My son’s very first word was “light.” I’ll be the first to admit I thought that was very, very cool. You can’t beat Genesis for first words. If it’s good enough for God, it is good enough for first born sons. Then he went on to say “mama” and I lost interest.
Ever since our move down under our lights have been going off with alarming regularity. Another one bit the dust yesterday afternoon. At first, it seemed to be all about dimmer switches. The previous tenants left us two standing lamps in the master bedroom, and both had foot-operated dimmer switches. They functioned perfectly for a month or two. Then, one by one, the dimmers went.

Fool that I am, I went to Bunnings (a hardware superstore) to buy replacements. No such animal seemed to exist for the do-it-yourself masochists down under. What was I thinking, anyway? This is a 220 volt country. The current here can kill you.

When we moved in, I engaged the services of a home handyman to hang our pictures so we wouldn’t have to re-plaster and repaint the house when we moved out. When he discovered that I had brought along a couple of standing lamps, he suggested I simply twist the flat prongs on the plugs to fit the flat, angled slots in Australian outlets, then change the bulbs to accommodate the current. I tried it and it actually worked.

Fortunately, he noticed a gap between the wall and the plug of the one lamp I had modified. The twist in the flat prongs didn’t allow the plug to fit flush against the wall. He proceeded to tell me about a cleaning lady (possibly a suburban myth but instructive nonetheless.) Her vigorous dusting caused a venetian blind to fall and come into contact with an imperfectly modified plug. ZAP! Her cleaning days were over. You don’t mess with 220.

There are halogen pot lights throughout the flat. At first, I thought I needed to change the bulbs when they went out. But new bulbs didn’t do the trick. Finally, a friendly electrician told me that when they overheat a protective circuit shuts them down before they can get a good fire going. Now I don’t get out the ladder until they’ve been off a few days.

I finally ordered dimmer switches from a lighting store. When they brought me to tears and I had stabbed myself with a screwdriver a few times, I asked the store manager if he could get them wired up. He called two weeks later to tell me that the new switches worked, but they made an objectionable hum, something like a 747 on steroids. I’ll settle for simple on/off switches then. It has been three weeks now, but I’m still hopeful.

Moving from a 110 country to a 220 country meant that we would, of necessity, be replacing all of our kitchen appliances. I knew that. What I didn’t know was that some of them would be so difficult to duplicate– a drip coffee maker, a waffle iron, a yogurt maker.

Drip coffee makers are the poor relation in the appliance family here. Since Australia was apparently founded before Starbucks, Italians have defined coffee in Australia. The only inexpensive coffee makers are bodums. Then, one leaps into the stratosphere of Italian steam machines. They are spectacular. One could be forgiven for buying one for the knobs and whistles, but expresso first thing in the morning? It’s a little like driving a Ferrari to the supermarket.

I was shocked to discover some years back that many people do not regard waffle irons as a kitchen necessity. A friend and neighbor in Nova Scotia did not possess a single one. I had at least three, maybe five. I was overstocked at any rate, thanks to days in the B&B business.   I insisted that she tuck one under her arm and try out a recipe for buttermilk waffles. Or better yet, yeast-raised waffles that leave a tang on the tongue.

In Australia, you could fill a shelf in your kitchen with sandwich presses and still not exhaust the variety available. I finally discovered a choice of exactly two waffle makers. One was tiny, looking like it was designed for a girl with a Japanese ninja turtle.

The other had a thousand watts of power with a temperature dial (for light to dark) but no timer. The pocket for the batter is shallow but quite large. Unlike North American models, there are no deep metal creases on the inside like a mountain range turned inside out. What it seems to have been designed for is to bake a pancake with ridges.

I immediately whipped up my my best buttermilk recipe, separating the eggs and whipping the whites, folding them in. After all the work, it was an absolute dud. I’ve been reduced to trying the recipes that came with the instructions. Sooner or later I’ll stumble across the right mix. My bottle of Queen, Australian-owned, pure Canadian maple syrup is at the ready. Pancakes be damned. It’s waffles I want.

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