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D, Doing Dishes

April 15, 2014

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.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Doug permalink
    April 15, 2014 10:09 am

    My wife used to tell her home store customers that if they put the knives she sold them in the dishwasher, she would go to their house and take them back.

  2. EPT permalink
    April 15, 2014 3:27 pm

    Actually we are quite alike in this respect. I prefer to do the dishes and decide what goes in the dishwasher and what doesn’t. I also prefer to unload, so things go where I want them. Ms. tends to re-organize the kitchen…meaning I don’t know where go get what I want. I agree with Doug’s wife, cooking knives NEVER go in the dishwasher. Wine glasses are OK if they are basically good wine glasses, Riedel and Spiegelau get hand washed and dried.

  3. April 15, 2014 5:06 pm

    Ha ha! I won’t allow anyone, other then my GU Cathy, to do dishes in my place. I have learned over time that to rewash dishes, reorganize shelves, wait for the hot water heater temperature to recover, ask a million times where the rubber spaculas went, and to try to hide my annoyance is wasted energy. I like my staff better when they socialize with guest and collect the mess. I’ll hide in the back and wash the dishes, thank you!

  4. Rosemarie permalink
    April 16, 2014 1:48 am

    From another perspective, I always feel uncomfortable as a guest when the host or hostess is left to the task of cleaning up and I am sitting on my butt making conversation with the other guests. Never considered the possibility that it might be by choice. One thing I have trouble with is when a dinner guest will come into the kitchen and engage me in conversation when I’m in the process of preparing, plating and serving the food. How do you handle that without insulting the guest, especially if the guest is not good at reading facial expressions or body language or doesn’t ask if their presence is too distracting?

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