Vlorbik's Diner

son of owen's cooking show

for dishwasher pete wherever we might find him

Posted by vlorbik on January 10, 2013

(dishwashing ramble)

dishwashing *machines* are for restaurants
and cafeterias and suchlike hundreds-or-
even-thousands-a-day institutions. we haven’t
got one here, so it doesn’t come up…
but i stayed for lots of years in my last
apartment without loading its dishwasher
even once.

we had one at home when i was a kid, though,
and i loaded it plenty of times. in fact,
i took *extra* dish duty to avoid *cooking*
duty (cooking is of course fraught with peril).
and along the way, i’ve worked in few
restaurants-and-cafeterias loading
dishes by the hour.

i started by subbing for various of my
more ambitious classmates around the time
they started getting jobs to buy and
maintain cars. such a way of life
was too horrifying at that time for me
even to *think* about seriously… but
i sure didn’t mind making a few bucks
and helping out a buddy.

i twisted this lefthand ringfinger
but good at the fireside in bloomington
on one of those early nights. finished
out the shift and took another day or
so besides before taking to the clinic
and getting it splinted. the swelling
never went quite all the way away; you
(or anyway *i*) can still easily see
that that first knuckle doesn’t match
the others properly.

the only other place i remember working
straight through for eight-hour shifts
devoted to dishwashing (and related cleaning)
was janko’s little zagreb (also in b’ton).
where they had these beastly damn soupbowls
with cheese caked all over ’em coming in
all night and no time to deal with ’em.
you’d have to just let ’em stack up…
and they’d laid in quite a supply…
until the dinner guests and cooks
and wait-beings had all gone home
to grind ’em all out one at a time
by hand. the machine just wouldn’t get
through those cakes of hardened cheese.
*then* you had to clean up the whole
damn kitchen.

much the *biggest* dishwasher i worked
with was at eigenmann… a highrise dorm
feeding well over a thousand of us,
two or three times a day. there were
*two* big cafeterias taking up most
of the basement. once things got going,
feeding the dishes into the machine
was like working on an assembly line.
(putting them away was somebody *else’s*
job; we’d just load clean trays onto
wheeled racks.) whenever you’d spot
a *broken* dish, you’d smash it to bits
right at your feet. no time to deal
with that now. every now and again,
somebody would smash one just to let
off steam.

working at home on one’s *own* dishes
is of course a different thing altogether.
working for love is altogether *groovier*
than working for money.

certainly there *is* a “load-the-machine,
load-the-machine, faster, faster, faster”
groove… but by contrast to the “give each
individual dish exactly as much attention
as you feel it deserves” groove? well,
the work-for-money technique might be
described as “zoning out” (don’t think
about how long it is until break, don’t
think about how tired you are… in fact,
don’t think at *all*! wash, man, wash!)
whereas work-for-love is zoning *in*
(during each moment of the process
somehow almost-unconsciously *aware*
that one is *doing the right thing*
as the esthetically-rather-unpleasing
*problem*… a countertop covered in
dirty dishes… slowly becomes the
hugely eye-appealing *solution*:
a drying rack full of one’s own
beloved *clean* dishes).

once having learned to love dishwashing,
a great deal of the scariness of cooking
itself will have somehow melted away.

still, there’s plenty of stuff i’m content
to leave for madeline to do…

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2 Responses to “for dishwasher pete wherever we might find him”

  1. Madeline said

    Breaking dishes on purpose. Cathartic

  2. Sarah said

    We also have no dishwashing machine here, and I kind of like it except when I hate it. Since my husband washes dishes at work, we try not to let ’em pile up here at home, but I’ve always been a lousy housekeeper (’cause if you show an aptitude for something they might expect you to *do* something, like all the time!!)So we wash dishes for six, fairly reluctantly and I noticed that while I was gone, they used mostly disposable plates. I worry that my daughters will run off with the first sweet talking man who promises them a dishwasher…*sigh*.

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