Sunday, February 15, 2009
Snow in London
Recently there was snow in London. This was an international news event, since the last time there was measureable snow in that city people were wearing Roman togas. For centuries winter has been 38 degrees and rainy.
My daughter and son in law, who live there, sent me some photos of their house after four fluffy inches caused madness and mayhem.
I've been to London in February and there were spring flowers already blooming. I've been there in December and there were roses on the bushes. So snow is truly out of character. Mostly you get clouds and fog. Did I mention the rain?
Fortunately, no snow landed in their kitchen. However, the kitchen picture provides a useful cultural comparison of another kind. What makes it a distinctly British kitchen, even though it sports granite countertops and other modern accoutrements, is the tall, narrow refrigerator there in the back. On that island across the pond, living space is generally at a premium, so size is everything.
Many homes are over 100 years old, although 400 years is not out of the question. Plus the city itself is over 2000 years old. You can still see remnants of the original Roman wall that kept the Visigoths at bay. In fact, the lady who previously owned the house in the pictures, before my daughter and her husband, lived there for 94 years. I wonder how many dead cats they had to remove? Despite its age, the house wasn't replaced, only remodeled. The Brits don't do teardowns. Mostly because the houses are all attached and that could get ugly. I think the last time they tore down a building was after the bombing in WWII.
Needless to say, small and efficient spaces tend to be status quo in a country surrounded by water. Don't get me started on the narrow streets and the people who insist on driving Range Rovers. The kitchen in the photo is quite sizable by British standards. You can actually sit down and eat in it.
What I discovered while visiting over there a few years ago, is that even though there may not be much room by American standards, a British kitchen still manages to fit in everything an American kitchen does, just smaller or narrower. They have dishwashers, often a Miele or a Bosch, but they're only about 18 inches wide.
Even when my daughter and her husband lived in a roomy factory loft, there was still a compact kitchen. But it included a combination washer/dryer squeezed between the fridge and the dishwasher. However, the dryness cycle of the washer/dryer was more of a dampness cycle, so you had to hang stuff up afterward to finish the process. But it was still very convenient.
One trip over there and you get a real sense of how excessive American consumption is. We're the fat people, dismantling 50 year old homes and building ginormous houses with turrets, remember?
I should have asked for a picture of the food in the refrigerator because it has a distinctly British look and taste too. I remember eating British yogurt and thinking it was much more sour creamy and less sticky sweet. Bacon doesn't look like bacon as we know it. Juice is often in giant boxes. Even honey was different and came from places like Israel and Lebanon, instead of clover fields in Wisconsin.
And they talk funny too.