The note floored me. My first thought was, of course, pans are kettles. When I was a kid we had a set of kettles and my mom would ask me to get the small kettle, or the mush kettle, or the big kettle, depending on what we were cooking. It never occurred to me that kettle wasn’t a widespread term. Or that not everyone owned a mush kettle.
I went to find my husband for a judgment call. He hails from the northeast and his family has lived there for many generations. I hail from the northwest and my family has lived there for many generations. We share a common language, but there are some differences in our usage of that language. For instance, I drink pop and he drinks soda. I use a grocery sack. He uses a grocery bag. I eat mush and he eats porridge. (Porridge? Really? Bears eat porridge. Three of them at last count.) However, I will be the first to admit that I no longer say mush in public. I say “hot cereal.” Anyway, he is my sounding board for all east coast vs. west coast language issues and I’m certain he’ll agree with me on this one. I mean, come on, a kettle is a cooking pot.
I find him reading in his chair after being beat up by junior high math students all day and ask, “Are pans and kettles the same thing?” He doesn’t even look up from his book when he says, “No.”
No? I’m having a hard time with this one, so I look up kettle in the dictionary. Encarta clearly states that kettles are metal pots used for cooking, usually with a lid. (It was the second definition, but it was there, right below the first that had something to do with boiling liquids.) My husband continues to disagree, even though I’m holding the laptop up in front of him and pointing at the entry, blocking the first entry with my thumb. He says that pans are for cooking and kettles are for tea. Hmmm. Well, he can call it whatever he likes as long as he cooks in it.
With that happy thought in mind, I changed all the kettles in my manuscript into pans, but the next time I cook, I’m using a kettle. I can't help it. Some habits are just too engrained to change.