‘Put the what on?’
Recently I was at my American friend’s house and I asked if I could ‘put the kettle on’. Yes, this is a very British thing to do, naturally.
Her husband looked up in shock.
‘Do we have a kettle?’ he asked.
His wife shook her head. ‘Just microwave some water in a cup,’ she said. And I did just that.
I was at another friend’s house and it was 94 degrees outside. The combined factors of it being 3pm and that I am British meant that I needed a cup of tea.
I looked for the kettle. There was not one in sight, so I microwaved my water, plopped in my tea bag, and headed back out to the poolside, to much mirth at the fact that I was having a cup of tea in the sweltering heat.
So…I began to ponder. Do Americans not have kettles? Why had I not noticed this before? Is it really a British thing? I feel like I now need to conduct a survey of American friends to find out who has a kettle in their kitchen.
I also began to research this fact. Some bloke called Roy Sutherland has written an article on why Americans don’t have kettles. Yes, really he has.
He says this:
‘…..Browsing through Virginia Postrel’s column on cookery equipment on the US website Bloomberg.com, I was astonished to come across this recommendation among a list of fairly obscure kitchen implements:
Cuisinart electric kettle, $65. You may have gone to Britain and experienced the joy of their electric kettles, which heat up water for tea almost instantly. Sadly, you will not experience that joy on this side of the pond, because they use 220-volt power and we use 110, which apparently means that our electric kettles cannot heat up water as fast as theirs. However, an electric kettle is still extremely useful. It heats up water faster than a stovetop kettle and you can’t burn out the bottom of the pot. Also excellent for offices and dorm rooms. I have this Cuisinart, which is nice because the kettle itself is wireless (there’s a base with a heating element that plugs in).‘
Then he adds this:
‘Seriously? Americans can put a man on the moon and build the USS Nimitz, yet in 2014 you need to travel to Britain to experience the electric kettle? And people need a detailed explanation of what one is, and is used for?’
(He also congratulates Britain on its use of roundabouts, but laughs at the fact we don’t all have dishwashers. Fact: we did not have a dishwasher in our UK house until 2010, and we only got one when we extended our kitchen, cos one would not have fitted in our previous miniscule cubby-hole of a kitchen.)
Anyway, that is the phenomenon of The Kettle in America-land.