You see a batch of delicious cinnamon rolls. I see a batch of the worst, most awful thing I have ever produced in a kitchen. Thanks for nothing, Imperial System.
Let’s talk about the metric system. Actually, let’s talk about how America is one of only three countries on the entire planet that doesn’t use the metric system, in favor of the Imperial System of Measurement (the other two are Libya and Myanmar, for the record). Then, let’s talk about how I spend roughly half my time in the kitchen converting cups to grams, ounces to liters and pounds to kilograms, and that’s in addition to the ongoing battle I have with the local weather channel (which obviously reports in Celsius) and my wallet – which is full of a mixture of dollars, pounds, and a random peso from a Mexican vacation in November.
Since moving to Scotland, I’ve had my fair share of “wait. wtf is going on here?” moments, including one particularly dicey experience with my electrical shower. Apparently, electrical showers are very common in Europe, but I like my water and electricity to stay pretty far away from one another, thank you very much, so when I went to take my first shower here a few weeks back, it turned into a…well…it was a sh*t show. I undressed and got in the shower and noticed that there were no hot and cold water knobs…which I guess I should have realized because the shower is electric, but I still stood there confused and cold for a solid two minutes before making my next move. I pressed the power button on the electrical shower unit (which I had never seen before) and waited for water to start flowing…nothing happened. So, I pressed it again (and by again I mean I pressed that damn power button like 5 million times)…still no water. I then proceeded to do what any travel-weary, cold, confused person would do: I turned every damn knob in the bathroom (and kitchen, for good measure) until water started coming out of the shower head…except that it never did. I ended up having to WATCH A YOUTUBE VIDEO WITH INSTRUCTIONS FOR HOW TO USE MY SHOWER. Yes, you read that right: my 21 years of fancy, expensive private education and I had to use the internet to figure out how to work a shower. Not one of my finest moments. Ultimately, I had to pull a switch hanging from a box bolted to the ceiling of my bathroom before pressing the power button in order to turn the water on. Needless to say, that was not my first instinct.
My 21 years of fancy, expensive private education and I had to use the internet to figure out how to work my shower. Not one of my finest moments.
Since that experience, I’ve had a few other run-ins with appliances that look nothing like what I’m used to in the States…for example, my oven doesn’t just have a knob for temperature (which would be hard enough to navigate because it’s not in Fahrenheit), it also has a knob – with half a dozen selections – for convection, fan assist and a bunch of other “assists” that I’ve never heard of (seriously, how many different ways can an inanimate oven assist me in the kitchen?) It also doesn’t let you know when it’s preheated, so let’s just say that using the oven the first time was a pretty confusing experience and I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t looked up a pizza place to call for take-out, just in case things went really sideways.
Speaking of the oven, I used it the other day to cook what looks like a perfectly fine batch of cinnamon rolls, but believe you me – the fact that they’re photogenic is the extent of their positive attributes. I knew baking would be a particular challenge for me here…baking is kind of scientific and things need to be measured pretty accurately to produce something edible, and I’m still learning my conversions, which is a process…I mean, it’s been surprisingly tough to rewire my brain to think in units other than those I’ve been using for the last 30-plus years…and, aside from the whole “what the heck does a liter look like?” issue, I have never…and I mean NEVER, seen so many options for flour, sugar and butter in a grocery store in all my life. One thing the Scots do not lack is variety when it comes to baking options.
There were no fewer than a dozen types of flour in the baking aisle…I made a note of some of the types I noticed: You’ve got plain flour, extra fine plain flour, gluten free plain flour, organic plain flour, bread flour, brown flour, self-raising flour, extra-fine self raising flour, sponge self raising flour (um…what?), wholemeal self raising flour, country grain bread flour, ‘very strong’ wholemeal bread flour, stone ground wholemeal flour, seed and grain flour, buckwheat flour, white bread flour, seeded flour and my favorite…”Very Strong Canadian Bread Flour,” which I stayed far away from because what.does.that.even.mean? Oh, and the list I just rattled off? That’s not exhaustive. I must have stood, unmoving, in front of the flour section for 10 minutes just reading the labels and wondering how the hell us Americans have been getting by with our clearly inadequate flour variations.
…and don’t even get me started on the sugar section. Or the butter section…between the English butter, Irish butter, Scottish butter (how different can they be??), salted butter, heavily salted butter, lightly salted butter, unsalted butter, spreadable butter and 400 different types of margarine, I was ready to pull my damn hair out. Nevertheless, I persisted, and did my best to buy what I thought were the equivalents of the ingredients I’ve always used, and I came home and tried to make a batch of homemade cinnamon rolls. What I ended up with was basically cinnamon and sugar flavored leather (I most definitely bought the wrong yeast and God only knows what flour I should have used), but hey…I gave it a try, and now I know…well, I don’t know exactly what I’ll do differently next time, but at least I’ll be far more mentally prepared to face the baking aisle at the supermarket the next time I walk in, and that’s half the battle, right? That being said, there are some European supermarket items I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand (slash ever purchase) after spending my first 31 years in the states… “tingly prawn cocktail” flavored chips being a solid number one on that list.
All things considered, overall, my move has been far from tumultuous…things have actually gone pretty smoothly, but there have definitely been a few moments over the last three weeks – most of which have occurred while I was standing and staring at my appliances – where I’ve pondered the ins and outs of moves, measurements and the metric system.