By Jess Hodges
It's definitely the right time of the year for hot drinks again. We can put away the ice tea and reach for the kettle. If there were ever an appliance ubiquitous to modern life surely this is it. Boiling hot water at the flick of the switch, what an incredible luxury that we get to take for granted. The electric kettle is such a feature of modern life in Britain that power companies have to increase supplies during breaks in popular TV shows to meet the demand that comes from everyone switching them on to make a cup of tea at the same time.
The kettle evolved from ancient times when large vessels or cauldrons would be used to boil water over an open fire. These pre-dated the bronze age and would initially have been made from animal hide. These gradually developed into stove top kettles which are simply a way to hold water above a heat source and were usually made of copper. The distinctive kettle shape can be traced back potentially as far as 3500 BC.
Electric kettles were a major step forward as they incorporated their own heat source in the form of an electrical element, making the kettle a separate, independent appliance. The first electric kettle was invented in Chicago in 1891 and took 12 minuted to come to the boil. In 1922 The Swan company developed a much faster version by sealing the electric element in a tube and immersing it in the water. These kettles remained basically unchanged until the second world war when a shortage in metal lead to the production of many ceramic models. The main remaining difference between these kettles and modern ones was that you still had to watch them and turn them off yourself when they reached boiling point. It wasn't until 1956 that Russell Hobbs created an automatic version, finishing the transition from leather cauldron to our modern tea making essential.
So next time you reach for the switch spare a thought for one of our most under appreciated and hard working appliances.
Tuesday, December 07, 2010
By Jess Hodges