HOLLENBECK: Life without a dishwasher: It isn’t the best way to go
Loading the dishwasher is high on my “don’t like to do it” list.
That sounds so petty even as I write it because I remember many periods when we washed the dishes by hand and didn’t die from it.
Before getting an automatic dishwasher, washing/drying the dishes was a routine activity. It had to be done, so we did it.
You’d think putting the dirty stuff in the automatic contraption wouldn’t be something to irritate me, but it is.
There are only two people in our household now, but we use as many plates, bowls and glasses as most families of 10. Particularly glasses. Don’t know why; we just do.
I shouldn’t gripe about this chore, but it’s an irritant.
As I was going through this process the other night — not happily, I might add — I started thinking about doing all of the dishes by hand and remembered more vividly how it used to be.
People have such drastically different styles for dishwashing.
My mother’s method was to do it quickly, as in immediately after swallowing the last morsel.
The line “Don’t dawdle, Amaryllis,” in “The Music Man” could have come from my mother’s mouth. She didn’t want to put any chore off for one unnecessary second. She was a “get ‘er done NOW” person.
Mamma was all for pleasant chatter, but only AFTER the chores were completed, which included clearing the table and slicking up the plates and silverware. Lingering after the meal wasn’t to her liking because everything was supposed to be pure and pristine and dirty dishes just didn’t help make that happen.
“Let’s get these dishes done and then we can go into the living room and visit,” she’d say. And she meant it.
When my kids were preteens and teens, their duties included kitchen cleanup. This included washing the dishes because there were periods then when there was no automatic alternative available to them.
Each had his/her unique method.
For Paul, it was soaking.
He was ready to do something else at any time and always claimed he’d “get back to them in a little bit.”
That “little bit” could translate to hours — days if he hadn’t been nagged sufficiently. The color could fade from a dish before he would willingly finish the task.
Allen was the stacker. He wasn’t in a hurry to get things done either, but he found some weird pleasure in creating stacks of dishes on the countertop. Some of the stacks rivaled a lot of sculptures.
Of course, a strong wind could have made short order of the entire creation, but eventually he’d transfer the individual pieces to the sink and get the job done. Not necessarily happily, however.
He also was the one who tried most frequently to talk a sibling into trading jobs with him because he would have a pressing “need” to be somewhere else.
Karen was for getting the job done ASAP. Her social calendar was full and she, a lot like Mamma, would be pulling the plates off the table before the last bites were taken.
“Y’all have to hurry up,” she’d tell us. “I’ve got to be at Janet’s house in 30 minutes, and y’all are still eating. You’ve got to move things along here.”
Barking out orders like this really was setting the stage for her career as an elementary schoolteacher, but we just didn’t know it at the time
None of my kids fit the “purist” type of dishwasher. That’s the kind that separates everything according to type.
This is the person who washes the glasses separately — first of course. Then, in successive order, come the plates, the saucers, the bowls, the forks, the knives, the spoons. Pots and pans, naturally, are last.
That’s a fine method if you’ve got all the time in the world, but most of us don’t. We live in the real world.
When I’ve been the dishwasher du jour, I would save the pots and pans for last, but the rest of the stuff gets tossed in in pretty random fashion. When the water doesn’t look soapy anymore, I start all over.
The worst thing about having to do dishes by hand is the time it takes.
You’d think two adults wouldn’t generate a lot of dirty dishes, but this isn’t so for Ed and me. We probably use as many glasses and bowls as the Duggars with all their children. (I’ve lost count; I just know they have a lot.)
In all seriousness, I can’t imagine having to clean up after a meal at that household. It would be close to the cleanup following a Scout troop meeting or drill team social.
I’ll try to keep that very large family in mind when I do the kitchen cleanup from now on and be ever mindful of this thought: In some walks of life, less is more.
Lynda Hollenbeck is associate editor of the Courier.