Two Old Fools and Hard Water

  • Nature has been playing tricks on us here in Spain. Some days we've been fooled into thinking summer has arrived, with clear blue skies and scorching sun. I packed away our winter clothes but soon regretted it. Temperatures dropped, strong winds blew up and the clouds piled over the mountains in fifty shades of grey. I unpacked the winter clothes and Joe lit the fire again as the rain hammered down.

    In our part of Andalucia, we’re lucky. We’ve never suffered from a water shortage as natural springs abound. Just outside El Hoyo is a place where locals fill their water containers, and in the next village is a spring, still surrounded by cement basins and washboards where villagers once washed their laundry and exchanged news and views. Water flows freely, day and night.

    However, I have one tiny complaint. When we lived in southern England, our water was extremely hard, and our pipes and kettles regularly clogged up with chalk. Moving to Spain, I looked forward to living in an area with soft water. Unfortunately, the water here, although natural, is the hardest, most chalk-filled water I’ve ever encountered. Our kettle becomes lined with a film of white limescale after only two or three boils. I know it’s harmless, but the water is cloudy, and the kettle element struggles against the caked chalk.

    To combat the problem, I tried limescale remover bought from the supermarket. It worked well enough, but needed several hours to take effect and getting rid of the smell was difficult. Neither Joe nor I wanted to wait around for our cups of coffee.

    I searched the Internet and discovered that a mixture of white wine vinegar and water works very well. As an added bonus, it’s cheaper and much less smelly. The kettle still needs to stand for a couple of hours, to allow the vinegar to do its work, but it’s a big improvement on the shop-bought limescale remover.

    “We need two kettles,” I told Joe. “Then we can use one while the other is being cleaned.”

    The drive down the mountain is glorious this time of year. Crimson poppies and blue, yellow and white wildflowers dot the mountain slopes, and the grass and trees are lush with new growth. Silvery streams gurgle and meander their way downhill. A snake slithered across the road in front of us, and a green-headed, foot-long lizard watched us pass.

    Spanish people don’t use electric kettles much, so there wasn’t a great deal of choice, but we bought another kettle, identical to our first, then finished our shopping. Back at home, I removed it from its box, rinsed it and plugged it in ready for use.

    “You make the coffee, and I’ll finish putting the shopping away,” I said.

    Soon we were sitting at the kitchen table, coffee mugs and a slice each of bizcocho (Spanish lemony cake) in front of us. Joe took a big slurp of coffee. To my astonishment, his eyes bulged and he spat it out, drenching me, the table and our bizcocho.

    “WHAT THE..?” he spluttered, sprinting to the sink and rinsing out his mouth.

    I gaped at him, then sniffed my coffee. “Which kettle did you use?” I asked, mopping coffee off myself and the table.

    “The one you’d already filled with water.”

    “I didn’t fill the kettle,” I said. “The old one had vinegar and water in it... You didn’t use that one, did you?”

    Of course he had.

    I highly recommend white vinegar for removing limescale, but please, not for coffee...

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    Recipe for Mama Ufarte's Lemony Sponge Cake - Bizcocho

    Bizcocho

     

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