Jim Henson’s workshop, and they will reanimate your ass.”

Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker would be on the case. Photo courtesy of Steve Jurvetson. https://www.flickr.com/photos/jurvetson/417113906
Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker would be on the case. Photo courtesy of Steve Jurvetson. https://www.flickr.com/photos/jurvetson/417113906

The Boffin:  “I hope they will reanimate more than my ass.”  (Starts making ass spreading motions with his hands while blowing raspberries.)  “I’ll be the $100,000 man.  ‘Sorry, we couldn’t afford any more.’  Don’t think anyone will be able to tell the difference.”

Just don’t make me date again.