WEIRD MEASURING CUPS AND THE HISTORY OF METRIFICATION

Well, there were two problems. The first is that 1/4 cup is at two different levels on either side of the cup. You could put that down to some of the ounces being Imperial and the other being American, but frankly, three sets of measurements on one single cup measuring device is one measurement too many especially because that 1/4 cup was too much soy sauce and even the “American” 1/4 cup was off. So finally, I gave up and bought a Pyrex measuring cup but for all I know, it has three sets of measurement on it too.

So if you hold the cup in your right hand — because you’re right-handed — you are going to be looking at the left side of the cup. Which is in Imperial ounces, old-style even if you live in Australia, the U.K. or some other previously British-occupied nation or territory. Does anyone still use Imperial ounces? Because my previous measuring cup — Pyrex — had just metric and U.S. ounces, but now they seem be having some kind of contest to see how many kinds of measurements they can fit on a glass cup.

DURABLE AND VERSATILE USE: These measuring cups melt, mix, and reheat. Imperial and metric units sit side by side on sturdy, solid glass that ensure you can whisk, beat, and pour in the same place you measure.

It’s shockingly hard to find glass measuring cups at all unless you’re ready to plunk down $25 or more.

Almost everything is plastic. I hate plastic measuring cups. Alternatively, they are made from stainless steel. I already have a stainless set. I don’t use it because they are not transparent. Also, you can’t nuke stainless steel. Well, that’s not exactly true. You can nuke them. After all, they are your cups and you can do whatever you want with them including running them over with a truck. But if you put it in your microwave, it won’t thank you and might stop working. Permanently.

For that matter, you also can’t nuke the plastic ones. To make them even more useless and annoying, you also can’t run the plastic ones through the dishwasher unless you don’t care if they survive longer than a couple of weeks.

Speaking of being less than a great kitchen value, Amazon is selling — as measuring cups — sets of glass “beakers.” The beakers are titled “scientific.” Looking at them, several issues come to mind. First, the beakers don’t have handles. Try getting one of them out of the nuker barehanded. Also, to be labeled “scientific,” they are slathered with measurements all of which are on the wrong side of the container for right-handed Americans.

The American-made Anchor-Hocking cups (made in Monaca, Pennsylvania) print Imperial ounces on the right side. Right-handed Americans are going to be confused if they are holding the cup right-handed because they will be looking at Imperial ounces which are significantly different than American ounces. Considering that Americans never used Imperial ounces — and no one else does anymore either — WHY? And finally, nowhere on the cup is there any mention of which ounces are which. If you are going to put all these different measurements on a cup, telling people what’s what might be a nice help!

It’s enough to make you go metric. Why isn’t America metric?

So after we all concurred that there was something seriously amiss with the brand new Anchor Hocking set, I bought a new overpriced set of measuring cups that only has U.S. and metric measurements. That should be plenty.

Seriously, who is still using Imperial ounces? Anyone out there still using them? If you’re yearning for Imperial markings, I have a set of glass measuring cups for you.

So here’s the “metric” story.

The French introduced the new measurements everywhere. The first state outside France to adopt the new system and dump their old weights and measures was Helvetic Republic – today’s Switzerland — in 1803. The Swiss are extremely clever.

The next to follow were the Netherlands in 1816.

Other European countries quickly saw the assets of a new system and began to standardize their own systems. In many instances, the old units were given new, metric, values: pound = 500 g, inch = 2, 2.5 or 3 cm etc. The Germans were the first to standardize their old system this way. Baden, in 1810, for example, redefined the Ruthe (rods) as being 3.0 m exactly and defined the subunits of the Ruthe as 1 Ruthe = 10 Fuß (feet) = 100 Zoll (inches) = 1,000 Linie (lines) = 10,000  Punkt (points) while the Pfund was defined as being 500 g, divided into 30 Loth, each of 16.67 g.

It could also go the other way. In August 1814, Portugal officially adopted the metric system using the names of units substituted by traditional Portuguese ones. In this system the basic units were the mão-travessa (hand) = 1 decimetre (10 mão-travessas = 1 vara (yard) = 1 metre), the canada = 1 liter and the libra (pound) = 1 kilogram.

By 1850, most European countries were comfortable enough with the new system to adopt it for everyday use and everyone adopted it, one by one. Belgium and Luxembourg (1820); Spain (1850s); Italy (1861); Romania (1864); Germany (1872); and Austria-Hungary (1876). Finland put together a Metrication law in 1881 and went fully metric in 1886. Denmark and Iceland adopted the metric system in 1907.

The last European country to fully adopt the new system was Estonia in 1929, ditching the Russian system. Greece completed metrication in 1959. Great Britain waited until 1965 and Canada in 1975. The LAST HOLDOUT is the United States for unknown reasons. If the rest of the world can figure it out, are we too dumb to get it? Or just too stubborn to even try!



Categories: Anecdote, House and home, Humor, Kitchen, online shopping

Tags: , , , ,

11 replies

  1. We have Pyrex measuring jugs but plastic measuring cups. The jugs are old so they have both metric and imperial measurements as well as cup measurements, metric cups. They are quite expensive now but you can sometimes pick them up cheaper at Op Shops.
    I do occasionally use the imperial measurements and so does Naomi because we have some vintage cookbooks and we sometimes use the recipes. We have at least one set of scales with the old weights too.
    Australia converted to metric in the 1970s over a period of a few years. We got decimal currency in 1966, Celsius temps in 1972 and then the harder to get used to weights and measures. I think in metric now. I do wonder why America has never changed when everyone else has. Is it just a matter of pride now?
    I had to learn what sticks of butter were because we don’t o that. Yeast does come in little packets, generally one is about 7g. Cleaning up as you go when you are cooking is a good idea. I have very little bench space so I really have to. I do miss my old kitchen with its multiple benches. There is on dishwasher and really no room for one without renovating the whole area which I don’t want to do. Still there was a dishwasher at Geeveston but after it broke down we never had it fixed so I’m used to handwashing.

    Like

    • It’s a matter of sheer stubbornness. I converted to metric when I lived in Israel and it wasn’t all that hard — then I had to unconvert when I came back. I found temperature the most difficult, weights and measures the easiest.

      Liked by 1 person

      • When we changed over to Celsius I was still at school and remember being taught the calculation. However, what I found more useful as a rule of thumb was the promotion the government put out possibly through the bureau of meteorology. It talked about the frosty fives, tingling tens, temperate twenties and thirsty thirties. I can’t recall if there was also the fiery forties. Weights for grocery items weren’t hard to learn but it took a while to get used to my height and weight in centimetres and kilograms. Luckily I was young so I picked it up more quickly than mum’s generation.

        Like

  2. Hi Marilyn, South Africa is metric, thank goodness. I do use recipes from other parts of the world and use a conversion table. Some recipes have strange, to me, measurements like sticks. I have to google those. I agree about measuring cups. The figures eventually wash off the plastic ones too. I would like glass but haven’t seen them here.

    Like

    • They used to be standard here, but increasingly, everything is plastic. The melt in the microwave and you have to hand-wash them. I hand wash everything anyway, but a lot of people never ever hand wash anything, which I find rather odd. The only way I can keep the kitchen from becoming a mess is to clean as I work. We have a dishwasher. I just don’t use it.

      There are some strange measurements. Sticks must be referring to butter? A pound of butter is (usually, but not always) composed of four sticks, each being a quarter of a pound. Measuring cups wouldn’t help with that anyway. There’s also the “packet” which is an amount of yeast put in packets for baking. But that measurement wouldn’t be on a cup anyhow.

      So I’m still left with the question: where in the world are “imperial ounces” still in use? Anywhere?

      Liked by 1 person

      • According to Google, only three countries in the world use the imperial ounce: The US, Liberia and Myanmar. We don’t use ‘packets’ of yeast, but rather a gram measurement.

        Like

        • We don’t use imperial ounces here. We use the American ounce which is smaller than the imperial version. I’m not sure why anyone here would even need it.

          Liked by 1 person

          • 🤷‍♀️ I thought you said that so Google is wrong

            Like

            • Google is often wrong. Imperial ounces were used in England and in English colonies, but never in the U.S. We broke away from England before Imperial ounces became a standard.

              “The US Customary system of units was developed and used in the United States after the American Revolution, based on a subset of the English units used in the Thirteen Colonies; it is the predominant system of units in the United States. The imperial system of units was developed and used in the United Kingdom and its empire beginning in 1826. The metric system has, to varying degrees, replaced the imperial system in the countries that once used it.”

              Liked by 1 person

Talk to me!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: