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washing dishes

Washing Dishes

    It’s not all work and no play at the Plain Food Institute.  When the day is said and done, the guys loosen their lab coats, put up their feet, and talk about washing dishes…the art of washing dishes.  Nothing complements a meal more than a well-washed dish under good food.  Not just clean, but the crafty sparkling clean that only a hand-washed dish can achieve.  There are connoisseurs  who claim to be able to discern the distinct washing styles of different persons by close inspection of a freshly washed dish. Let’s see.

    Anyone who has faced a Shabbos’ accumulation of serving pieces, dishes, bowls, cutlery, and glasses hopes to be delivered from the hours of thankless drudgery that lie ahead.  Guests are expected for Shabbos lunch and the dishes must be done.  We cannot tell you how to conjure a willing housekeeper out of thin air, but we can explain some of the techniques that we have developed at PFI to make shorter and more pleasant work out of the task of washing dishes.

    After dinner the designated dishwasher commands the kitchen.  It is a job everyone else is relieved not to be doing, so they will grant the dishwasher extraordinary powers.  Do not be afraid to use them.  Demand that the table be cleared and everything assembled in the kitchen.  Direct table clearers to scrape the dishes and place like with like (eg. dinner plates in one stack, etc.) adjacent to the washing area. Insist that others empty the serving pieces and put away the used food in the refrigerator, pantry, or wherever.  Then announce for all to hear that your job will be limited to washing only.  Drying and putting away are optional, and you are opting out.  Now chase everyone else out of the kitchen and get to work.

     If you have directed your “tzivos ha-dishwasher” cleverly, they will have inadvertently accomplished a rough triage…placing everything to be washed into categories depending on type: dishes, bowls, pots, cutlery, glasses, etc.  Each type requires a unique complex of motions to wash and we want to perfect the rhythm of motions by repetition.  After two or three iterations you will sink into a pleasant groove and break into a cheerful tune.  In a blink that category will be completely clean.  On a regular day give yourself an initial boost by washing all the big and easy stuff first like the pot that boiled water.  It will clear out the bulky items with little effort and make you feel way ahead of the game.

    In practice it works like this.  Turn on the water and let it run. Load up your scrubby (or sponge on a weekday) with dish washing liquid.  The better brands actually contain more soap so last longer before needing an additional squirt.  Place all items of a particular type (e.g. dinner plates) in the sink stacked under the running water.  The soap and water flow will actually be softening up the next item to be washed.  Your sink should be big enough to accommodate the stack of washed and the stack of unwashed items, or you should use a tub-liner in your double sink.  Lift each item, scrub it front and back, and place still soapy in the washed stack.  Do not destroy the flow by washing and rinsing each item consecutively.  Washing and rinsing are completely different actions, each with its own rhythm.  When complete, rinse each item and stack on a towel or in a dish drainer.  Repeat for each different type to be washed.  Avoid interruptions or you’ll lose the beat.

    On those days when you wash pots and pans with stuck-on gobs or burned patches, apply our calculus of dishwashing and divide the item into increments.  For example, divide the soup pot into 90º quadrants and attack each individually telling yourself someone else is going to do the others.  And, when they don’t show up to do their part, tell yourself isn’t that always the way…you have to do everybody else’s job for them.  Or, if you do just one more quadrant, our enemies will change their evil inclinations.  The more difficult the chore, the smaller the increment, and the more fantastic the reward.  In no time you’ll finish the job with a chest full of medals, riding down 5th Avenue in a ticker tape parade.

    The essential tactile experience is to have your hands in soapy, flowing water.  It soothes in a way that counteracts the onerous task at hand.  The constant flow of water at the proper velocity and volume is very important.  Before Shabbos or Yuntiff get rid of the aerator screwed onto the end of the water spigot.  It reduces the flow and replaces the missing water volume with bubbles making you think there’s no difference.  Phooey! There is an art and science in using the flow of water to rinse the soapy items.  The mathematics of fluid flow has confounded many an engineer.  You will, however, skip the calculations and move into the zone of instinctive understanding of the depth and wonder of nature.  Accomplished dishwashers are able to move inot an autonomic mode contemplating a difficult Rashi or whatever, while their hands move effortlessly and without conscious thought.  Indeed, your fascination with this phenomenon will make you wish there were more dishes to wash.

    In the end the job will be done in a fraction of the time it would have taken with your old choppy, unorganized, sick-making methods.  Everything will be neatly organized in wet, but rapidly drying stacks, and if you are the husband, your wife will think you're a hero.