Counter Intelligence: Washing Dishes is Dumb

As my roommates could tell you, I hate washing dishes. Of all the things I love about cooking--researching recipes, searching for ingredients, cooking, simmering, stirring, and even the occasional smoke-filled mishaps--there is really only one thing that I hate with a passion: dirty dishes.

I don't know what exactly I dislike about it so much, except that, of course, what is there to like? You've finally completed a lovely meal, you're full, content, peaceful, and rather than enjoy the moment and maybe take a nap or watch some Planet Earth, you are forced to trudge over to the sink and spend the next 15 minutes scalding yourself as you scrub the charred remains of your dinner off of a pan. Unnnnpleasant. But while I hate dish-washing, I also feel bad leaving dirty dishes in the sink, especially when my patient but no doubt fed-up roommates finally take care of them. I try to get them right away or a little longer if there's something that needs to soak (scrubbing? oh hell no), but I admit that one of my faults as a chef is certainly my unwillingness as a dish washer.

For a while I thought I had it made, as Dave and I worked out an agreement wherein I would cook and he would clean, which was awesome, since Dave does not really cook anything except tomato sauce and smoothies (yeah, you heard me. prove me wrong, what whaaat!). Sometimes I would even scratch his back while he stood at the sink, and everyone was happy. But, sadly (for other reasons, too), Dave lives far far away and I am stuck without a washer, electric or human. In response, I've discovered certain tools and tricks of the trade to get me through those daily (or, ok, semi-daily) 15 minutes mess-, stress-, and duress-free!

I have very dry and sensitive skin, and I slather myself in lotion daily. Perhaps for this reason, dunking my hands in 115-degree water for 15 minutes is not something I look forward to. After washing dishes my hands are so dry and brittle that I can't even hold things, and turning doorknobs is a mere dream. I've experimented with different hand lotions, but the best ever, in my opinion, for post dish-washing dryness is Crabtree & Evelyn's Cooks Citrus Hand Therapy ($17). My mom got it for me for Christmas, and I love it. The lotion is a smooth mix between regular hand lotion and shea butter, and it deliciously creamy without being greasy. Just a tiny dab is enough to soothe my hands, and the scent--a blend of lemon, grapefruit, and orange--is delicate yet strong enough to overpower any lingering food smells (lemon juice simply on its own is a good way to rid cutting boards and hands of odors). I use it every time I wash dishes and even sometimes after taking a shower or coming in after a cold day. My still-functioning hands thank me.

A little more than a year ago I made a paltry college student living working at the student pub. Someday, I'm sure, I'll devote a post completely to the nuances of the college restaurant life, where I learned to cook, pour beers, and talk drunk college kids into buying rounds of sundaes, but one big part of the experience was working the industrial-sized dish washer. If I didn't like doing it for myself, getting paid to wash dishes did not much sweeten the deal. Perhaps the worst part was the completely disgusting things people left on their dishes--hamburgers drowned in beer, relish mixed with abandon and ketchup, french fries bobbing hopelessly in melted ice cream. There was nothing I could do to stop the disgusting, but at the very least I took solace in the disposable gloves we used for food prep. Aside from the added sanitary effect, it protected my hands from the hot water and made it easier to pick up and move around any leftovers. I'm not a fan of those giant rubber gloves, since they are usually huge, unwieldy, uncomfortable, and lack any fine touch, but the disposable gloves are great--form-fitting and not too hot. A giant box would last a year and be great for reluctant washers (like meeee!). $1.69 each at the WEBstaurant Store.

Everyone should have a good scrub brush with a handle that can store liquid soap. These are great, but it's surprising how so few people actually have them. First Evie had a little bristly scrubber, which Kevin saw and liked, so he bought a scrubber with soap, which Evie saw and liked, so she upgraded to a nicer model. I liked both of theirs, and when I moved into my apartment, I bought my own. It works great, especially for the caked-on stuff that sponges just can't take care of. The one I have, which is sturdy, has durable bristles, and is easy to refill with soap, is $8 at Bed, Bath, & Beyond.

Other dish-washing tips: air dry, never towel dry; don't stack hot, wet glasses on top of each other; clean blenders by blending a little soapy water; change sponges at least once a month; and water needs to get at least above 115 degrees to kill bacteria (it is silly to me that I actually know these things). While, sadly, my lovely lotion, great gloves, and super scrubber don't save me from the tired drudgery of the daily dish wash, these at least help me get through the wash as I dream of drier times and the Bosch SHX98M09UC.

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