Mystery Appliances

My kitchen incudes a number of typical British appliances, all small enough to fit below the counter. These include the refrigerator/freezer, dishwasher, oven/microwave, and combo clothes washer/dryer. The microwave is a combination microwave, broiler, convection oven but not really an oven in the baking sense. One sort of roasts a frozen pizza in the convection oven rather than baking or heating it (works OK, though the browning is not all you’d like).
The washer/dryer is small (11 lbs. max load wash, 5.5 lbs dry – a pair of my jeans can weigh 3 lbs) and illustrates the European commitment to conserving energy. It allows you to select a variety of water temperatures (in actual degrees, not just Hot or Cold) and even the spin cycle speeds, in RPM. It also uses a lot less water and takes a lot longer to do its job. For example, a recent washing then drying of two pairs of Levis and a few tee shirts took 5 hours to complete. The soap for this and the dishwasher comes in little bricks reminiscent of a giant Pez candy.
What we would call the "stove" in the US is called a Hob here and mine is the "ceramic cooktop" type (a smooth surface that heats in four circular areas, with no flame and no exposed heating elements). I don’t know if it’s because this is a rental property or if this is common, but there are circuit breakers along the wall in the kitchen, with red indicator lights, clearly labeled, for each of the appliances.

Perhaps the most important appliance in the place is the kettle. How many movies have you seen set in England where someone says "I’ll put the kettle on"? I always imagined them running into the kitchen to put the steel water kettle on the stove to warm it up. I chalked up the fact that the water was always ready so quickly to the application of "Hollywood time" to reality. Whenever I heat water on the stove it takes a long time (or forever, if I stand and watch).
But no, that’s not what they meant at all. The Kettle, in my kitchen and I’m given to believe generally here in England, is actually a nice stainless steel appliance the size and shape of a multi-quart water pitcher with a great big electric immersion heater in it. It heats a quart of water to full rolling boil in about 20 seconds (remember that the electricity here is 220V, which helps power the immersion heater efficiently) so water is ready for tea almost before you can get the tea pot and cups out. There are, of course, whole web sites devoted to the proper use and maintenance (regular de-scaling is very important) of your electric kettle.
What appliances that I’m used to are missing? Well, for one, there’s no disposal so I’m having to learn about not putting stuff down the drain with the abandon I’m gotten accustomed to in the last 15 years. I’m used to having a gas stove but the hob works just fine (it has the drawback of all ceramic cooktops in that it’s hard to tell if the surface is still hot after use). There’s also no toaster oven; I could buy one but I think I can get by with the toaster supplied with the apartment.
Overall, the kitchen is perfect for my small needs and easy to keep clean, too. Besides, with a "Chip Shop" (Fish and Chips) just across the street, where they hand you fresh cod or haddock cooked in a light batter and surrounded by the greasiest fries on the planet, doused with vinegar and wrapped in two layers of butcher paper, how often does one need to cook, anyway? Is that the sound of my cardiologist crying?

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