In my irregular series on Domestic Survival Skills, I hope one theme comes through clearly: Avoidance of effort is always the first choice. If you can circumvent even the tiniest indoor chore, you will find yourself absurdly pleased and, more importantly, prevent any hint of precedent-setting. Trust me, you iron one shirt and it’s "game over."
This axiom is the basis for my first rule of dishwashing. Simply put, don’t use dishes in the first place. This can best be accomplished by attention to the key factors of food consumption: location, location, location. To avoid dishes, there is one fail-safe dining spot: the kitchen sink.
The second rule is to make all food a sandwich. Don’t let yourself be distracted by the actual components. If you have eaten all of the bread, for example, use frozen waffles. Nor should finding yourself with relatively unorthodox sandwich fillings keep you from encasing them
in whatever planar carbohydrates are at hand. I have enjoyed baked beans on graham crackers, ham and jam on Doritos, and a multilayered Pop-Tart and meatloaf construction. Think of yourself as a culinary MacGyver and the refrigerator as your parts inventory.
If you are enduring a long-term abandonment by your spouse—more than 48 hours or so—you may tire at some point of eating from casserole dishes with potato-chip cutlery and perhaps feel compelled to make something fresh due to leftover extinction. Worst of all, there may be nothing left in the fridge but vegetables.
This is the crucial moment. Before removing the first dish, pan, fork or appliance, grab some sticky notes and label every drawer and cupboard. It may seem obvious when you are assembling your tools for cooking, but, just as your spouse doesn’t intuitively grasp that slip-lock pliers belong on the nail next to the tile probe, you will not remember where the colander came from, let alone why you bothered to dig it out in the first place.
I can already hear you whining, "What has any of this got to do with dishwashing?" Good question! I’m pretty sure I have an answer. Just not right now.
Revenge of the dishes. With your kitchen properly mapped and labeled, you are free to let your culinary imagination take flight. About now, things are looking good for the family dog.
Days later, when the cabinets are empty and no bare counter space can be seen, it is finally time to turn to the task you have created by ignoring Rule 1, mentioned above.
The most sensible approach would be to wash and dry the dishes by hand in the sink. But we both know that’s not going to happen. Not with a power tool within easy reach.
There is one right way to stack dirty dishes in a dishwasher. But nobody can agree on what it is. Some people insist you should not put fragile glasses in a dishwasher but do them by hand. For our purposes, however, it is reasonable to assume that the dishwasher is several times less likely to break or bend kitchenware than if the farmer manhandles them. One helpful hint is to stack crystal no more than three high.
Put the glasses on top and the knives pointing down. Anything other than that is really only marginal to the outcome. As for prerinsing, I avoid it at all times. Since you’ll never know if you need to unless you don’t try, heave those crusted pots in the back. The second time around, you will understand why you should put them in upside down.
Don’t overload the dishwasher. By that I mean if you have to lean against the door to close it, you’ve crossed the fine line between efficiency and stupidity. Use about half the soap that the little cup or box appears to hold, unless your water is Kansas-hard (half mineral, half liquid). In that case, soap won’t matter much anyway.
Use the default setting. (This term is derived from "fault setting," inasmuch as if you choose it, it is your fault.) Nothing good can come from "rinse and hold" or "energy-saver sani-rinse." We’re not doing a TV commercial, we just want the dishes to not stick to each other, right?
Since you probably waited until the last minute to do the dishes, put on your welding gloves, since the dishes will be quite warm when you stack them in the cupboard as your spouse’s car pulls into the driveway. Hide all the sticky notes, shoo the cat out of the microwave and assume a studied nonchalance that won’t fool anybody.
Now, my farmer fellows, all you need is to add one more skill to your domestic resumé: how to make and hang draperies!
- Early Spring 2011