An American trying to cook abroad


My third failed pancake showed no signs of sympathy.  Once again, I found myself somewhere in between the Americanized imperial units I had been taught to bake with and the metric system.  It is particularly upsetting to expect the sweet luxurious heaven of pancakes, only to be trounced by a few hundred (maybe?) milliliters of milk and a moody gas oven.  What’s worse is the fact that pancakes are extremely simple to make.  How can one possibly screw up a three-ingredient syrup vehicle?  Oh dear American cooking abroad, you will find a way.  You will also screw up any other cakes/pie crusts and every holiday cookie you normally bake to perfection at home.

If you are an American overseas, here are some tips to help easy the catastrophe that is cooking abroad.


These do not exist anywhere else in the world.  Buy them and bring them with you.  If you are living in a commonwealth country, you may be tempted to use the Canadian or Australian measures that look very similar – but don’t be a damned fool.  Of course Americans made our unique-only-to-the-USA version of imperial baking measures.


NO United Kingdom… the numbers 1-9 are NOT F@#!&ING TEMPERATURES!  Welcome to the land of “gas marks”.  As if converting from Fahrenheit to Celsius wasn’t tense enough, the British use gas marks.  To prevent you from pulling out your hair, here’s a conversion chart that has – so far – proved to be correct.


Those big boxes of Arm & Hammer baking soda?  Forget about it.  Your only going to find small sachets of “bicarbonate of soda” hidden within the baking goods, which is not at all the same thing as baking soda.  With bicarbonate, you are going to have to add some acidic ingredient to get it to rise (i.e. honey, lemon, some chocolates).  Here’s a good explanation of baking soda vs. bicarbonate of soda and tips on how to cook with bicarbonate.


Crisco?  It literally does not exist outside of the USA unless you can find it in a USA-owned Costco store.  You can use margarine and no one will be able to tell… but you will.


Alternatively, you can throw away your collection of recipes and learn everything again from scratch, but defeat is not the American way.  So don’t worry my fellow countryman.  You will fail, but you will rise to pancake again.

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