While the anthropologist in me knows I shouldn’t say this, there are some things in foreign countries that just suck. In Uganda, it was cardboard boxes: they were just objectively horrible, fallilng apart as soon as you put something in them (begging the question: what is the purpose of a cardboard box in which you can’t put things?).
In England, it’s washing machines. I started a load of wash an hour and a half ago, and the thing is still going. I’ve tinkered with the settings, pulled all the knobs, and punched all the buttons, and I have still yet to figure out a way to make doing a load of wash take less than three times as long as it does in the U.S. Of course, it wouldn’t help if I could get the washing machine to function at an American rate of speed, since the dryer is even slower.
Just so we don’t think I’m being completely disdainful of England, they do have at least one leg up on us in terms of appliances: electric kettles. At first, I thought that the kettle only functioned to make water for tea (which is, of course, a pretty big function). But then I learned, through watching my English flatmates, that you can actually use an electric kettles to make hot water for, well, anything you need hot water for. I realize that this is terribly obvious, but when you eat a lot of pasta, this is a rather life changing discovery: I can make a boiling pot of water in two minutes, while on the stove I would usually wait twenty.
While I’m on the subject of appliances, I might as well mention my new blender. Even a cheap American blender probably has a good nine settings on it, allowing you to make a careful choice between “puree” and “liquefy.” My blender here—and every blender here, according to my comparison shopping—has only one button: “On.” Admittedly, that’s really all I need: when I am using a blender, I really just want it blended, and it doesn’t much matter the power level. But I think as an American I have an intrinsic need for a multiplicity of useless choices and functions, and so my single speed blender is a bit distressing.
If you are expecting some redeeming, overarching message to this really inane post about kitchenware, you are on the fast track for disappointment. It is interesting to me, though, that in this world of global capitalism, where you can find cell-phone wielding entrepreneurs in rural Africa, English people still have pre-modern blenders and Americans haven’t discovered the secret to boiling water. Culture is a sticky, stubborn thing, a fact I discovered when I suggested to Nicola that English washing machines were a tad slow.