irst of all, Happy 2011. My wife and I have just become parents. Aspects of day-to-day life that we’d never focused on before have suddenly become important. With an infant, even the most trivial activities, such as getting dressed, going to the bathroom, or throwing out the garbage, can turn difficult. Having a family means not only learning to manage your time better but also recognizing what might help you out at home.
Guess which appliance our 1970s Rome apartment doesn’t have that most Americans take for granted? Not an air conditioner. I installed an AC unit three years ago, ignoring all the Italian adages about the risks (as in, “Oh, my aching neck…”)
No. What was missing was a clothes dryer. When I told my mother I was shopping for one, her immediate comeback was that it would ruin all our clothes. There isn’t even a commonplace word for dryer (asciugatrice) in Italian. For centuries, Italians have dried their clothes on lines, whether hung inside or out.
The tumble dryer, along with the washer, represented symbols of emancipation and were marketed as a way for American housewives to handle duties that once took up long stretches of time. Imagine what would happen in Naples if every Neapolitan got a dryer.
But buying a dryer in Italy is no simple task. Demand is low, supplies scarce, and prices high. Moreover, there are two kinds of dryers. The cheaper version (about €600) is known as condenser dryer, the more expensive version (€900 and up), is a heat pump dryer.
The condenser system is more efficient from an energy standpoint. The hot air emitted by the machine is mixed with outside cold air through a heat exchanger. The mix generates water that’s collected in a tank that you empty on a regular basis. The average American tumble dryer, which disposes of water through a tube, plays second fiddle to the condenser version on the Italian market.
But stick a condenser machine in a tight space, where airflow is restricted, and you face an immediate problem. The ambient air is soon saturated by the wetness and the appliance loses its efficiency. Unless you plan on installing your dryer where it can “breathe,” on a terrace, say, I’d stay away from the condenser model.
The second kind is a new-generation A+ energy class model that requires only about 1200 watts of power (1.2kW), compared to the 2200 watts (2.2kW) swallowed up by most condenser versions.
It operates much like an air conditioner. A high-pressure pump absorbs and compresses external air, heats it, and condenses the wetness in the clothes as the air expands.
Even this model collects excess moisture in a tank. If you stick it outside, the water can drain on its own. Otherwise, you still need some kind of drainage, which usually means draining it yourself.
Using the heat pump version does let you operate a number of household appliances at once, even in homes supplied by a frugal 3KW of total energy, the norm in most Italian apartments.
Both models attach to standard 220 volt wall sockets and are generally available at major electronic supply stores, including Mediaworld, Unieuro, and Expert.
In choosing a dryer, keep in mind the high cost of electricity in Italy (a country that imports most of its energy supply). If you’re in the country for a short stretch, go with the condenser system. It’ll cost you less. If you’re here for the long haul and care about the environment, the best bet is the heat pump version. You’ll amortize the cost over time. I ended up with an AEG Sensidry model, which also has a time management system.
Oh, then there’s the matter of food. Less time means recipes you can make in a hurry!
Pasta al Salmone (Salmon pasta)
Serves 2 (baby not included)
— In a large skillet, sauté a clove of crushed garlic in the oil and red pepper. Add the chopped salmon and well-chopped sweet onion and stir frequently with a wooden spoon to ensure the flavors mix.
— When the salmon colors, begin removing the clove the garlic and red pepper and add the milk. Mix with the tomato. Turn off the burners after a few minutes.
— Meanwhile, ensure the water is boiling for the pasta. After cooking the pasta al dente, drain the pot and spill it into the pan with the cream of salmon for a few minutes. Add teaspoons of cooking water if the mixture seems too dry. Finally, in goes the parsley.
Combine this dish with an intense dry white wine that has high alcohol content (minimum 13 degrees). Collio Sauvignon and Borgo Conventi are good choices.