You alright?

In a quick, high-five styled dinner, a friend who lived in the area for a few years mentioned that locals have a very strange [to Americans] greeting of “You alright?” When Lynn told me about it, I hadn’t experienced myself, yet. I think the way she described it to me perfectly exemplfies how I feel every time someone asks me. Though I can’t recall her exact words; I was a little jet lagged when we met and had only been in the country for a few hours.

In essence, “You alright?” is an informal British greeting. And sometimes it also intends to be a way to question your well-being. As in, “How ya’ doing?”

No matter how many times I’ve heard this phrase now, from co-workers to store clerks, I still am a little frozen with how exactly to respond. Generally, I pause and panic, thinking, “Do I look unwell? Maybe I don’t look alright today. Do I have toothpaste on my face? Do I look a little extra frazzled today?” And by the time the words, “yes, and you?” utter from my lips, it has already been too late in the game of greeting someone. With time, I’m sure that this phrase may become a part of my normal, day-to-day vocabulary. At least one can hope.

An enlightening first vocabulary lesson

On the top level of my workplace, there is a wonderful cafeteria. The food they sell is what I would consider to be fairly multicultural, especially in comparison to most American cafeterias. Every day, there are sandwich, soup, and salad options in addition to the hot meal specials. Each week, there are some expected foods: Curry Thursday!? (a choice of three different curries, one always vegetarian). Yes, please!

Every Friday afternoon, the cafeteria posts a menu for the following week in the lifts (elevators). I find this to be really helpful for planning what days I should bring my lunch. Recently, I had a wonderfully amusing vocabulary lesson based on the Monday cafeteria hot meal: pasties.

I was slightly confused and embarrassed to read this. Clearly, the Monday hot meal was not American pasties. I had to ask. And then explain my confusion while turning bright red in the face. I’m happy to make my co-workers chuckle at my limited UK vocabulary. A pasty (pasties) in the UK (excluding Northern Ireland*) is a savory, half-moon-shaped, baked pastry. Sometimes known as a Cornish pasty, which has Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status in Europe and must be filled with beef, sliced or diced potato, swede (turnip), and onion. If the pasty isn’t specified as Cornish, then the filling can vary. But always, the flat circle has the fillings place in the center and it is folded in half, crimping the edge to seal the pastry. The final baked good results in a semicircular food item.

A tray of UK pasties.

A tray of UK pasties.

I heard the description from my co-workers and declared it to be like a wellington or a calzone. I had first ran across a wellington at a cute pub called The Walnut Tree in Worlington. Another military spouse had taken me out to lunch, and I ordered a wellington filled with root vegetables, which was quite delightful! Thankfully, all of my co-workers are foodies. The differences between pasties, wellingtons, and calzones are subtle to me. A pasty is made with dough, a wellington is made with puff pastry, and a calzone is what makes pizza more portable. To me, I think they are all pretty much the same – unless you’re talking about the¬†adhesive coverings applied to cover a person’s nipples (Americans pasties)!

*In Northern Ireland, a pastie looks to be a deep fried burger that can be served on a “bap” (bun) as a pastie bap. Alternatively, if served with “chips” (thick steak fries), then it is a pastie supper.