“Mother, when will I be big enough to wash the dishes? I can’t wait,” I asked, as I, filled with envy, watched my older sister standing on an upside-down Coke box, arms deep in lovely, warm, sudsy dishwater.
I became big enough soon enough, and it didn’t take long for the glamour of dishwashing to wear off.
Doing the dishes is right up there in the top 10 of most disliked chores in the kitchen. Fortunately, Josephine Cochrane invented a hand-powered dishwasher he introduced to the public at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. But it wasn’t until the post-World War II boom of the 1950s that commercial machines began to appear in home kitchens. Nowadays, the big gripe for many of us lazy good-for-nothings is unloading the darn thing.
Many folks agree that cleaning the oven is the most hateful of kitchen tasks. Even with self-cleaning, you still have to get down on your knees and up to your armpits in SOS pads and Scrubbies before you’re ready to push the magic buttons. Then, you have to stick around the house for four or five hours while the oven does its business, because nobody with a grain of caution is going to leave 900 degrees Fahrenheit alone in the kitchen.
As for me, I loathe cleaning out, or rather, purging the refrigerator. This chore involves taking everything out of said apparatus, including several containers of unidentifiable substances, the shelves and that long wound-up tube thing and applying loads of disinfectant, not to mention elbow grease. I suffer pangs of guilt as I throw out the remains of a two-week old ham with which I meant to make soup, dabs of neglected pimento cheese and chicken salad, dried-up bologna and moldy cheese. Oh, well, what’s a little money down the drain?
How about finding that elusive bottle of mace that you use once a year, maybe? My herbs and spices are disorganized at best, regardless of my efforts at alphabetizing or categorizing them. Therefore, I find myself pulling out all 76 containers (yep, I, with journalistic integrity, counted them all) some dating back to the ‘70s, before I locate it, forlorn and unloved, in the back left-hand corner of the spice shelf.
I’m often tempted to grab a grocery store boy and bring him home with me to unload my groceries and put them away. Not only is five trips up and down the front steps an odious chore, but shoving this and that old stuff around to make room for the new stuff is daunting. This task easily earns a number six on the list of unjoyful kitchen tasks.
I like to think my storage skills are state of the art, but when I go to select a bread basket or cookie sheet, I have to admit I could use some help. Without one of those neat vertical cupboards with dividers for trays and cookie sheets and platters that all you folks with hard-working kitchens have, mine all get stuffed helter-skelter in my one tall cabinet space, and, right on cue, they all come tumbling out every time I open the door.
Here’s a list of some of the most detested kitchen chores my research uncovered and how to make them tolerable: deveining shrimp — grab a beer and allow yourself a sip after every 10th shrimp; peeling potatoes — potato skins are “in,” so just hit the high spots; opening easy-zip, self-sealing packages of bacon and cold cuts — keep a hacksaw handy; de-silking corn — get yourself a “just for corn” stiff veggie brush (better yet, a willing and able spouse); making your own pasta — ever heard of Barilla?; peeling hard-boiled eggs — don’t use fresh eggs (a week or two old is better); gutting fish and game — he who catches gets to gut; frying chicken — let the Colonel do his job.
Oh, but the kitchen can be a frustrating place, a taskmaster demanding your attention to unsavory chores when there are books to read, movies to watch, pools to swim in, cards to play, walks to take, friends to chat with — all kinds of things you’d rather be doing.
But it’s the heart of the home, and when the fridge is purged and the oven is clean and potatoes are peeled, I can make myself a cup of coffee, sit down and relax — oops, darn, I forgot to unload the dishwasher.
Lexington (N.C.) Dispatch columnist Page H. Onorato is a retired teacher.