Monday, October 8, 2012

A Dirty Little Secret

     I would like to take this opportunity to celebrate the disadvantaged, the disenfranchised, the downtrodden -- a group of people that never gets rewarded or recognized for all their selfless hard work and unsung achievements. I'm talking, of course, about the dishwashers of the world.

     I don't mean, particularly, the group of guys who wash dishes in the restaurants and cafeterias across this great land of ours -- although I do feel a certain solidarity with these workers and bow my head to them as well. I'm talking about people much closer to home, people you may actually know: The person who does the dishes in your house.

     Why do I feel that these people do not get the respect they deserve? Why do I feel that they should finally get their fair share of the credit in the kitchen? Because I am one of them.

     The plight of the dishwasher hit home for me last night. We had friends over for dinner, a married couple. The man brought the wine. Everyone thanked him and inspected the label and congratulated him for his good taste. The wife brought an hors d'ouevre -- crackers in a very fancy box with some kind of homemade dip with little green things in it. Everyone oohed and aahed over the hors d'oeuvre, and ceremoniously dipped in their crackers and smacked their lips at how good it all was.

     Then came the main meal, cooked by my lovely B. It was good . . . it was really good. I made all the appropriate comments about taste and texture; the two women discussed where the recipes came from, and how B had tweaked them to give them a special flavor. Everyone heaped compliments on the chef as they asked for seconds.

     But who brought all those clean dishes to the table? Where were the compliments for the person who slaved over the sink, filled and emptied the dishwasher, hand-washed the big pots that won't fit in the dishwasher, and carefully soaped and rinsed the wine glasses and special cups that B says are "too good" to go in the dishwasher?

     Nobody thanks the dishwasher. Nobody congratulates the dishwasher for producing sparkling glasses and clean plates. Nobody waxes enthusiastic about how the dishwasher loaded the dishwashing machine so all the dirty dishes would fit in and still get clean.

   It's a thankless job. You never get a compliment. But nobody hesitates to criticize, usually in a slightly scolding voice, if a tiny bit of tomato sauce is left on the edge of a plate, or the handle of a pot is still a little greasy, or the glasses are cloudy.

     I've been a dishwasher for over 40 years . . . for most of my life. I blame it on my father. When I was a little kid, my older sister did the dishes in our family. When she left for college, my father took over the job.

     When I then went off to college, and later marriage, I thought that dishwashing was an important job -- after all, in my family it was a responsibility taken on by the eldest child, and then by the alpha male. So I stepped up to the kitchen sink manfully, ready to shoulder this important and serious obligation.

     Little did I know at the time that dishwashing is the duty assigned to the person judged to have the fewest skills in the kitchen. The person who can't do anything else. The person who can't measure or mix or roast or bake. The person who doesn't even command the basic fundamentals to set the table.

     You know the dirty little secret: No meal can be put on the table without clean dishes. So who does the dishes in your house? Take a moment to thank your dishwasher. Go buy him or her a present or some flowers.

     And next time you're in a restaurant, by all means send your compliments to the chef. But send them to the dishwasher too!


June said...

Hear! Hear!

Olga said...

You did a good job. When we were first married, Mike did all the dishes. The problem was he did them in the morning and I did not want to go to bed with a sinkful of supper dishes. Now we share the duties. And he even sometimes cooks.

Warren Lieberman said...

I learned to do dishes and pots n pans in the Army and still do that duty very often. Lately however, we have gravitated towards good plastic wear for holidays. I praise the man or woman who invented disposable dinnerware!

rosaria williams said...

Great job identifying the lowest person on the totem pole! You are to be congratulated for keeping everyone safe from all kinds of maladies and contamination.

Now, I would add, I bet your wife appreciates your contribution on a daily basis, and is reinforced in her job as the main cook, by knowing that after she has slaved over the hot stove, the cleanup is not her responsibility.

Douglas said...

The dishes are done, in my house, by a machine. They have been done by the machine (or ones like it) since 1986. I bow to it regularly.

Stephen Hayes said...

I'm not helpless in the kitchen and I share kitchen duties with my wife. When she cooks she uses every pot and pan in the house. I wash and reuse pots and pans as I go. It isn't fair when I have to clean up after her...but life isn't fair and I'm spoiled rotten in so many other ways.

Bob Lowry said...

For most of the 36 years of our marruage we have split the kitchen chores: one cooks and the other cleans up the kitchen and dishes. We rotate chores almost daily so no one feels put upon.

It has worked well, though it seems like when it is my turn to do the dishes my wife has used every pot and pan in the house. Why is that?

Bob Lowry said...

Would you believe "marriage."

Janette said...

I teach a type of "home ec" to 7&8th graders. WE cook about once a month. The first time we cooked I had two younger boys in a kitchen together. After they were done cooking and eating they announced they were "done". I checked the kitchen. The sink was full of dishes.
I asked about the dishes. They said they did not know how to clean them- their mom always did. I got out the sink stopper and the soap and demonstrated.
At the end- Large smiles. They were proud that they had done the dishes. I was proud of them as well---since you are correct---no good meal is tasty on dirty dishes!
All kitchen jobs are shared in my family. When he cooks I clean and visa versa. (We both are pretty good cooks!)

Linda Myers said...

I don't like to cook so I'm always the dishwasher. Fine by me!

Let's hear it for the unsung heroes.

schmidleysscribblins, said...

I do lunch and breakfast and David does evening which includes dog dishes. We wash them by hand. I like doing that. Dianne

momto8blog said...

but you lose your credit when you have to claim it! that would not go in my house! everyone is expected to HAPPILY take their turn doing the dishes, with no expectation of praise or even acknowledgment. content they have dishes to wash.
I am your newest follower.

Dick Klade said...

This is a fun post! I worked most of my way through college waiting on tables in a sorority house. The dish washing duties rotated among five waiters. Wise was the lad who could think of a good excuse to be absent when his turn came to preside over the sink.