friday feast: putting the kettle on

“Come, let us have some tea and continue to talk about happy things.” ~ Chaim Potok

Over a fine cup of Darjeeling the other day, I thought about how often I heard the phrase, “I’ll put the kettle on,” when I lived in England. A surprise visit, a day’s disappointment,

"Still Life with Apples and Tea Kettle" by Ethel Vrana

trouble brewing, an invitation to chat — tea always made everything better. One had to wait patiently for the water to boil, and if you were lucky, part of your reward was that friendly whistle with a sudden burst of steam.

I miss this bit of antiquity, since these days many prefer to use their microwaves or electric kettles for almost instant hot water. Gone are those few extra minutes of anticipation, of slowing down, that cosmic link to hearths of yore. And those old kettles, especially the copper ones, had so much personality!


by Nancy Byrd Turner

Life is full of changes,
Years are hard and long;
But the world’s teakettles
Keep their old song:

The same good humming
That they’ve hummed, nights and days,
Since a woman set the first one
Over a blaze.

Oh, the long pleasure
Their music has been
To calm cats purring
With their paws folded in:

To gray grandmothers
In the twilight sitting,
Feet on a cricket,
Hands full of knitting;

To children nodding, nodding
At the edge of a dream,
Their heads all misty
In a silver steam!

Time, change, weather–
None of those things
Can make much trouble
When a teakettle sings!


After reading this poem, my first thought was: Can you tell a person by their kettle?

An efficient traditionalist, whose home is spit spot.
An avant garde aesthete who relishes old tea rituals.
A sleek modernist who enjoys bird whistles.
A cheery French country hostess who has little cherries on her apron.
A professor in a tweed jacket, reading Tolstoy by the fire.

As for me, I’d like to own all of those — a kettle for every mood, a different whistle depending on the company. I still have my very first kettle (Revere-ware stainless steel) and the Holstein kettle I used at our old house. These days, our kettle of choice reflects our maturity and sophistication. When the water is ready, the kettle blows a loud Steamboat Willie train whistle that always startles the guests. They laugh with relief and then the real fun begins. ☺

♥ The lovely Laura Salas is today’s Roundup host at Writing the World for Kids. Enjoy all the nourishing poems on the menu and have a good weekend. ☺

Click here for a complete list of  2011 Poetry Friday posts on this blog.

Too cool: Michael Jackson's Fire Engine Kettle with working wheels.

P.S. Don’t forget to put the kettle on!

♥ Love,


Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

23 thoughts on “friday feast: putting the kettle on

  1. My kettle is like the “efficient traditionalist,” except it’s blue. I’m not sure how efficient or traditional I am, but I do love that kettle. I, too, would like kettles for every mood, but I am seriously trying to not indulge that urge!

    I do love that Mickey kettle. Not sure I’d like MJ’s; I prefer my kettle not to chase me!


  2. My favorite is the copper kettle suitable for making tea to read Tolstoy by.

    Apparently, it’s from about 1800, or Jane Austen’s time. I wonder what kind of kettle she used.

    Great post, as always, Jama.


  3. What a fun post, Jama! I love your Steamboat Willie kettle.
    And the lines,

    To calm cats purring
    With their paws folded in

    Tea is properly worshipped most days in our house, too. My kettle is a sturdy beaten-up one with the enamel chipped on one side – I’m reluctant to part with it because it was a gift from my long-gone grandparents when I got married. But perhaps this post will spur me on to replace it with something that reflects our personalities! We have a thing for teapots in my family, too, but that’s another subject… whistling back, Robyn


    1. Oh yes, the teapot weakness — I’m guilty as charged. I can see how I could easily be swayed into collecting kettles as well.

      I think you should keep your old kettle since it has such great sentimental value, but of course a new one to reflect your personalities would be fun to have (you could rotate them).


  4. You can probably guess I’m reading this with my cup of tea at hand! One of the best parts of traveling through Britain years ago was that I could walk into any restaurat–usually an inexpensive little cafe (only that’s not the right word over there!), and get a pot of tea–a GOOD one. It often came as a simple teabag in one of those little metal pots, but it was always so much better than anything I’d ever had over here–and it was HOT. REALLY HOT.🙂

    I tend to go back & forth between the whole loose-leaf in a pot process and just a good teabag (easier to find now than it used to be). I’ve backed off from tea some these days, because it just isn’t as good without a little bit of sugar, but I still need at least a cup a day, for mental happiness!


    1. I know what you mean about those pots of tea in England. So good. It just always tasted better over there.

      I rarely put sugar in my tea these days, just a little milk if it’s a black tea.🙂


  5. I have never owned a tea kettle in my life. In my household growing up and today, I have an electric hot water dispenser that is common in Japanese homes, i think. Now I feel like I’ve missed out on something. I love those tea kettles!


  6. I have to agree with the sentiments of today’s poem. That calls for a cuppa, tout de suite! (Preferably with a german chocolate cupcake, such as the one in your side-bar!) I’m probably a country French red kettle girl myself, but I do like that copper!


  7. Wow. My favorite part is:

    To children nodding, nodding
    At the edge of a dream,
    Their heads all misty
    In a silver steam!

    I love the lesson to live in the moment, to breathe.

    And I’m ashamed to tell you that my kettle is simply a mug in the microwave.


  8. My tea facts:

    Still using my original copper-bottom Revere-ware with the two-tone whistle!

    I nevernevernever microwave my tea water!

    Favorite teas are Taylors of Harrogate Scottish Breakfast tea (bags), Harney and Sons Queen Catherine (loose) and Republic of Tea All Day Breakfast (loose).

    I take my tea with a bit of milk and a touch of sugar.


    1. A woman after my own heart! Love Harney and Sons teas. Sigh. Miss England just seeing those words. Those Revere-ware kettles are just so classic, aren’t they? Milk and sugar is the way to go — my preference over tea with lemon.


  9. I love this post. I, too, lived in England for a spell and that is where I learned to love tea. I could NEVER microwave water for tea, nor do I use an electric kettle. Morning just wouldn’t be morning without that whistle.

    I collect teapots too.

    My favorite everyday tea is PG Tips, and I also order loose English and Irish Breakfast teas from


    1. Julie, you’re such a kindred spirit! I really never fully appreciated tea — the ritual of preparing and enjoying it until I lived in England. Can’t remember ever having a bad cup of tea the whole 3 years I was there.

      I love collecting teapots, and am trying really hard not to start collecting kettles, too. . .🙂


  10. What a sweet post! I must admit, though I have a nice white Le Creuset kettle (I guess that means I’m a French girl at heart, albeit maybe without the cheeriness!), it’s often the microwave or just a regular pan for me.


    1. I’m sure your Le Creuset kettle feels a little neglected. Better remedy that soon🙂. Doesn’t that brand make a special kettle with an automatic sensor that tells you just the right water temperature for different types of tea? I mean, who knew? I thought boiled water was boiled water.


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