D, Doing Dishes
Maurice Sendak was a genius. To prove the point, consider the following:
A, Alligators all around.
B, Bursting balloons.
C, Catching colds.
D, Doing dishes.
Okay, maybe “genius” is a bit strong. But doing dishes is an important part of everyday life. Me? I’m not one of those people who will prattle on about the meditative joys of hand washing. Honestly, I can’t imagine life without a kickass dishwasher.
The specific source escapes me, but I recall some chef saying that if you teach kids to cook, and don’t teach them how to clean up after themselves, all you’ve done is provided them with a novel way to make a mess.
Cooking is cleaning. And I try to cook clean the best I can. I say all of this because last night after the multi-course meal for seven, I wouldn’t let anyone in my kitchen despite their efforts to help with the dishes.
Maybe I’m a control freak, because really it’s not my kitchen. Mrs. Fussy pays rent here too. And frankly, her standards for cleanliness exceed my own. She’s been known to clean the kitchen after I’ve cleaned the kitchen.
But there are plenty of reasons I don’t let others help with the dishes.
First and foremost, I don’t put my guests to work. Ideally while I’m in the kitchen, Mrs. Fussy or the Fussy Little Children can be entertaining visitors in another part of the house. But if that doesn’t work, I’ll put the dishes aside and tackle them after everyone leaves for the night. If you are invited over for a meal, it’s my pleasure to serve you. Nothing is owed. Nothing is expected beyond the pleasure of your company.
Second, I fundamentally reject the notion that it’s an equitable distribution of work for one person to cook a meal and then for another person to clean up after the affair. Imagine if someone painted you a portrait and then asked that you clean out the brushes. It’s ridiculous. Cooking isn’t easy, sure. It takes work and planning. One has to tend hot pans and deftly handle sharp objects. But it’s a creative effort, even if you are making something as simple as scrambled eggs. If you don’t take any joy in their creation, perhaps that’s on you.
Yes, I know this is a fairly standard division of labor in many households. I’ve just never been able to wrap my head around it. Maybe it’s worthy of further discussion.
Third, I know my tools. I know my dishwasher. I know my cabinets. Some knives don’t go in the dishwasher. Some items only go on the top rack of the dishwasher. You have to arrange the soup bowls just so in order to maximize the bottom rack’s load. And there is little more frustrating than someone “helping” by putting back a tool where they think it belongs. Sure, it’s away. But the next time I’m in the thick of things and urgently need my tongs, if they aren’t where they are supposed to be, I’m going to lose my cool.
Some people really want to help. God bless them. Even though it may seem inhospitable, I’m going to chase those people out of my kitchen.
The truth is, even the largest pile of dishes doesn’t take that long to tame. I was able to make it through almost everything from the seder before going to bed. Just a few last wine glasses remain. In the past I would have washed those all by hand.
What can I say? Maybe I’m getting less fussy as I progress in years. Now even my wine glasses go through the dishwasher. I just want to make sure to hand dry them the moment they’re done. Come to think about it, maybe I’m still just as fussy as ever.