Saturday, September 03, 2005


Following on with my blog on marrows, I thought I would talk about squash. The thing is, if you ask for squash in the UK expecting a vegetable, you're in for a surprise. Squash is a concentrated liquid fruit drink mix that you mix with water, sparkling water, or lemonade (I'll get back to lemonade later). Typical flavors are blackcurrant (practically synonymous with the brand Ribena), orange, grapefruit, apple and blackcurrant, and tropical fruit. They need no refrigeration, even after opening. Needless to say, they are not 100% fruit juice, more like 10% (HiC anyone?). You can buy a "high juice" squash which is 50% fruit juice, and, to me, tastes a lot better. Squashes are not the only concentrated liquid drink mixes - they also have something called cordials. Near as I can tell, cordials are like squashes except they're made with herbs rather than fruits (although it looks like some companies call their squashes cordials because it adds a certain panache). Common flavors are elderflower, ginger, and lemongrass. I'm very partial to the elderflower cordials myself. Cordials seem to be more concentrated, and are like a syrup.

I like these beverages for many reasons: the smaller refrigerators mean that things not needing refrigeration are very convenient; the lack of automatic icemaker means that I have to drink water at room temperature, which is none too appealing, but the squashes and cordials make water much more interesting; there is a bigger variety in beverage flavor options than in the US. Not only are squashes and cordials available in more flavors than I am normally able to buy in US stores, but due to their additive nature, they can be combined with all sorts of drinks to make interesting combinations. And since they're not refrigerated, we usually have a few flavors open in the pantry (more on flavors in a minute). I find that I like to add the elderflower cordial to lemonade. Except that lemonade isn't lemon juice mixed with water and sugar here. Lemonade is a sweet carbonated drink with a hint of lemon, similar to 7up or Sprite. What I haven't been able to determine is what they call American style lemonade here. It's simply not around. I've asked a few people, and no-one seems to know.

Having a small child has also led to a discovery here. When I am at someone else's house and I ask if they have juice for my daughter, they invariably say yes and produce a bottle of squash. Bear in mind that the average squash is about 10% fruit juice. People don't seem to keep juice around, and think that squash is pretty much the same thing. And to add insult to injury, many of the drinks (and other products) list "No added sugar". There is still sweetener in the product, I assure you; what it means is that the sweetener is aspartame, saccharine, or some similar. Personally I'd rather give my daughter sugar than artificial sweetener, but the reality is I just want fruit juice.

Back to flavors: The English seem to like a number of unusual beverage flavors. I've already mentioned elderflower and lemongrass. The other day I bought a 2 liter bottle of dandelion and burdock soda. I don't even know what burdock is, wait I'm looking it up. Well, no wonder, it's a native English plant. For those of you who are curious, dandelion and burdock soda tastes like a syrupy Coke flavored with anise. One of the squashes we have is orange and barley water. Even ginger drinks comes in many forms besides ale; you can find ginger beer (also rhyming cockney slang for queer), wine, and cordials.

The only thing missing from this smorgasbord of beverages is ice. People here don't often have automatic icemakers, which comes as no surprise, seeing as it usually isn't overly hot in this country. But I grew up in the land of iced tea where temperatures were the upper 80s/lower 90s with humidity in the 90s (all Fahrenheit) for about 5 months of the year, and I am used to having ice in my drinks, with the accompanying automatic icemaker. And so I have vowed that when we go to buy a fridge, it will have an icemaker. Some things I refuse to give up }wink{.



At 2:11 AM, Blogger intangible-tangerine said...

The lemonade you describe (water, lemon, sugar) would just be described as 'home made lemonade' to distinguish it from sprite type stuff. You can get ice-makers, my gran had one, they're just not common.

At 5:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most people would just call American lemonade 'Cloudy lemonade' if mixed with sparkling water/another carbonated beverage or simply call the still version 'lemon juice'.

Also, your friends are odd. Everyone I know keeps real fruit juice as well as squashes. Right now we have fresh orange, apple and cranberry juices in our fridge. :)

You'll be happy to know most modern fridges (mainly the ones by bigger brands such as Samsung and Beko) are following the ice maker trend in the UK. I personally like to fill my glass with ice - like, just ice, and sip on the icy water as it melts.

At 5:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 8:15 AM, Blogger I18n G.A.L. said...

Exactly - cloudy lemonade, while very nice, is not American lemonade. Limeade is unheard of. There are no frozen fruit juice concentrates.
My friends may be odd, or perhaps yours are.
Fridges with automatic ice makers exist here, but very few people have them, at least around here.

At 8:01 PM, Blogger cypher371 said...

I call it American Lemonade... I can't stand the "English Lemonade" it's nasty stuff! Give me real lemonade any day. Thankfully we have cloudy lemonade which is the closest I can get and it's so much tastier... it actually tastes like lemons for a start!

I think having an American step dad helped me in that regard!

At 10:30 AM, Anonymous Dird said...

Are you still in the UK? If so Tesco's "Double strength Orange, Lemon & Pineapple squash" is heaven


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