Cleaning Up

Most people don’t know how to clean up after a large meal.

They don’t prepare the dishes and pots and pans properly, and they don’t stack them in the washing machine for maximum effectiveness and efficiency. There’s more, but here is how it is properly done…

First, one must survey the damage, slowly and with love; this is a worthy task that deserves full attention and respect. Let us enter the kitchen the morning after a tumultuous evening, and view the task at hand.

The smell of garlic, of course, pervades all. This is not at all unpleasant to the lover of the stinking rose, despite its lack of freshness. It’s a reminder of the delicious aroma and taste of the garlic butter one has, the evening before, spread like a golden glaze over the thick beef steak, cooked rare and bloody, the juices flowing over the helpless plate.

The acidic tang of red wine dregs rising from many glasses complements the garlic, offering a stimulating olfactory duo to accompany the task.

Before organizing all the things in like groupings, one must have a clear and clean working area. The counter surrounding the sink must be rid of condiment bottles, salt shakers, clean instruments and implements, and stale food not put away the evening before as it should have been; all surface detritus should be wiped clean for the next step. One cannot think and plan clearly with a cluttered work space.

Next, open the dishwasher and examine it. Are there clean or dirty things in it? If clean, put them away. If dirty, make sure they are lodged in the proper places for maximum use of space. Most importantly, the bowls should occupy the tines that are more widely spaced than those to be occupied by the plates. The short utensils should be in the shallow compartment of the utensil basket, and the longer ones in the deeper slots.

Take the utensil basket out of the dishwasher! Yes, it’s all right to do this. With the basket in hand, walk around the kitchen to put all the utensils in the basket, in their appropriately-sized compartments. After rescuing all the visible utensils (there will always be laggards where you don’t expect them), and before putting the basket back into the empty dish washer, stand over the sink and run water over the most egregiously encrusted utensils to knock off the big chunks. This will help your dishwasher’s plumbing to last longer. Having done this, now put the utensil basket where it belongs.

One must think of this as an industrial process. For instance, don’t constantly open and shut and reopen the cabinet under the sink to put scraps and trash in the waste bucket. Pull the damn thing out and set it in the middle of the kitchen table! Now, put all the visible trash into it, including scraps from the plates and bowls. After scraping detritus from each plate and bowl, stack them in like grouping on the counter near the sink. Once you are reasonably certain all the major trash is in the bucket, put it back under the sink. Now put all the dishes and bowls in their proper places, always trying fit as much as possible into the machine.

This is no time to worry about keeping one’s hands clean, or worry about dropping scraps on the floor. The latter will be swept and probably mopped after everything is in the dishwasher and the pots and pans scrubbed and put away. (Attention women: never put a pot or a pan in the dishwasher. They need to be scrubbed by hand. I’m referring, of course, to pure metal pots and pans, not the ones coated with Teflon, or the like; we all know these must be done by hand.)

Glasses and cups that are sturdy enough for the dishwasher should be stacked as closely together as possible in the upper tray of the dishwasher. Water, especially under pressure, is very clever and can reach into the smallest spaces, and even force glasses apart to get at every square millimeter of them. If there is room, I will lay long utensils, ones that have holes for hanging in their ends, alongside the glasses with their holes placed over the tines of the tray to secure them firmly to the tray.

As the kitchen table and the counter become clear of plates and all other implements, place the pots and pans neatly on the counter next to the sink. (Leftover food in these will already have been put in the trash or, properly wrapped, in the refrigerator).

Before closing the dishwasher, look around for laggards, including in the dining areas and any empty bedrooms. Don’t disturb sleepers; they will just get in your way and want to talk with you as you are trying to do your sacred work.

Put all the laggards in the remaining available space in the dishwasher, put the soap pellet in its pocket and close the latter, then shut the door and turn the machine on. What satisfaction!

Now to the pots and pans.

This can be a joyful exercise, if one’s attitude is correct. In my household, none of the others cleans pots and pans; they just stack up in the sink, or on the stove, waiting for me to do something about them, which usually takes me five minutes.

The Teflon pans are the easiest. Never use detergent except in dire situations. Detergent is bad for you and the environment. I hate the smell of detergent. I Imagine my precious bodily fluids being snatched away by the clever detergent molecules to bind them with water that gets flushed away by my nose, out of which always runs mucous, copiously, when I use detergent. Just scrub the pans with a brush very diligently and completely while running hot water over them. Then wipe them vigorously with paper towels. Put them away.

Now, all you have are the pots. You should use detergent for these, but sparingly. The main ingredient in washing pots is elbow grease. Don’t be afraid to use a metal scouring pad while running hot water over the offending detritus in the pot.

Put the clean pots on the clean sink, upside down, to drain and dry.

Have a cup of coffee.

Wasn’t that easy?

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