Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My English Trifle, and a New York problem

by Anna Jones Buttimore

I've just finished reading English Trifle by Josi S. Kilpack. It's a great book; the heroine is delightfully nutty, her daughter amusingly long suffering, the action starts right from the beginning, and, as though that weren't enough, there are recipes in it! The chicken tikka massala recipe is almost identical to mine, plus scones, trifle and even crumpets! (Although, as one character so rightly stated, no one makes crumpets any more. I buy them - 50p (about 75 cents) for six.)

A couple of weeks ago I was toying with the idea of producing a traditional British cookbook adapted for the American market. No longer. Sister Kilpack has not only beaten me to it, but thrown in a gripping murder mystery to boot. Darn it.

I do have to take issue with her trifle recipe, however - so here's mine:
  • Put a layer of trifle sponges or sponge fingers, or even sponge cake, in the bottom of a glass casserole dish. Add the preferred fruit - strawberries are great, pineapple pieces, whatever you like best.

  • Make up a pint of strawberry jelly (jello?) according to the instructions on the packet, and pour it over the sponge and fruit. Put it in the fridge to set. It seeps into the sponge - delicious!

  • Once set, pour lots of cold thick custard over the top. I love Ambrosia Devon Custard. Josi Kilpack suggests that vanilla pudding is an acceptable substitute. Never having tasted vanilla pudding, I can't comment. I did look online for a recipe for custard, but they all started by asking for "100 grams of custard powder" and I'll bet you don't have that in America either.

  • Add a layer of thick whipped cream. My husband tells me American cream comes with added sugar. Our cream here doesn't have sugar in it, it's just pure juice of cow.

  • Finally, crumble a Cadbury's flake bar over the top or, if you don't have those either, grate some chocolate.

Apart from the trifle recipe, it was difficult reading a book set here in England without picking out the bits which seemed to be rather un-English. The pantry contained acorn squash and rutabagas, neither of which I have ever heard of, but perhaps things are different in Devonshire, or "Devon" as it's been called here for the last 200 years. (It drives me absolutely potty that NewFamilySearch.org lists the county of my ancestors as "Norfolkshire" when it has always been called "Norfolk.") Everyone in the book seemed to like to go on holiday or visit relatives for Guy Fawkes Day, whereas all our family has ever done is let off a few fireworks in the garden. But then, like 99.9% of the rest of the UK, we're neither nobility nor servants. Maybe those in higher circles are bigger on tradition.

Several times, however, I thought Sister Kilpack hadn't done her homework, and proved to be wrong. The hero had his mother's number listed in his phone as "Mom's cell" when any English person would call it "Mum's mobile". But then I remembered that the hero's mother is American and he has lived there for several years. The Butler (I hope I'm not ruining the story for anyone here) was obliged to the Earl for paying for his wife's much needed medical treatment. Aha, thought I. Medical treatment is free here! But then it proved to be treatment for alcohol addiction, which isn't readily available on the NHS. So my apologies to Sister Kilpack, and well done, you did indeed do plenty of thorough research, and you've written a cracking book.

This brings me to another problem. The book I am currently writing includes an American character - a New York cop, no less - and I have a single chapter set in New York. I run a very real risk of having him say "a couple of things" instead of "a couple things", and "she's in hospital" instead of "she's in the hospital." Well, maybe not those examples exactly, but there a myriad of little differences which could make any American reader stumble and destroy the authenticity of the character I worked so hard to create. Are there any New York cops out there who would proofread it for me?


Jennie said...

Only pre-whipped cream like Dream whip is pre-sweetened. We can easily buy plain whipping cream with no additives.

I say "a couple of things" and everyone I know does too. Leaving out the article sounds odd. I always thought that people who say "graduate college" instead of "graduate from college" probably hadn't and those who say "she's in hospital" instead of "she's in the hospital" were under too much stress to get it right. When did either of our cultures decide dropping identifying articles was the way to go?
I enjoyed your blog; I enjoyed Josi's book too.

Anna Buttimore said...

I agree Jenny; sometimes it's quite bizzarre. And why "She's in the hospital" but not "She's in the school"?

I noticed Josi had left out the "of" after couple a couple times (!) in the book and assumed it was an Americanism. Perhaps it's a Josiism! We should all have our own isms!

Jordan McCollum said...

Oh, I sympathize! The heroine of my WIP was born and raised in Ireland, so I've had to do a TON of research on Commonwealth and Hiberno English (and Irish slang).

She called the parking lot a car park so many time in my WIP that one wonderful crit partner was catching the American hero out on calling it a parking lot, LOL.

I imagine I'll give a copy editor fits, since the American hero uses "toward" in his narration, and the Irish heroine uses "towards."

Interesting point: according to Wikipedia, the Irish say "in the hospital," but other than that, they follow the Commonwealth standard (she's at school, when she was in university, etc.).

Josi said...

I have crossed a milestone--a true Englander read the book and didn't hack it to death! I've been living in fear of that ever since the book came out. Devonshire was simply because most American's recognize it as more British than Devon :-) Thank you for the review, and for pointing out the things I did mess up on. I had to ex-pats help me with it, but they've both been in the states for more than 20 years. I'm glad you liked it overall and appreciate the feedback.

Anna Buttimore said...

Josi! I loved the book, well done. If you plan to do something set over here again, I'd love to help, and you're welcome to come and stay.

Well done on the recipes. I may still try to do the cookbook but probably a few years down the line when yours is out of print.

Now I'm going to read Lynn Gardner's "Pursued" which is apparently set here too...

Anonymous said...

Anna: I'm not a NY cop, but I am a New Yorker (upstate NY) that has been transplanted to MT. I have been told that I still talk like a New Yorker so would love to proofread for you if still needed!
--Amy Crosby