Here's the Dish: Wash Your Own

Putting away bulky All-Clad pans following a recent dinner party, my fingers came across a layer of goo. Not goo, really. Grime. Grease. Whatever the word, my shiny stainless steel über-cookware felt unclean. I suddenly felt a surge of dread. "I washed serving dishes at Norine's barbecue yesterday," I remembered, sickened. "Now she'll know."

Ten bucks says she's in on my hidden horror by now. I'm sure Norine discovered the truth the following morning when she went to place her colorful ceramic platters in a cabinet. No question about it, the hostess picked up her kitchenware and found it oddly unwashed, even though she saw me working diligently at the sink.


I have a dirty little secret: I can't wash dishes.


I do technically wash dishes. I turn the water on steamy hot. I squirt liquid soap onto a sponge. I lather and rinse and flip pieces over and lather and rinse some more, and I keep at it until I am 100 percent certain that the pot, ladle or cake plate in question is indisputably sanitary.The problem is, once the squeaky-clean item in question has sat on a counter for a day and I return to it, I realize I did a lousy job.


Norine won't be the first friend to discover the cause of my domestic shame. I am quick to take up sink duty at any gathering. That way I am clearly helping out; if someone else gets to that position first, I have to conjure up ways to assist, to find forks in need of carrying, to seek out trash cans that need emptying.  I'd rather not scurry around pathetically looking to look helpful.


But, when it comes to dishwashing, I am a loser. I'm sure my friend Nancy knows it. She once served my husband and me a wonderful dinner -- on fine china yet. Sincerely glad for her hospitality (we slept in her guest room that night, too), I bolted into the kitchen and had my way with what were surely her wedding treasures. Hot water, soap, lather, scrub, rinse, repeat. I have no doubt that all five sets of plates were rewashed, by hand or dishwasher, the moment we left. Nine years later, I can still imagine Nancy standing in her kitchen and telling her husband, "I'm sure Rona washed these dishes but they're ooey," and then taking her thoughts to the logical next step: "I wonder if she does everything half-assed."


Thank goodness for my KitchenAid dishwasher, which handles most of the burden for me. If only my shiny white miracle machine could handle my entire load and those of my friends, I'd be set. But when I cranked out a soup/three entrees/vegetable/dessert meal for six on Saturday night, when Norine hosted 15 of us with a glorious spread for a July 4 celebration, when Nancy cooked and served a splendid salmon repast for five, dishwashers couldn't handle the load. Some items, generally the biggest ones, simply need a good swish in the sink. Unless I'm the one doing the swooshing.


Back at my house, once I recovered from my panic at Norine learning my homemaking weakness, I touched the pans and, again, felt the familiar sense of ugh. Then I unceremoniously stuck them on top of my other pans in the cupboard. No one but me will know, since I'm the only cook here, and after another use or two I'll run them through the KitchenAid.


If my guests ever find out, they might never join us here for another meal -- even if I do promise my signature swordfish empanada or rosemary chicken. Ssh. Don't tell.