OK, so I couldn’t actually say this phrase in Portuguese, but I sure asked to look at plenty of European’s refrigerators — in English.
I spent the last couple weeks in Portugal visiting a friend (we also traveled to France and Italy), and along the way I invaded the privacy of every kitchen appliance I came across; Rita’s friends wondered why I was so interested in their dishwashers. Why wouldn’t I be?
My apologies for the lack of photos, but I don’t own a camera and decided snapping cell phone pictures of near strangers’ kitchens could wear out my welcome.
So here’s what I learned about Europe, through the lens of appliance blogger.
“Dryers are for emergencies”
That’s what my friend Rita said when showing me the Bosch laundry pair installed under the counter in the kitchen of her house, which would be considered a condo in the states. Nearly all the clothes I washed during my trip were hung on the balcony to dry and later ironed — even the towels! All over Lisbon, clothes hung from lines strung out windows and across balconies. It was quite the sight.
A picture from Flickr of the conventional clothes-drying technique in Lisbon.
In my world of Midwest blizzards and crumpled clothing, irons are for emergencies and a steam Electrolux dryer a lifesaver.
Food must be fresh
Rita’s mother went to the market nearly every day for produce, bread, fish and queijo fresco (“fresh cheese”). The 24-inch wide refrigerator gave little space to bottom freezer compartment, which contained frozen vegetables and soups used — again — “only for emergencies.”
Queijo fresco, or fresh cheese, is simply delicious.
At least in the houses I visited, going to the market often was part of the culture. (Then again, so was double parking on busy metropolitan streets.) But without a built-in icemaker (one Siemens brand refrigerator had smart vertical ice cube trays built-in to the front of the freezer drawers) or water dispenser, there’s more room in the refrigerator for eggs. The Portuguese cook with A LOT of eggs, I learned. My favorite use of egg yolks? Pastel de nata.
I often feel like I eat more out of my freezer than my fridge. I love frozen veggies and meats for stir-fry that don’t have to be prepared within days of a grocery shopping trip. Plus, I grew up in a house freezer jams, soups and casseroles. Most of my fruit sits on the counter.
Cooking fits in a small footprint
“Standard” American cooktops and ranges are 30 inches wide. Proud owners of pro-style cooking products, however, enjoy a cooking space up to 60 inches (yes, that’s 5 feet).
Most of the cooktops and ranges I saw were a slim 24 inches, or “apartment-sized” in Warners’ Stellian store speak. Still, I enjoyed multiple-course dinners that — had I not already given the kitchen a good up-and-down — I would’ve never guessed was prepared in such relatively cramped surfaces.
I regret now not asking whether a whole turkey could fit in the oven, easily the benchmark for cooking capacity concerns here in America. Then again, being blond-haired and blue-eyed got me enough strange looks in Portugal.
I do have a devoted love to the kind of appliances I grew up with — the kind my grandpa and dad and aunts and uncles sold. But I can appreciate the way that Europeans do things differently, sometimes even better, maybe.
But I’d rather not give up my dryer.