UK: Put the Kettle On????

Old Jan 5th, 2005, 03:10 AM
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Kate Fox's book 'Watching the English' is very interesting on the making and serving of tea as a social lubricant, much as Kavey points out. The first thing anyone in our family does after getting home from work or shopping (and especially a long trip away) is, precisely, to put the kettle on. No-one needs to be asked.

Tea-cosies aren't so common (outside National Trust shops) since central heating became widespread and more tea has been drunk in one-off, one teabag per mug format. Mind, I do notice the number of woolly hats that might as well have tea-cosies.

As for the soap operas, a variant occurred in EastEnders when Pauline (a matriarch character) found some family member working themselves up to tell her some news she wasn't going to like, and said with a combination of foreboding, resignation and menace "I'll fetch the biscuits, shall I?".
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Old Jan 5th, 2005, 03:35 AM
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We have always had the kettle going in our house when someone came into the house of even if my mother came home after work. This was in the U.S.

My teachers were shocked when as a child we all were asked what we had for breakfast and I told her tea and toast. By her reaction you would have thought my mother was giving me whisky for breakfast. No child I knew my age drank tea, only grown ups and my family.

We were also seen as a bit eccentric to be drinking tea in 95F weather with our equally odd German neighbour. It actually cools you down...maybe we sweat the heat out with a cup of tea!

At work each area here in my Dublin office has a tea/coffee station...I have my 2 cups this morning already...now all they need is a cappucino Machine!
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Old Jan 5th, 2005, 04:00 AM
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I recall French visitors being amazed at the ubiquity of kettles in UK homes - they claimed not to use them.Similarly for eye-level grills.
They just dont understand tea & toast.
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Old Jan 5th, 2005, 04:05 AM
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PalQ - What a interesting thread you have started and I am quite enjoying.

I am British living in the USA and we most certainly "put the kettle on". That means here a tea kettle on the cooker or stove as it is called here. Electric kettles are not common. Coffee makers that is another story. Agree it is very difficult to get a decent cup of tea in a restaurant due to the fact the water is not boiled.

I have and use a tea cozy. Always pick up when in the U.K. often from the street market. The tea bag or tea leaves left in the pot overly long will steep the tea - the tea cozy keeps it hot.

Growing up when we were not at school we had our hot meal at noon and this was called dinner. Mum called the evening meal tea. What does it matter. My grown children all call the evening meal dinner. My husband with a German back ground who grew up on a farm calls the evening meal supper.

As a child growing up in Suffolk we sang the nursery rhyme "Polly put the kettle on Susie take it off again".

I know nothing about the new class system rating.

Curious about the phrase "it is not my cup of tea" - any one have a history lesson on this?

Regards,
Sandy
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Old Jan 5th, 2005, 04:49 AM
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Oddly enough, it doesn't seem to be in Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, but it must come from the notion that tea is understood to be very much a matter of personal taste, since using the phrase carries the implication that there is no value judgement involved - or at least the speaker would like you to think so.
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Old Jan 5th, 2005, 05:44 AM
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Sheila, I have a permanent tea filter, similar to what is shown at this URL:
http://www.finum.com/l-engl/p02teedauerfilter.htm

The filter keeps the tea leaves from floating freely in the water and has plenty of room for the tea leaves to swell. After the tea has steeped for three minutes, I just dip the filter up and down in the tea a few times to rinse the tea out of the leaves and then remove the filter and discard the tea leaves. I then have perfect tea, with no leaves left floating in the pot. I also have a plastic permanent tea filter, and it works just as well. The little handles on the side at the top keep the filter from falling into the tea pot.
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Old Jan 5th, 2005, 07:34 AM
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I live in the UK, and don't drink tea, which doesn't dissaude people from serving it to me. I've known my MIL now for 16 years, and she STILL asks me everytime I see her if I'd like a cup of tea. DH's aunts assume everyone in the world drinks tea and just brings me a cup, which I then have to force down.

And apparently tea cures everything from a mild cold to cancer to a death in the family! Doesn't matter what happens, you're always given a cup a of tea.

I loved having an electric kettle in the States--my mother couldn't figure out how I could cook past so quickly until she realised that I boiled the water in the kettle first. She has that kettle now, but still persists in making tea in the microwave.
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Old Jan 5th, 2005, 08:02 AM
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As an exiled Scot living in Canada, I am probably one of the older participants in Fodors.com My grandmother had an Aga cooker which was a large range heated by coal. This served to cook all the meals and to heat the house. To make tea, she put the kettle on the Aga. My mother cooked with gas and she put the kettle on the stove. In addition, both had a moveable ring at the side of the fireplace. The kettle was put on the ring and swung over the coal fire that heated virtually every house in the country at that time. Hence, "putting the kettle on" made eminent sense. My wife and I still use the phrase on a daily basis.
Also, since my father and I came home for our mid-day meal, we always called it dinner. We had high tea at 6.00pm, which was, say, a salad with bread and butter, scones and jam, cakes and,of course, tea. Supper followed at around 9.30pm and again we had cake, sweet biscuits and tea. This probably explains why Scotland has the worst dental decay record of any country in the world and has the highest per capita heart attack rate of all European countries. Strangely, in my time there from 1938 until 1965, I never knew or saw a fat person. This is not the case nowadays.




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Old Jan 5th, 2005, 08:06 AM
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Making tea in the microwave horror!
To make good tea, the kettle must be boiling and the water put in at once. We all learn at our mother's knee "Take the pot to the kettle, not the kettle to the pot!"
 
Old Jan 5th, 2005, 08:19 AM
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It has always slightly bemused me that electric kettles are considered something of a 'luxury' or 'spare item' in the States, and are often only considered in terms of making tea/hot drinks etc.

I'm not much of a tea/coffee/hot drink drinker but I couldn't imagine living without an electric kettle. Basically we use it whenever we want boiled water - pasta/vegetables/anything really! - as it takes half the time of putting a pot on the hob... A friend of mine who emigrated to the US considered it such a treat when she managed to track down a store that sold electric kettles.

(Incidentally, over here kettle means electric kettle - you would have to stress stove-top kettle if you wanted one of those - and a tea pot does not go anywhere near either electricity or a stove/hob!)
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Old Jan 5th, 2005, 08:23 AM
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Living in San Diego, I had a kettle on the stove for many years. For a long time, electric kettles were very expensive here. You can now get a reasonably priced (about $35) Phillips electric kettle in Target. It is the same as the Morphy Richards kettle that was in the flat we rented last year in Edinburgh. Since getting this, we use it often, for lots more than just making tea, and I'm sure our tea consumption has increased. My daughter, now 16, has been a "tea Jenny" for years!
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Old Jan 5th, 2005, 08:34 AM
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<i>&quot;Making tea in the microwave horror!&quot;</i>

My thoughts exactly. But it still comes in second to the horrid trip through the coffee maker. That's the absolute worst way to make tea.

On our first trip to England, we had our first experience with an electric tea kettle. &quot;What a clever idea!&quot; we thought. We wanted to bring one home, but the electricity thing prevented it. We looked high and low for one in the states. Finally found one at a specialty store - and it was expensive! They are a lot more common now.

Now if the restaurant industry would adopt them we might be able to get a decent cup of tea away from home.
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Old Jan 5th, 2005, 08:45 AM
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<i>&quot;Please don't believe that life here in the UK is anything remotely like that portrayed in CStreet, it is simply nothing like it at all.&quot;</i>

OK, as long as you don't think that life in the US is anything like Dynasty, General Hospital or Desperate Housewives.
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Old Jan 5th, 2005, 08:58 AM
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I don't believe this.

Boiling water using gas, coal, wood, or electricity is acceptable.

Boiling water using radio frequency energy is <i>verboten</i>.

Are you <u>insane</u>?
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Old Jan 5th, 2005, 09:02 AM
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I bought an electric kettle several years ago (Walmart) to take camping. Nothing takes longer than boiling water on a camp stove! It is now a permanent fixture in my kitchen, and the stainless steel stove-top kettle has been relegated to a high cupboard.

We first learned about the electric kettle from our neighbors, who hailed from Ireland and Scotland. My next-door neighbor, a very elderly Englishwoman, introduced us to the tea cosy. (I look at them on every trip to Ireland but haven't gotten one yet!)
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Old Jan 5th, 2005, 09:04 AM
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It just doesn't make a good cup of tea - I don't know why. But, I've never had a good cup of tea from nuked water.
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Old Jan 5th, 2005, 09:14 AM
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Got to agree about nuked water and tea. It's just not the same.
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Old Jan 5th, 2005, 09:15 AM
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You can make tea in a coffee maker?!? How? Coffee boiled is coffee spoiled, but tea without boiling water is impossible. I am almost as shocked as I was when I realised that some people (that's a euphemism for Americans)use the hot water tap!!!

Laura I've never seen anything like your permanent filter. The jury's out on that one....

I have a Rayburn- the baby equivalent of an Aga. My aunts all had full kitchen ranges in their farmhouses. We were talking over the New Year about how Scottish Families used to amke a week's worth of porridge in one go, then put it in a drawer to solidify, then cut out a day's portion to warm up in the range over night. Aga's still don't heat houses (in the sense of central heating, although they often provided the only background heating in the old days. They keep a constant temperature, and have a hot plate and a cooler plate. You get special kettles with heavy very flat bases, and you fill them up in the morning and boil them, then transfer them to the cooler plate. It takes seconds to bring them back to boiling point after that.

In this house (very downmarket from a Perthshire farmhouse) there were ranges in teh kitchen fireplaces with a metal arm which swung over the grate (a sway- pronounced here in Aberdeenshire as a &quot;sw-eye&quot

I went home for a hot dinner at lunchtime all my primary (grade) school days, then my family moved and I had to have school dinners- also hot. We also had a high tea at 5.30pm-ish when my dad got home from work. I don't remember a pre-bed supper tho'.
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Old Jan 5th, 2005, 09:51 AM
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This is getting intriguing!

I just did a double-blind taste test with three participants, and none of us could tell which was microwaved water and which was heated on the stove.

Try it yourself, would you, and report back here? Rules: you have to use the same water source (we use city water that's been through a Brita filter), same vessel, same tea, same cups, same everything. Try it with as many people as you can round up.

I suspect that what we have here is either an old wives' tale, a prejudice, or some undisclosed variable.
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Old Jan 5th, 2005, 09:56 AM
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How in the name of Victoria Beckham do you make tea with a coffee maker?? I just can't imagine it. Do you put your tea bags in the filter basket???

Many of you are spot on when you say that the reason tea served in restaurants in the US is terrible because the water is not boiled. Most restaurants get the water from a spigot attached to the coffee machine.

No, I do not watch American soap operas. I have a job. Most soap operas in the US are on the telly between 1-4 PM EST.

It is a travesty that one of our own English actresses, Juliet Mills, plays a witch on an American soap opera. She casts spells on people, raises people from the dead, gets chased by ax-murdering zombies, etc. I guess after her turn as Phoebe Figalilly (Nanny and the Professor)in the 70's, she is up for any kind of nonsense.

God Save The Queen
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