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"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." ~Aristotle

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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Works For Me: I AM the Dishwasher

As I've mentioned before (have I mentioned this before? if not .... it's going to come up a lot), my husband and I purchased a century-old house and are slowly making structural and cosmetic changes.  Not the least of these has been a completely brand-new kitchen: new walls, new ceiling, new beam, and beautiful custom cabinetry and counters.

The one thing missing from this brand new paradise of expansive Corian and glazed cherry cabinetry is a dishwasher.  And startlingly so, according to the majority of visitors to my humble home.

My father-in-law, with raised eyebrow, dutifully designed the kitchen sans device.  He insisted on putting in a bank of drawers the WIDTH of one, just in case "the next owners want to install one" (or, as he probably thinks more likely, I come to my senses at a later date).

My mother exclaimed: "That's the first thing your father and I bought when we got married!  A dishwasher!" And countless others have sung the praises of their own devices--claiming the inability to imagine a life without.

So here's the thing: I am not going to try to convince you to tear out your dishwasher.  I just feel like explaining my reasons for omitting one.

1. There are four people living in my home.  For the most part, that means I only need 4 dishes for each meal.  It COULD mean a possible 12 (bread plate, bowl, dinner plate, plus glasses, but using that many dishes for one meal is a rarity).  I ALWAYS have enough dishes.  I don't have to pull a dirty one out of the dishwasher to wash it just because someone had an extra sandwich at 3pm.  I also don't have giant stacks of plates in my cabinets.  I prefer extra space to extra dishes.

2. I enjoy washing the dishes.  Hot, soapy water, a job well done.

3. I have two children who, when they are tall enough, will take turns washing dishes, to give me a break.

4. I never have to wonder if what I need is clean.  My favorite knife.  Or mug.  Or spatula.  Or apple corer.  Or soup pot.

5. I have never forgotten to run the thing, empty the thing, put soap in the thing. I never accidentally dump a handful of dirty spoons into a clean silverware basket.

6. No repair issues.

7. There are quite a few things I use on a daily basis that wouldn't go into the dishwasher, even if I had one.  Cast iron skillet, Cutco knives, over-sized bowls, popcicle holders, giant cutting board, dutch oven, stoneware baking pan, virtually all of my storage containers (some are probably dishwasher-safe, but with all the PBA stuff, I don't know how much I believe that).

8.  I have 18 cubic feet more storage space than you do.  Right there, beside the sink, where I do all the prep work.

9. You cannot convince me that the dishwasher actually saves time.  I defy you to load and unload the dishwasher any faster than I wash and put away the dishes (allowing for air drying, or if you'd like, we can race and I will dry them as well).  My dishes are ready again long before yours.

I will concede: I am probably using more water than you are.  The dish drainer sitting by the sink is not particularly beautiful.

I will also admit that the key to making a dishwasher-less life work is that I do my dishes RIGHT AWAY.  I have a washtub of hot, soapy water sitting in wait while I prepare dinner, and the majority of cookware is washed before we sit down to eat, dry by the time we're done, and back into the cabinets before I wash the scant plates and serving dishes we just used.  Nothing gets crusty or smelly.

I get the impression that most people, when imagining themselves in a dishwasher-less home, see a giant, teetering stack of spaghetti-and-ranch-laden-from-three-days-ago plates, a la Hoarders.  And to that I can only say: user error.  Don't blame the dishes, blame the procrastinator. Don't do that to yourself, and it won't be overwhelming drudgery.  It'll be a few dishes.  No big deal.

Hey - it works for me.