2009.08.05 Getting into hot water with the dirty dishes

Written by David Green.

It’s a little disconcerting how many dishes David and I can pile up before one of us washes them. It’s not so terrible, certainly not a health department situation—we usually rinse the dishes very well before stacking them at the side of the sink. We’re awaiting a pile big enough to warrant running water hot enough to get them spic and span clean...water so hot the dishes air dry in almost no time.

We’re big fans of air drying and were happily vindicated when air drying was found to be more sanitary than using a dish towel. Sure, using a dish towel to dry dishes means your kitchen looks neat and tidy right away, but oy, adding all those germs to spic and span clean dishes?

I know most of you are probably dishwasher fans, but we’ve lived without the appliance for so long, there’s nothing to miss about it—washing dishes by hand is just the normal course of action around our house.

And now that we wear bright and fancy (hot pink for him, neon green for me) super duper rubber gloves, dishwashing is a real joy. “They’re tough! They’re comfortable! They’re...True Blues: the Ultimate Household Gloves,” is what it says on the packaging.

“True Blues” really are the ultimate in rubber gloves. They’re vinyl, actually, with a substantial cotton liner, so your hands slide in and out easily and you’re not faced with the sad scenario of trying to extricate your hands from gloves that seem to have welded themselves to your fingers, finally having to turn the sweat filled gloves inside out to get them off—and later struggling to get the fingers right side in again.

No problem like that with “True Blues”—and “True Blues” are longer than most rubber gloves so you don’t get wet wrists (or water slipping inside) should your arms happen to cross the stream of running water.

Running water...it’s the theme here. We run what seems like a heck of a lot of water before it gets hot enough...full throttle hot...to wash and rinse dishes. That’s why we usually accumulate enough dishes to make it worth all that water going down the drain in pursuit of hotter water.

Our eating habits over the course of a day lend themselves to the use of lots of dishes. A plate here for the toast, a bowl there for the oatmeal, a plate for a muffin, a bowl for soup.

It’s really a bit silly how many dishes two people can go through in a day. I wonder if it’s empty nest eating habits. I know I make fewer real meals and we just graze more. Or we just keep finding more food to eat with no real dinner plan.

“Hmm, what else can I eat? I’ve had rice and lentils, a hunk of Jarsberg cheese, a carrot, some lettuce and an apple...what would complete this meal?” David might ask before concluding a rice cake spread with peanut butter and sprinkled with chocolate chips would do the trick...and there goes another plate.

Well, that would mean another plate for me. After my drippy tomato and pesto sandwich, there’s no way a rice cake is going to make its way on my plate. I don’t like to mix flavors so dessert always gets its own plate.

But a few days ago, the insanity of the rapidly multiplying dishes on the kitchen counter got to me.

“Let’s try using just one bowl, one plate, and one set of silverware each for one week,” I suggested.

“That’s pretty much what I do when you’re on vacation,” David replied.

“So what’s the difference when I’m here?  I asked. I’m a bad influence?”

He didn’t reply. I think he suspected he might find himself in hot water. But, obviously, I am a bad influence. David would have put that rice cake right on top of his dirty rice and lentils bowl.

I proposed that we just use one of each, kind of like we’d do if we were camping, and then wash it as soon as we were done.

David said he’d consider it if we had a hot water on-demand heater, but he didn’t want to wash dishes in anything but hot water.

I’ve always been a “hottest water possible” dishwashing fan, but I think a seed was planted for me last spring when Maddie asked an innocent question.

She was at her boyfriend Neil’s apartment, they were washing dishes and he wasn’t using hot water.

“Why do we use hot water to wash dishes?” she asked me afterwards.

Why? What kind of question is that? That’s like asking why do we breathe, it’s just basic to life as we know it. That was my immediate reaction.

Isn’t it basic science? Doesn’t hot water kill germs and cut through grease?

But Neil pointed out that bacteria grow in a warm environment. And wouldn’t dish soap cut through grease?

I don’t know who’s right, but I think I’m ready to test the only-one-bowl waters.

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