Traditions Made Anew

Why hello there. Guess what? I’ve been back in England for half a year now. As Oscar Wilde quipped in An Ideal Husband,

“Oh, I love London society! It is entirely composed now of beautiful idiots and brilliant lunatics. Just what society should be.” 😉

I recently celebrated a birthday. Whether my increasing years lead me toward beautiful idiocy or brilliant lunacy is yet to be determined…

I find that birthdays are rather nostalgic times. On birthdays, we yearn for the simple things we enjoyed in childhood. For instance, a pizookie. Allow me to explain. A pizookie is a giant deep-dish chocolate chip cookie baked at a Californian restaurant called BJs. My childhood birthdays always included a trip to BJs for a birthday pizookie.

But when one moves to another country, one often finds that traditions become harder to uphold because fundamental components of them (such as pizookies) simply do not exist. What is one to do? As Tim Gunn from Project Runway oft professed, “Make it work.” In this case, Will and I found a recipe for a pizookie, and he baked a birthday pizookie for me at home.




Sometimes old traditions are best when made anew. To paraphrase Alexander Graham Bell, when one door–perhaps an old tradition–closes, if we spend so much time mourning the closed door, we may not notice the new door that has just opened.

My new door contained a homemade pizookie and a trip to one of my favorite places: the theatre.


Will and I saw Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre. I last saw Phantom of the Opera  when I was twelve years old at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre with Mom. It was sweet to reminisce and also introduce the show to Will.


Phantom of the Opera emphasises redemption. In response to the young lover’s plea to show compassion, the Phantom justifies his refusal with the snarl, “The world showed no compassion to me!”

It takes Christine’s kindness to redeem the Phantom from his misanthropic scorn and show him that compassion exists in the world.

She sings to him,

“Pitiful creature of darkness,

What kind of life have you known?

God gave me courage to show you,

You are not alone…”

Feeling valued, understood, and cared about can radically change a life. We should all be more aware of our impact on others, and the power we hold to redeem or condemn them.

On a final note, I will share a funny little tale with you. Whenever I start to feel like I belong in England, something tends to happen to make me feel like a foreigner in a strange land again. In this episode of “An American in London,” Janelle hunts for relish.

It all began when I decided to make In-In-Out style hamburgers last weekend. The secret sauce recipe calls for relish; hence, I set out to acquire some. I walked into Sainsbury’s (a large British market) and headed to the sauces aisle.


This claimed to be relish, but was certainly not relish.

The hunt continued…



These claimed to be pickles, but were certainly not pickles.

Back to the drawing board.


Aha! I discovered a source of error: the main ingredient for relish, pickles, are not called “pickles” in England. They are called “gherkins.” Perhaps this is what lead me astray. I began hunting for some kind of saucy gherkins.


And… I struck out. This was the only other container in the store labeled “gherkins.” Alas.

But I had one final hope. I walked resolutely to the “International Foods” section. You can tell a lot about a country by what food it deems worthy of the International Foods section.

British markets contain a decent selection of “Traditional Asian” foods.


They also contain a ridiculous amount of Indian food.


Miles upon miles of curry sauces. I have learned that Indian food is to Brits as Mexican food is to Americans. Brits tend to not fully understand Indian culture as Americans tend to not fully understand Mexican culture, but Brits adore Indian food as much as Americans adore Mexican food.

After weaving my way through aisle upon aisle of Indian food, I arrived at the “American Foods” section.


Or rather, shelf. Tiny end of aisle shelf. I’m glad Brits have distilled American taste down to junk food, beef jerky and Snapple…

Although I jest, I am grateful for the little American foods section and the red, white, and blue color scheme shelves. It functions as a fun little reminder of home and supplies me with one essential item for celebrating Thanksgiving in London: pumpkin pie puree.

I left Sainsbury’s that day without any relish, but I had the chance to relish both my past and present. Life in England is never going to be the same as life in America, so I shall adopt the best British traditions whilst holding on to my favorite American ones.

~Farewell, Janelle



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