There are moments, whilst travelling, when one is faced with the incontrovertible realisation of being in an entirely different culture. For example, one might be travelling in Japan and suddenly spy a man riding a bike with a pet cat draped around his neck, or be wandering through a marketplace in Mauritius and suddenly be whisked into a darkened alley, where one buys unwanted tablecloths purely to ensure the sunlit world is seen again.
For an Australian exploring America, a country where so many similarities of behaviour and lifestyle abound, such moments can be few and far between. When these moments do strike, they are the more powerful for being unexpected and are often, as in the following case, mighty entertaining.
It all began on a dark winter’s night when, after being picked up from my Asheville hotel, I found myself in a Kingsport Cheddar’s with L.MiteMaster, his mother, and his sister, A.DrChocBacon.
After perusing the menu and giving our orders to the very perky waiter, he returned with our hot spinach and artichoke dip and our drinks. At this point, I witnessed something rather extraordinary occur. L.MiteMaster’s mother, the incomparably warm and friendly Mrs.C, began concocting a potion whilst chatting amiably to me, her returning-houseguest.
“Might I ask what that is?” I enquired, amazed.
“Why, it’s an LLC! A friend of mine turned me onto them, and they’re delicious. Shall I make you one?” replied she, emanating generosity and friendliness.
At first I demurred but, after gentle prodding, I assented, and Mrs.C called over the waiter.
“May we please have another glass of iced water with a slice each of lemon and lime, as well as a cherry?”
Within seconds (thank you American tipping system), I had the makings of the LLC in front of me. Following the directions of Mrs.C, I squeezed the lemon, the lime, and the maraschino cherry into the iced water, dropped them in, swirled them around, and then added the secret ingredient.
The very secret, very American ingredient, revealed in the following photo:
That’s right, folks. Splenda. And lots of it. Oh, how I giggled as I ripped open packets and stirred them in, listening to Mrs.C urging me to try “just one more”. I squeezed, I ripped, I poured, I stirred, and ultimately, I sipped my own LLC: the Lemon Lime and Cherry.
At that very moment, I felt American.
And at that moment, it tasted good.