When kitchen gadgets spill the beans

Writer Samantha Wyndmus runs a table d’hôtes in Olliergues, Puy-de-Dôme, and says that even our kitchens have a national identity

25 April 2018
By Samantha Wyndmus

My neighbour can tell the nationality of a household by their cooking appliances.

It wasn’t my appalling French accent or GB sticker on our car in the driveway that gave away our Britishness. It was the kitchen, with its kettle, toaster and my slow cooker.

According to my neighbour, electric kettles are not part of the French culture as they don’t often drink tea.

He was willing to concede most French supermarkets sell kettles these days, but was adamant they are solely for infusion drinking millennials and purely a fad.

I tried to argue that boiling water has multiple purposes such as Cup-a-Soup, Bovril and Ovaltine... but, in hindsight, these were probably not the best product examples, being mostly unheard of this side of Calais.

Then there’s the toaster. It’s for British-sized bread. Mother’s Pride sandwich type to be exact. It’s rubbish for toasting slices from a baguette or pain. Even if you manage to cut it to the right thickness, the slices are too small to pop up properly or poke out at the top. The French way is to use the grill on your stove.

It’s good not only for toasting every conceivable size of bread type product but is also useful for bronzing gratins, searing peppers and good old Croque Monsieur. In any case, everyone knows that ‘proper’ French toast is made in a frying pan.

Finally, I explained my slow cooker could gently cook all manner of soups and stews. In the morning you brown off your ingredients in a pot on the stove, before transferring them lovingly into your slow cooker. Add wine, cider or liquid of choice, a few herbs and spices. Then return at teatime to a perfectly cooked hot meal.

In a French kitchen, after browning the meat on the stove, you add the remaining ingredients and simply leave it there on a low burner.

Same effect and saves on washing up.

Surprisingly, my high speed blender, ice cream maker and cake mixer were all acceptable. How else did I think my neighbour blended his smoothies, froze his sorbet and whipped up meringue?

His real concern was how I cope without an electric raclette machine or gas-powered fondue.

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