I just made myself a cup of tea. I did so by boiling water in a metal kettle on the stove top (or on the “hob,” as the Brits would say). While I enjoy the old-fashioned nature of this exercise, every time I do it, I miss the white plastic electric kettle I had in London.
The electric kettle is the most useful, practical, and efficient kitchen device that every single British home has by default and uses on a daily basis and that no American home seems to know exists and lives perfectly happily without. Ignorance is bliss.
But, once you’ve had an electric kettle, you can’t go back. It is a life changer. I don’t understand how most American homes survive without it. When my parents made tea, they would put a tea bag in a mug, fill the mug with cold water, and stick the mug in the microwave. If a British person saw that, they would cringe.
After I had been living in the UK for a few years, I tried to persuade my mother of the value of an electric kettle. She was not getting it. So I decided to buy her one as a gift. I made the mistake of purchasing it in the UK and shipping it to the US. Because of the different voltages in the two countries (the US is 110 volts and the UK is 220 volts), the kettle wouldn’t even bring the water to a boil.
“It doesn’t work!” she said. I swear, Mom, it is a very useful device, it just isn’t the right voltage. My attempts at persuading my mother were clearly not working. It’s like when you take a group of friends to your favorite restaurant and that ends up being the one night you get bad service/food. I swear guys, this restaurant is normally excellent, I don’t know what is going on tonight.
One explanation I’ve heard for why American households aren’t as likely to have electric kettles is that Americans drink more coffee than tea. So, while for the Brits an electric kettle is an indispensable device for their ritualistic tea consumption, for Americans, an electric coffee maker makes more sense as a staple household appliance. And indeed, most American homes do have a coffee machine; I use one every morning to make my coffee. In British homes, on the other hand, I infrequently saw coffee makers (at least not electric ones; some people would have manual French coffee presses).
My counter-argument to all this is that electric kettles aren’t just for making tea. They are designed for quickly and easily boiling water, for all its myriad purposes. It’s so much faster to boil water in the electric kettle and dump it into a pot (to make spaghetti, for example) than it is to slowly wait for water to boil in a pot on the stove. I’m telling you, American readers, just get an electric kettle. You will never look back.