Quick Recipes and Easy

The Zen of Doing Dishes

If I could eliminate one kitchen appliance, I would eliminate the automatic dishwasher. I would bring back the two-legged human dishwasher and banish the two-prong electrical dishwasher.

Dishwashing is a wonderful solo kitchen activity. It is also a wonderful social kitchen activity and it should be celebrated and preserved.

An automatic dishwasher is one of those things that are absolutely unnecessary in a kitchen. You cannot, easily, eliminate a stove or a refrigerator, but the automatic dishwasher is dispensable. It unnecessarily wastes energy, and it is usually (despite the manufacturers’ claims to the contrary) inefficient. It takes a job that can generally be completed in a half hour and it expands it to a marathon job that can take any where from an hour to twenty-four hours, or more, depending on how long it takes someone to choose to unload the washed dishes. It is my observation that in many homes with electric dishwashers, most, if not all, the dishes remain in the dishwasher and the kitchen cabinets are bare requiring the homeowner to have to set the table from the dishes that are in the dishwasher. Or even worse, I have observed in these homes that when clean dishes are required, the cabinets are not only bare of clean dishes, but the homeowner has forgotten to turn the appliance on and therefore there are no clean dishes and everyone has to eat off paper plates until the load is (finally) washed.

Why wash dishes by hand? There are more reasons that I can describe unless I choose to write a book on this subject. But, I will describe a few. Washing dishes can allow you to opt out of more hard and onerous chores. In my family, I always volunteer to do the dishes after dinner. This is not altruistic it is a smart go on my part because shortly after dinner, two very sleepy (and therefore cranky) kids have to be readied for bed. While noise and bedlam prevail throughout the rest of the house, the kitchen is an island of solitude: just me and the dirty dishes. When the dishes are done, peace has been restored in the house and the small angels, all warm, snug, and ready for bed are presented for night-night kisses and bed-d-bye. Washing dishes by hand allows you to work out feelings of rage and frustration. You can bang your pots and pans to your heart’s content and no real harm is done, nor will you have any complaints from the rest of the family who are either glad that they are not in harm’s way or pleased that they are not doing the dishes themselves. For me, doing dishes by hand allows me silent time to reckon about the complexities of life, to reckon about the hard problems of the world and ways to solve those problems (someday the leaders of this world will hear from me), and to daydream and to make plans to bring my day dreams to life. Sometimes I don’t even reckon, I just allow myself to Be (in the moment).

I like to watch, and to consider, how the hot water and the detergent melts, like magic, the greasy remains of a meal. I like to plot my attack: should I do the pots and pans first, or should I let them soak while I wash the dishes; should I do the silverware first or the glasses? All of these questions have simple answers which is a relief considering that most of life’s questions are not so easily answered. I like the fact that dishwashing has a beginning, a middle, and an end. There are few things in life that are that simple and again, this is a relief considering the intricacies of our lives where no chore or problem lends itself to a simple plot or conclusion.

Washing dishes by hand also brings families together. It is a perfect time for people to gather together after a satisfying meal to work with each other. Family stores are told and relived, problems are discussed and solved, dreams are confided and support given, jokes are told and loved and, seamlessly, the chore is done.

When I was young, this kitchen clean up was solely the domain of the ladies. As a young child, I would stay in the kitchen just to listen to my mother and my aunts discuss their lives gossip, to help solve each other’s problems, or laugh at each other’s joys. In many ways, it was the post dinner meeting of the women in my family that taught me how to become a woman. I cherish these memories; they still enrich my life and it is my hope that these ladies’ meeting are still a part of, and will remain a part of, today’s family gatherings.

Today, in my family, the guys are often a part of these family gatherings and they add their own enrichment to the process by contributing their own tales, banter and experiences to the chatter in the kitchen. This co-joining of the sexes brings an extra measure of fun to the activities and gives the small boys in the family, along with the small girls, an opportunity to store these joyous memories that will, in time, enrich their lives.

There are many electric appliances that we cannot do without, but the automatic dishwasher is clearly not one of them. If you happen to own one, do not despair because it can place it to excellent use as an extra counter space, an extra storage place for the kid’s toys, even an outdoor container for your trash bags. With a small imagination you will find a way to make the automatic dishwasher work for you–just not in the way the manufacturers envisioned.

By Maureen R. Sinclair

Submitted to onlinecooking.net Online Cooking by Maureen R. Sinclair

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