Friday, August 21, 2009

High Noon

My husband brought home an electric water kettle. There were no warning signals, no danger signs: he just showed up at the house with it one day like you'd do with a straggly kitten. Fait accompli. I sat it next to the teakettle and glowered.

"It boils water faster," he said.

"So?" I said.

"So it boils water faster."

"Take it back."

"But it boils water faster."

We were at an impasse.

Over the next couple of days, the electric kettle emerged from its cardboard box. It plugged itself in. It launched its charm offensive using the only trick it knew, which was to boil water. (The electric kettle edition of How to Win Friends and Influence People is not exactly a back breaker.)

I am unmoved. My teakettle may be battered and noisy and slow, but it's a touchstone, a physical link to all the people before me who've boiled tea at a moderate rate and then scrambled to shut off the ungodly howling that results.

Besides, the interval between flipping on the burner and flipping up the lid is sacred space, a bright caesura in the murk of the day. For those five or eight or ten minutes, you wait. You don't go far; you don't get to work. You dabble. You potter. You let your mind wander until the teakettle, like a military bugler, calls your thoughts into formation and marches you, whole and ready, into now.

Plus you've got tea!


Anonymous said...

My former roommate had one of those. It actually slowed down my morning workflow. I couldn't use the electric kettle, the microwave, and the toaster simultaneously without tripping the breaker.

I'm sort of a slow breakfast guy anyway. I make oatmeal most mornings. I used to make the oatmeal with a microwave, with the attendant risk of it boiling over.

At my new place, there was neither an electric tea kettle nor a microwave. I bought a conventional kettle because it was cheaper. Now I make everything on the stove top.

I'm hard pressed to make a conclusive choice, but plain old kettles have an undeniable aesthetic value. Mine looks bright and cheerful on the stove. It's hard for me to say I've missed any lost time.

wombat said...

I'm with Will when it comes to choosing. I use a real kettle and probably will until they're outlawed, but I'm glad the electric ones exist. Without it, I would have killed myself or others during Amherst due to lack of coffee. I can picture that marital discussion vividly, by the way. I do miss you both.

Anonymous said...

The author is at risk of burning her house down.

Electric, electric, electric.

-Totally anonymous commenter.