Ode to America

I have to admit it: this post isn’t entirely new content. Some people reading this will have either helped create this list, or have read my “Ode to America” before. However, I have expanded upon a few of the items (and removed some of the more obscure ones!), so that you too can also enjoy some of these more mundane reasons to love the United States. Like many reading this, I was raised on a healthy dose of America. I watched Sesame Street at lunchtime, with crisp sandwiches on my lap. I followed Zac and Kelly on Saved By The Bell- including The College Years (and the Las Vegas wedding movie!). I yearned to visit New York whilst riding the rollercoaster of Ross and Rachel’s relationship in Friends and later had my eyes opened by Samantha and screamed at the screen for Carrie (with regards to Big), indulging in the six seasons of Sex And The City. I had (have?) a firm belief that in America, all kids can skip double dutch, they kick fire hydrants on scorching days, cheerleaders rule the school, and you can afford walk up apartments in Greenwich village with your friend (Monica) or on the Upper East Side in a brownstone by writing a weekly column in a mediocre newspaper. I guess the summation of this is, my view of America was (and still is), one where anything is possible: success is celebrated and people have a refreshing honesty. It doesn’t disappoint.

Food

So, it’s true. You don’t really need to cook in America. I think there is a scene in Sex In The City where Carrie uses her oven/stove to store Vogue magazines. I didn’t turn my oven on once. Eating out is cheap. Shopping in the grocery store is comparatively expensive versus the UK. Online delivery is almost non-existent, which means carrying bags of shopping through the city. Whether it’s take out or restaurant eating, it’s better, faster and cheaper Stateside. Some particular highlights that were added to the list during the year I was there are:

Steak

I don’t know if I’ll be able eat steak in the UK again. I suppose I will have to, but I have been spoilt. This sounds dramatic, but I am not the only one saying it. I took any visitors to Wildfire, which is a mid-tier restaurant, and they all recall the steak, and how it was cooked (and the quantity of it!). In addition, just generally, the beef is better in America: it’s not because it’s hormone pumped. Yes, you can get cheap meat, that tastes good because of the hormones, but the high-end meat is phenomenal. I don’t know why or how- it just is!

The most memorable steak I have ever had, was actually at Bavette’s on West Kinzie in Chicago. I have mentioned Bavette’s before on my post about my favourite cocktails here, but this steak is something to behold: in taste, size and price tag. It’s a bone in, dry aged ribeye. It’s 22oz. It’s $60. It’s worth it. Served with Bearnaise save, and we selected garlic mash and broccoli to go with it. I’m ashamed to say, I couldn’t finish it (don’t have a starter…it is not required). However, through a haze Champagne Smash and 2 large glasses of red wine, I can still recall how good this steak was.

Bone In Dry Aged Ribeye (22oz) at Bavette’s

Burgers

As above. They taste so good. Whether it’s nursing a hangover with a $4 burger, or eating a delicious burger at Au Cheval– regarded by many as one of the best burgers you can have in Chicago- America knows how to cook an excellent burger. In addition, Au Cheval plays and outstanding selection of 90s rap on…wait for it…reel-to-reel. Totally worth the trip, and top the burger with the thick cut, peppered bacon. It’s practically a gammon steak, but it’s delicious.

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Au Cheval Burger

Brunch

I am huge fan of going out for breakfast and brunch, whether it’s brunch on the weekend, or I quite enjoyed meeting people for breakfast, pre-work in the week. I’m not really sure why Brits haven’t 100% embraced brunch. It feels like it is starting to appear, with restaurants introducing brunch menus, but it’s not the social norm- yet!

A few places to go for brunch are the Chicago chain Yolk (I lived by the Streeterville location and the River North location was on my way to work), The Bongo Room (amazing pancake selection- will always remember my first Bongo Room trip where I had salted pretzel and white chocolate pancakes), The Wildberry Cafe and Little Goat– try the crumpets with chorizo maple syrup here.

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Pancakes in the Wildberry Cafe

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Feeling Full After Brunch at Yolk

Snow

So, the thing about Chicago is, there is a very distinct Summer and Winter. Autumn and Spring,  not so much, but we are talking about variations of -33C to +33C. I arrived in Chicago on the Sunday, and started work on the Monday. On Monday, it snowed. Brits reading this will know the delight we get from snow. I am 30 in a few weeks and I still run to the window at work when it snows: “is it settling?”, “will we get home?” and the big one “will we be working from home tomorrow?!”.

America- well, Chicago- doesn’t get this excited. Snow is a normal occurrence, and these guys know how to deal with it. They plough it, salt it and get on with it. They must laugh hysterically at the Brits and the state of our roads and airports with a sprinkle of snow! The winter of 2013-2014 was known as the Polar Vortex. So the first few times it snowed, I was so excited. However, I discovered something in America. I am not graceful. I am not elegant. I am, in fact, a “faller”. I fell over a lot last year. (Note- wrap dresses and ice, do not mix…I have revealed my underwear to an unsuspecting passer by with a comedic, banana skin style slip).  Snow boots are a must. I purchased some Sorel “Joan of Artic” boots. They were required to stay upright and keep my feet warm and dry!

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Snowy Roads in Minneapolis

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View Of A Frozen Lake Michigan From My Apartment In Chicago

Customer service

Service is amazing in America. Whether it’s in a restaurant (I just feel that these people really earn their tips. Since being back in the UK, I have really resented parting with cash for mediocre service…I always do, of course, but having to ask 3 times for your bill, then finally going up to pay for it because they have left you for 20 minutes…), or in a store, people are more helpful, more knowledgeable and just happier to help.

Success is celebrated and compliments given

It does fit all the social stereotypes, but Americans are better at celebrating success, or- really- just giving compliments. The high-five culture is a real thing. It’s something that Brits find it easy to mock, but if you’re working within it, it really does help. The delivery of compliments is completely different- during my time in the US, I let my bobbed hair cut grow out. When I started to wear it straight and down, Americans would say “Wow- look at your hair! It looks great! I love it!” (yes- ok Brits, you might think this is insincere, but it does make you feel good about yourself). In comparison, upon my return to the UK, Brits will say “Wow. Look at your hair.”. It’s so subtle, but it’s different.

Closets

They’re huge. I love them.

American homes are just fit for purpose: they design cupboards and closets to hide away all your stuff.

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My huge closet in Chicago- for a 1 bed apartment!

So, in conclusion…

My childhood, American indoctrination was a good foundation for my time in America! It really is a fantastic place: Brits- we can be snobby, sceptical and judgemental- but living there will change your mind. I know there are plenty of things wrong with America (the homeless problem, the medical care, pension plans etc.) but if you do ever get the chance to visit or live there, I would highly recommend doing it! I would return in a heartbeat!

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