Cait, I keep seeing tweets about the joy of that most useful kitchen appliance: the electric kettle. Why is everyone talking about kettles … again?
Well, Imogen – the New York Times has just discovered kettles.
One of the world’s most-read newspapers did a deep dive last week into the benefits of the good old electric kettle.
This piece on “home kettles” blew up after it was promoted as “A Swift and Easy Way to Heat Water Without Using A Stove” – earning the paper, and by extension, the entire population of the United States, a hearty internet-roasting.
The NYT’s favorite (the Cuisinart CPK-17 PerfecTemp Cordless Electric Kettle) will set Americans back US$85 and sounds like a complete rort to me. My kettle was A$39 from Kmart. But we are talking about people who have just found out they can boil water without turning the stove on – if they want to spend a small fortune, who am I to stop them?
Americans not using electric kettles has been a thing for a while. Every few years, the internet is reminded that American homes are traditionally kettle-less, and we lose our minds all over again.
This time a tweet from Stefan Roberts – from the notably kettle-heavy UK – set it all off:
Everyone jumped in.
I lived in the States for a bit, and, indeed, I rarely saw an electric kettle. People microwaved their water, I swear. Do Americans not use them, or is it some urban myth?
Wait, Imogen, are you telling me you would heat your water in the microwave?
No, no. (I would never.) I lived in an apartment where we heated water in a pot on the stove or a … stovetop kettle.
OK, we can continue. But no, kettles in the US are not a staple like they are in Australia. Most people, as you did, boil their water on the stove (which sounds very cottage-core and not very quick). The other way is to heat it in the microwave – which sounds gross and, I assume, would make the water taste weird.
But you can find electric kettles in the US, and people own them. Our very own Miles Herbert swears he had one growing up in Illinois.
Miles reckons he has “never seen someone heat water in a pot or the microwave”.
Asked why his house had the correct equipment for making tea while the rest of the US does not, Miles says they arrived amid a “tea explosion pushed by Starbucks”, which is an upsettingly American reason to acquire a kitchen appliance.
Wait, she United States has a Big Tea lobby, and the “just microwave the mug. It will be fine” entrance? It truly is a divided nation. How did Starbucks push correct tea drinking in the Herbert household but leave so many others behind?
Miles said his mum already had a stovetop kettle when Starbucks started pushing tea, so they were already halfway there. If you have already bought into the need to boil water for tea several times a day, getting an electric kettle makes sense.
Other Americans claim they, too, owned a kettle.
OK, this is truly bizarre, and I feel like I am losing my mind. I have an electric kettle. I see them in people’s houses all the time. Why is this an article? Why is this a thing people say people in the US do not have? I feel like im living in another reality https://t.co/K51m0Vr19e
— poss (@possumkratom69) June 29, 2022
So between Miles’s mum and possumkratom69, that’s at least two.
So, is this NYT situation just a beat-up over a headline? A … a storm in a teacup, if you will? Or indicative of a deeper, more sinister cultural divide?
It’s a bit of both. In New York, where kitchen bench space is at a premium, an electric kettle may not cut, especially if you’re in the habit of buying most of your caffeinated beverages ready to drink.
I’m not saying anything, bcos the last time I asked why Americans don’t use a kettle – I caused a diaspora war and diplomatic crisis🙂 https://t.co/dtIc4sMWWm
— Ash (@theashrb) June 29, 2022
The US also broke from the British empire in a fairly dramatic and tea-based fashion. According to Miles, the lack of kettles is about capitalism (of course) and also about “the American dream and pushing back against the British empire”.
OK, but why don’t they like this incredibly convenient, delightful, and frankly indispensable device? Is it just that they don’t drink much tea? How do they make noodles?
There is an actual reason. It’s boring.
The US does not have the voltage standards to use electric kettles. So the wall sockets for power cords are 100-127 volts, whereas in the UK, for instance, they have 220-240.
In Australia, the standard voltage is 230V. Boiling a kettle in the US would take much longer – think a minute and a half – so you could argue they’re not much quicker or more convenient than the stove.
Why not just use a converter?
I am not an electrician, so I am not going to answer. The internet also has many views on whether this works and whether it’s worth it. Some of them seem quite dangerous.