Put The Kettle On, America

10 Feb

Another reblog, I’m afraid.  It raises a question that was never answered to my satisfaction.  I have a few more readers now, more than half of you American, so perhaps the answer will be forthcoming this time.

Electric kettle

Image via Wikipedia

This is something that has puzzled me for years: are there no electric kettles in the USA?

Watch American movies and tv carefully: whenever a cup of tea or coffee is made, the character fills a kettle and puts it on the stove.  No-one ever plugs a kettle into the wall.  Why is this?  Is there a ban on their use in the media, like there is for cigarettes?  Does the American Government know and is not telling us that electric kettles cause cancer? 

There is also the question of tea: why do Americans drink tea with the bag still in the cup?  I know this is so because the string and label always hang over the side on telly.  The tea must be stewed by the time they get to the bottom of the cup.  No wonder there are so many hairy people in the States.  And don’t get me started on how they drink it the minute the boiling water is poured in – do they all have asbestos lips? 

My own theory is that America has traditionally been a nation of coffee drinkers and directors want to show their characters’ individuality by making it obvious that they are tea drinkers: maverick detective with hirsute trout pout clears name by killing seventy-three queuing assailants with six bullets, and rounds off the day with a nice cup of Earl Grey. Or it could just be a matter of product placement.  But that still doesn’t explain the weird absence of electric kettles.

‘Queuing assailants’ came from a writing class, where we discussed the fact that there are no new stories, then segued into movie clichés: the baddies always take turns fighting the hero instead of rushing him en masse.  It’s usually a him.  He might have – in fact, he will have – a gorgeous female sidekick and she will have a fabulous name and these days can kick butt as well as him, but she will inevitably be captured and be reduced to ‘the girl’: Let the girl go/just give me the girl/blow up the Isle of Man or the girl gets it.  If I am ever captured and the Hub rescues me and I hear him say, ‘Let the girl go,’ the first thing I will do after my grateful smooch will be to kick his butt and leave him for a dentist.  It annoys me.

Then there is the matter of coffee drinkers: we see them in their homes, loading their stove-top kettles or their coffee machines.  Next scene: a cardboard cup of coffee in their hands, bought from Starbucks on the way to fight crime.  What’s that about?  Are the stove-top kettles decoys?  Or a subliminal message…if it ain’t from a street vendor you’re killing the planet?

One final question: do I spend too much time watching tv and worrying about inanities?

58 Responses to “Put The Kettle On, America”

  1. Sarchasm2 February 10, 2012 at 11:42 #

    I’ll have to take note. I did notice what lousy shots the baddies are compared to the cops. Cop fires six shots and kills ten baddy shoots twenty shots and hits everything bar the cop. Conclusion is that baddies shoot as many baddies as the cops do …….. or am I watching way too much CSI


    • Tilly Bud February 15, 2012 at 10:51 #

      You may have hit upon something there…


  2. jmgoyder February 10, 2012 at 11:50 #

    The answer to your final question could be ‘yes’ – hehe!


  3. sarsm February 10, 2012 at 11:51 #

    Actually, I just watched an American program the other day and noticed a stove-top kettle. I thought it was odd then, the guy was supposed to be rich and successful, why would he have such an old-fashioned kettle?

    Do you think we are ahead of America in something?

    I suspect they’re not drinking black tea, but fruit or herbal tea, that would explain the not taking the bag out of the cup.

    About 20 years ago – oh no, even longer. Gulp, I am getting old… Anyway, a friend came over from Spain to stay with us. She was fascinated (I’m not exaggerating) by our kettle. She’d never seen one before. She actually asked my mother if you could boil milk in it, which my mother found hilarious.

    Though when I returned to Spain with her they gave me breakfast which was hot milk and chocolate powder served in a bowl. I just picked up the bowl and drank it. What else should you do with a hot chocolate? It turns out I was supposed to eat it like soup with a spoon. Any way they all laughed long and mightily. For two and a half weeks, truth be told. They insisted I drank my hot chocolate from the bowl every morning while they slurped on their spoon.


  4. viv blake February 10, 2012 at 11:58 #

    I can’t answer that one. When we arrived in France 20 years ago, they didn’t have kettles at all! To make tea, a saucepan of water would be put on the stove. When it boiled, they would turn it off. THEN get out teapot, tea. cups etc. THEN, when the water was half cold they would pour it on to a scant teaspoonful of tea leaves in the pot. In self-defence, I bought our neighbour an automatic kettle, and explained about the need for boiling water.
    I once gave that instruction in a posh hotel, where the weakest brand of teabag was brought to the table alongside a small lidless teapot of tepid water. Hospital tea is undrinkable for the same reasons.


    • Tilly Bud February 15, 2012 at 10:55 #


      My SIL once made chips by peeling and slicing the potatoes, THEN pouring cold oil over them and bringing them to the boil. I had my head down the toilet all night.


  5. laurieanichols February 10, 2012 at 13:23 #

    Maybe it’s because of where it is housed but we at the Blandford Historical Society have an electric kettle however I have to add that it is the only electric kettle that I have ever seen. Don’t worry you don’t watch too much t.v, you are just very observant.


    • Tilly Bud February 15, 2012 at 10:56 #

      Thank you Laurie. You can come again 🙂


  6. mairedubhtx February 10, 2012 at 14:18 #

    As an American, I’ll tell you what i know. Americans are not big tea drinkers. They consume more now than they used to because they have heard how good green tea is for you, but they drink mostly coffee. I personally have never in my 62 years seen an electric tea kettle. But that’s just me. I also NEVER have sipped my tea with the tea bag still in the cup. Grandma never did that so neither did we. We had tea from a tea pot or sometimes from a tea cup with a tea bag, but always removed the tea bag. I’ve seen people drink their tea with the bag still in the cup and thought, “Gross.” But that’s just me. Just some thoughts from an American tea drinker who generally drinks coffee.


    • Tilly Bud February 15, 2012 at 10:57 #

      I KNEW it was just the movies! Thanks for clearing that up 🙂


  7. Kris Merino February 10, 2012 at 15:08 #

    As an American who was first introduced to the glories of the electric kettle when I lived in London, the first thing I did upon my return to the states was look for one. To my surprise, we did have electric kettles here, a pretty large variety of them, in all the major shops! I have no clue why no one here owns one, or why they are never pictured in tv or movies. I bought one back in 2000 and have owned one since then. That being said, I don’t know anyone else around me that does…


  8. Stacy February 10, 2012 at 15:31 #

    I have to say, I’ve never seen an electric kettle. Never even heard of one before today. Maybe because of my family’s West Indian roots, we’ve always had a stovetop teakettle that whistles, and I much prefer it to the coffee maker that ALWAYS makes the water taste like coffee, no matter how much you clean it! My husband drinks coffee: one cup a day. I can’t stand the stuff. I boil water, pour it over the tea bag, let it steep, pull the bag out, add sugar and lemon, and drink while warm. Leave the bag in? Gross!


  9. Katherine Gordy Levine February 10, 2012 at 16:52 #

    I have an Electric Kettle, one of those white things you pictured. When my novel sells like hot cakes I will get a metal one that won’t break when I throw it at my Cranky Old Man. Also the truth about tea bags–they do not stay in the cup if men are drinking. They end up on the snowy white table clothes make money for Clorox Bleach.


  10. Lorna's Voice February 10, 2012 at 18:45 #

    I can only speak for myself, but I use an electric pot to boil my tea water and I keep the tea bags in because I like my tea strong. I used to drink only coffee but gave that up. Tea is more mild and I like strong hot beverages (like I like strong hot men). Am I revealing too much?

    As for my fellow Americans…I can’t figure them out any better than anyone else can…


    • Tilly Bud February 15, 2012 at 11:01 #

      The joy of being such a diverse nation is that there are no straightforward answers. Of course, that’s also a little irritating for the person who asked the question 🙂


  11. Pseu February 10, 2012 at 19:14 #

    Maybe the British are the main users of kettles, everywhere.

    In America I have seen the term ‘tea kettle’ – which seems to denote that it’s only tea drinkers who use them(?)

    In France if you stay somewhere that’s owned by a French person there won’t be a kettle, but the British owned apartments have them.


  12. gigihawaii February 10, 2012 at 19:32 #

    We own and use an electric tea kettle. Just plug it into the wall socket and the water boils in seconds. Pour the water into a mug, steep with a tea bag, and drink. What could be simpler? Actually, my daughter does this every day, whereas I prefer coffee from my coffee maker. Iced coffee, please, with lots of ice cubes!


  13. RoryBore February 10, 2012 at 20:15 #

    I can’t answer for Americans, but here in Canada, a girl is most certainly instructed on preparation for a perfect pot of tea. well, if you have great-grandparents from England you are. Instruction as a tot meant pot on stove, since no electric tea kettles in their day. I have since owned electric tea kettles — every single one of them has broken within a year or 2: so now I do as my ancestors and put the pot on the stove.

    As for movies – I guess for time’s sake they eliminate most crucial details. Like using boiling water (unless green tea – stop just before). Or warming the teapot and teacups. (I adore my Sadler Robin Hood Sherrif of Nottingham set! no drips!) Then steep for approx. 3-5 minutes. no longer! Extra steeping (unless is herbal tea) makes it bitter. If you want stronger tea — don’t leave the bag in – just use more tea! As for the milk – well there’s some controversy indeed! Some say add tea to milk – others say milk to tea – still others say none at all it ruins the tea’s beneficial qualities. I say to each his own on this one. I add milk to tea – what was the point of warming my teacup, if I am going to add cold milk Before the tea?
    And finally, one lump or 2? Again, personal choice.
    I take 1/2 tsp of sugar, but I do love this quote:

    “Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea”
    Henry Fielding


    • Tilly Bud February 15, 2012 at 11:03 #

      Milk first or not? Wars have been started over less…


  14. sanstorm February 10, 2012 at 21:06 #

    I think the USA also lacks decent sauces for chicken. It’s been ten years since I bought groceries in the states, but there was pretty much just tomato based stuff. No curry, no sweet n sour, no Thai…


    • viv blake February 11, 2012 at 07:30 #

      Perhaps because they make their own sauces, as do I.


      • sanstorm February 16, 2012 at 22:11 #

        Must be. In the same way there isn’t a culture of “ready-meals” that there is here (Scotland).

        I am trying to master various curry sauces, but I still can’t replicate the local Indian restaurant. Working on it.


        • Tilly Bud February 17, 2012 at 12:11 #

          Why don’t you ask them? Sometimes they will share.


          • sanstorm February 18, 2012 at 16:45 #

            Ooh! There’s a thought. I had considered trying to work there…


  15. barb19 February 10, 2012 at 22:08 #

    I have noticed that in American films too – no electric kettles, they always put a kettle on the stove. I will have to ask my American friend about that!
    The British are not the only ones to use electric kettles – we use them in Australia too.


  16. nrhatch February 11, 2012 at 00:29 #

    I’ve never seen electric kettles in the States . . . but I did have a “Hot Pot” in college for boiling water for tea, bouillon, instant coffee, etc.

    I also had a submersible electric coil for boiling one cup of water.

    If I made tea, I pour boiling water over the leaves in a tea pot to steep . . . then strain and serve.


  17. musings February 11, 2012 at 02:31 #

    I can add my voice to everybody’s. We take out our tea bag before we drink also. Actually, we put the tea bag in the pot to steep and them remove the bag and pour out the tea into cups. Hmmm… maybe that was more than you wanted to know.


    • Tilly Bud February 15, 2012 at 11:09 #

      No, that is the most civilised way to make tea 🙂


  18. Hoe February 11, 2012 at 05:51 #

    I think you all should go back to the good old days of using charcoal to boil water. That will be really romantic!


  19. bluebee February 12, 2012 at 02:22 #

    A dentist?!


    • Tilly Bud February 15, 2012 at 11:13 #

      Ah, you haven’t been around from the early days, when I declared my love for my then dentist, Mr Lee, because of Helen Hunt and Tom Hanks.


      • bluebee February 15, 2012 at 21:21 #

        I always think of Steve Martin in ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ 😀


  20. Gobetween February 12, 2012 at 11:48 #

    Very good observation, I often wonder how much of Hollywood movies are actually American or just fiction.


    • Tilly Bud February 15, 2012 at 11:49 #

      Me too. No one ever has early morning breath, for instance (except Julia Roberts in ‘America’s Sweethearts’).


  21. Janie Jones February 12, 2012 at 20:32 #

    To chime in with the other Americans, I knew such a beast as the electric tea kettle existed, probably from seeing them first in use in Keeping Up Appearances. You’ve got to love that Hyacinth Bucket (that’s bouquet!). However, I remember always thinking why on Earth would one want one more electric appliance to take up precious outlets. Between my toaster oven, microwave oven, bread machine, electric bread slicer, mixer, deep fryer, electric skillet, and three over head lights all vying for two outlet openings I didn’t think I could justify one more electric appliance.

    As for drinking tea with the bag still in, I’ve never noticed such a thing in my tea drinking circles so I’m useless to you on that point.


    • Tilly Bud February 15, 2012 at 11:51 #

      Think of how you’re saving the planet by taking less power to boil a kettle…


  22. eof737 February 21, 2012 at 00:13 #

    Kettles exist… I just bought one for the kids… Americans drink brewed coffee a lot so a kettle is not a big part of their world… our world. hm mm 😉


  23. Caroline February 23, 2014 at 04:42 #

    I’m not sure why they don’t use them on television, honestly. And I think we keep the bags in because it’s just habit, or maybe it makes the tea stronger? I don’t keep it in usually. And the reason we drink it straight from the kettle is because we’re used to things like coffee and hot chocolate year-round so adjusting to the heat is pretty easy. Sometimes I put the cup to my lips and blow in it, not drink it so that might be a reason. Also on television there’s usually no real tea 🙂


  24. Denise July 22, 2014 at 09:43 #

    Hey there, I just stumbled across this. I’m currently in England and love the electric kettle. From what I can tell they are not that common in the US because the UK uses 220-volt power and we use 110, which apparently means that our electric kettles cannot heat up water as fast. ( hence the power adapters). Though I must say most Americans are coffee drinkers I really like the kettle for cooking purposes and would love to get one when I get back home, I’m lead to believe even if I found one– it wouldn’t be as fast.


    • The Laughing Housewife July 24, 2014 at 08:46 #

      WELL, THANK YOU! You have solved a mystery which has bugged me for YEARS! (Sorry for shouting – I’m really excited to have this sorted)

      It must be so difficult to cook without an electric kettle – boiling the water for the potatoes/the pasta/the rice etc.

      I hope you are enjoying your trip?


      • Denise July 25, 2014 at 10:10 #

        I’m loving it over here. England is beautiful and all of the people have been very nice. I’m going to be really sad to go home. I was completely confused by the electric kettle at first. I’ve never seen one before. Once I figured it out I loved it and now I don’t know how I’m to get on without one! I stumbled across you blog in search for the answer of why they are not in the US.

        I’ll probably try to get one at home anyway…. Even if it’s not as fast.


        • The Laughing Housewife July 26, 2014 at 07:51 #

          It’s nice to know there’s at least one thing we do that’s more technologically advanced than the States 🙂

          Enjoy the rest of your visit! Are you doing something fun?


  25. A Paddling Duck February 17, 2015 at 00:15 #

    If I may be so bold as to make a suggestion about TV and movies with the string and the tea bag still in the cup. In theatre, broadcast, and film we need to communicate things quickly to an audience. Especially things that may be important but not vital. We do not have time to write a dialogue about making tea, even though in real life we may break from recounting our lustful night or tragic tale for a moment to ask a question about the two teas in the cupboard. The difference between a character drinking tea or coffee can create huge differences in how the audience perceives a character. The late William Ball of the American Conservatory theatre wrote a great book called “A Sense of Direction” in which he communicated the idea of “uniforms.” When we make visual clues to action and character that are not verbally articulated but are actually more effective at telling someone what is going on, we have put it in a “uniform.”

    That said Americans may be drinking with the bag in because American tea is so weak its disgusting. Not enough people drink Barry’s gold blend. 🙂 In France we take the bag out but its just as bad as American tea.


  26. Brad July 1, 2016 at 15:33 #

    We have electric kettles in Canada as well. Always had one in my 56 years. My eye opening moment came only a few years ago when, after 35 years of dealing with a stove top kettle in our vacation home in the State of Montana, I asked my mother why she didn’t have an electric one. She told me she could never find one! And to this day, when renting a condo for vacations in otherwise civilized places like Maui or Palm Springs—I’ve noticed no electric kettle! I’m sure the reason is that Americans by and large don,t drink hot tea. In my opinion it has nothing to do with voltage output in North America.


I welcome your comments but be warned: I'm menopausal and as likely to snarl as smile. Wine or Maltesers are an acceptable bribe; or a compliment about my youthful looks and cheery disposition will do in a pinch.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: