Monday, January 21, 2008

dish pan hands

If it's possible for a kitchen to be a reflection of the life being lived in it, then mine is screaming of unfinished business. We needn't get into the messy particulars of the life, for now I'll leave this as a story about doing the dishes...

7AM Sunday morning - dishes from yesterday are stacked on the side of the sink, waiting patiently for a bath. And this scene distresses me. To the point where I ignore the pile and begin making coffee. But as the coffee brews, I find myself filling the sink with hot soapy water, washing last's night business, while silently vowing to stop "the dishes can wait" nonsense. I will turn over a new leaf, I will clean up the kitchen each night so that in the morning I'm greeted to order and clutter free counter tops. I will end my mostly hate relationship with washing dishes. Clearly, I have not had coffee.

I play games to make myself do the dishes.  Fill the sink, eat some chocolate. Scrub the pans, have a glass of wine. Mostly I cheat. Not to win, but to get out of what I view as tedious housework: the shit jobs that no one else wants to do. The reason why Josephine Garis Cochran invented the dishwasher - well that and she was tired of the servants breaking her fine china. Unfortunately for me, I have no one else to toss the job to. And no one to stop me from eating chocolate, drinking wine and dancing to loud music when I might just be rubbing the plates clean.  The only "dishwasher" in the place is me.

Being American, I want to blame someone else for this.  It must be the result of having to do dishes as a child I reason or the fact that every damn cooking show I watched did this really great trick with the dirty pots and pans whereby they were placed on a shelf out of view.  Think about it, you're 6 and you see the pots and pans get carried off camera - who knows, maybe to get thrown away?  Maybe to begin a second career in a film featuring pans with caked on gravy and yesterday's eggs.  But certainly not to get washed, because hey they would have shown you that wouldn't they?  Yeah, that's it.  I'm blaming the Galloping Gourmet and Julia and some guy I remember as Chef Roy.  If only they had spent time extolling the virtues of sudsing up a pan.  Being up to your elbows in Palmolive.

Bob Blumer playfully addresses the subject of dishwash loathing in his cookbook The Surreal Gourmet -Real Food for Pretend Chefs. Actually he got a friend to give his take on making the process a rewarding one.  It seems the author himself feels no more excited about cleaning a dish than I do.   And while the advice in his book sounds reasonable, I have yet to get "zen" or find dishwashing to be an art form.

But then last night, some kind lady shows up in the kitchen sporting yellow gloves. She cheerfully cleans up the dishes from the days food adventuring AND puts them away. This cannot be me. I'm still the kid who would rather eat liver than wash a dish - no truly this is a ghost or just a plain figment of my imagination. Still the counter is clear this morning.

Tonight, the same odd lady with the yellow gloves showed up for duty about an hour or so after the evening meal. She scrubbed the pots clean, scoured the plates and bowls and silverware. Handled the wine glasses deftly, washing and drying them without breakage. I didn't hear a peep out of her. The whole thing took about 20 minutes, the washing part that is. I think she left them to air dry, which means I must participate in some way by at least putting the clean dishes away.

Which is to say my business is still unfinished.


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