Dishes: Dirty and Otherwise

I don’t have a dishwasher. To be more correct, I don’t have a working dishwasher. The old, nonworking dishwasher that occupies the space in my kitchen that a working dishwasher could occupy is filled with plastic containers of all sorts, which endure various states of order and disarray, leaning most of the time toward controlled chaos. They do not complain and therefore get attention infrequently, but this is beside the point.

When you have company (or in general a lot of people), a dishwasher is nice. I remember. After my fifth child was born, I got one in the house we lived in then, and we lived there till he was eight. I remember the dishwasher being handy during those years. For the past week or so, the number of people at my dinner table has ranged from seven to nine. I cook. That’s a lot of dirty dishes. They usually don’t fit on one drying mat. This is especially challenging when you have a lot of oddball dishes that sometimes (but don’t necessarily) stack well.

I like my oddballs, don’t get me wrong. I use these little (3×4-inch) chicken dishes when grandchildren come and when I am exercising portion control. Trust me, not that many crackers fit on one of these!


How can using a chicken dish not make you smile?!

Plates are more than functional. I love giving my granddaughters the option of whether to use the girl with the green dress or the girl with the purple dress. Rise and Eppie always choose purple and green respectively, and Ellie and Piper choose one or the other at each meal with no evident reason or pattern. I got these plates decades ago on a trip to Germany and they remind me of those days – I love the memory! – and they add an element of fun for the girls. Nothing wrong with that.

purple and green dress.jpg

I have a lot of oddballs and I love them. Back in the day when I worked at the hotel, we ordered from a Villeroy and Boch rep who sent samples for us to look at when we were going to be ordering a new set for tea service, and then didn’t want them back. “Take them home,” she said. “Give them away if you want.” I took them home. Thus the lovely variety of different salad-size plates in my cabinet.


The way I see it, if you have a lovely variety, you can choose the one that calls your name on any given day. Having that choice, plus the feel of a pretty plate in my hands, is a benign, delightful pleasure for me, even if no one else understands it.

I know I could use disposables. But I am way too environmentally conscientious for that. So I do a lot of dishes. Samuel does a lot of dishes. It’s not the end of the world. You develop a rhythm, a system, a groove. You figure out how to arrange the drying dishes most efficiently and most effectively, such as standing large knives up in the back corner point-down so they are out of the way and air gets all around the blade and allows optimal drying (however will they dry properly if you lay them flat?).

It gets done. During the process you can listen to music or sing to yourself, you can enjoy nice conversation if someone works alongside you, you can review the day in your head, plan upcoming events or fantasize in ways you are not required to share. You tidy up when the last pot or salad bowl is clean and the basin has been dumped, rinsed and wiped out. In its designated place you put the dishcloth (or sponge, if you are a sponge person, though we will save the serious conversations about the pros and cons of cloths vs. sponges for another day!). You walk away knowing you have done a small job well. I’ll take my tiny bits of satisfaction, thank you.

The dishwasher that came with this house I bought (going on eight years ago now) worked when the inspector inspected the house prior to closing. I don’t know what happened. All I know is that it doesn’t work. Getting a new one has never reached the top of the priority list. But there is good in that too. If I have everything, what is there to look forward to?

I look forward to a new kitchen someday. It will have a dishwasher. I will probably be in my sixties by the time this happens, but I can wait. Some people never get a new kitchen, let alone a dishwasher, and I never want to forget that. I am grateful for hot water coming out of the faucet, for lovely dishes to use, for strength to stand and wash them. Taking stock of what we have while at the same time keeping our dreams alive seems to me a good place of balance.

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