I am not talking ‘white goods’ here – oven, fridge, dishwasher, washing machine, it’s a given that these are the best big items. But the smaller ones?

I am going to plump for the vacuum cleaner in all its shapes, forms and functions. Surely this device beats a dustpan and brush in anybody’s book, and look what just one machine can do these days - not just suck up the dust into a convenient bag or container, but beat the carpet as you go, wash the floor, shampoo the carpet (and dry it), shampoo your sofa, and like a Transformer toy, at the switch of a button will convert into something to clean curtain rails or the inside of your car! Thank you Mr Hubert Cecil Booth (not Mr Hoover) for the invention, and Mr Dyson for perfecting it. (Other brands of course, too numerous to mention here!)

Then I thought about a kettle, in particular, an electric one. I know tea making and all its rituals are not for everyone, but you can’t beat a nice cuppa made in just a few minutes – kettle on, tea bag in mug, spoon out, milk ready to slosh in when the tea is absolutely the right colour – too weak and it’s like nursery tea and too strong would suit the builder fixing your DIY mistakes! Which made me think – why do Europeans have electric kettles (in particular the Brits) but Americans don’t? The reason for this appears to be to do with the voltage in America, which is 110-120 volts, whereas the UK and many other countries use between 220 and 240 volts. The lower voltage in the US means that electric kettles would not heat water as quickly as they do in the UK.

As a result, they haven't caught on in the US, where the old-fashioned stove-top kettle is common. Mind you, they don’t drink much tea in the US, preferring coffee, which leads me to coffee-makers being another good invention!

Coffee makers, where to start? These are something that have got decidedly posh over the years, as has the move towards coffee with add-on flavours. Drippers, cafeterias, capsules, percolators, expresso - I just love those machines that make that lovely gurgly hissy, whooshy sound like a real Gaggia machine you find in Italian cafes, but the size of even a domestic one would be too much in my tiny kitchen.

What about the microwave oven? Surely this must rate up there near the top of the list too. Microwaving speeds up cooking time by one-third or a half, and is handy for defrosting or warming up food. Vibrating molecules have heat, so the faster the molecules jiggle, the hotter the food becomes. Thus the microwaves pass their energy onto the molecules in the food, rapidly heating it up.

Toaster – I would hate not to have one, but to me, they never seem to get the toast just the right colour! But it beats cremating slices in the oven or in the old ‘eye level’ gas grill of old style cookers, where your eyelashes were in mortal danger every time you lit it. Mind you, I have never bought an expensive toaster, so maybe the more you pay the better the toast!

Another good buy I couldn’t do without is my trusty electric can opener.

Anyone with creaky fingers should have one of these, they are an absolute godsend, especially when the ring pull breaks off one of those easy open cans, or you end up sloshing bean juice down your shirt as you struggle with a manual opener.

So… what’s your favourite?


Marilyn writes regularly for The Portugal News, and has lived in the Algarve for some years. A dog-lover, she has lived in Ireland, UK, Bermuda and the Isle of Man. 

Marilyn Sheridan