Just picture it. More quality time around the dinner table with your friends and family, reading that novel you bought yourself last year past page fifty, eating too much but not really worrying about it (until next year), and just sitting around reflecting on your dreams. But then you walk into the kitchen and reality sets in.
CHAPTER ONE: THE SINK
Most dishwashing experts – if there really are such creatures – agree that stacking dirty dishes in the sink is never a good idea. It means that when the time comes to lay scourer to pot, half your time goes into the prep work – removing those dishes from the sink and redistributing them to clear your workspace. In short, things are off to a bad start.
If you find your counter space lacking, place a shallow, rectangular tub in your sink to hold your dirty dishes. When ready, simply fill the container with warm, soapy water and place it next to the sink – ready to be washed – taking care not to break or scratch your more fragile dishes in the process.
Before you even start chopping that first onion, make sure the dish rack and the sink are both clear. Then, read every recipe all the way through, making a mental note of the size and types of bowls you’ll need. Where possible, use the same bowl for mixing ingredients. You’ll be surprised at what a difference a quick rinse here and there can make.
But running a successful cleanup operation requires teamwork. That is why there’s absolutely nothing wrong with educating your guests on your personal kitchen rules. Assign a spot for glassware, a bowl for cutlery and ample surface area for plates and serving dishes. Make a party of it! Some of the best moments happen around the sink, like a long, romantic kiss while dropping a lipstick-smeared crystal glass, or an intimate catch-up with an old friend while polishing some china. Memories are made of this, as the song says.
Sometimes, and you’ll receive no judgment here, the dishes can wait until morning. In that case, cover them in a sexy drape or stash them in the oven. During festive times, you also need to give yourself a break.
CHAPTER TWO: THE SOAK
There’s an anecdote doing the rounds that a man’s idea of washing a pan amounts to letting it soak overnight and forgetting about it. Irksome, of course, but not entirely without merit – at least in part.
Soaking is a necessary part of the dishwashing process and often takes time. But how often do we let something soak with little or no results apart from a spell of tennis elbow acquired from vigorous scrubbing?
For general dishes, such as plates and cutlery, fill one of your sinks – or a small tub if you use a single sink – with a soapy solution of hot water and a teaspoon of bleach. You can use this solution to wash the sink afterwards. Before washing, soak your dishes in the solution to break down the excess fats and sugars. A gentle wipe with a dish sponge or cloth will take care of the rest.
Interestingly, the best antidote to a persistent ice cream or butter smear is cold water. Hot water tends to make the texture of dairy gummier and so, harder to remove.
There are several reasons why pans become airborne, most of which are seldom talked about. But let that reason never be born of frustration at not being able to clean a burnt one. Simply follow this man-friendly recipe:
1 cup water
1 cup vinegar
2 tbsp bicarbonate of soda
Put the pot or pan on the hob and turn up the heat.
Pour the water and vinegar into the pan, and bring to a boil
Remove from the heat and add the bicarbonate of soda, evenly pouring it over the surface of the hot liquid, which should start fizzing vehemently upon first contact
Pour the concoction out
A light scrub with a scourer should remove the grimy deposit
If needed, make a bicarb paste with another two tablespoons and a drizzle of water at the bottom of the pan, leave for a while and wash the remaining grime away.
CHAPTER THREE: THE WASH
As with any craft – which dishwashing certainly is – you are only as good as your materials. Use a dishwashing soap that cleans fast by breaking down grease and grime. Gloves are all important, as they protect your skin (and manicure) from the harshness of the soap, vinegars and bicarbonate of soda you may use, as well as from sharp points like knives and, should there be an accident, shards of glass.
The hierarchy of dishes has also inspired lengthy debates worthy of the Hague. Brushing up on the pecking order of what gets washed when breaks the whole soapy story up into manageable increments.
Always start with glassware – and when washing crystal, line the bottom of the sink with a terrycloth towel. It is often suggested that nothing brings fine glassware to a sparkle like rinsing it in a clear sink of water with a wedge of lemon and vinegar. Keep your holiday artillery well stocked by freezing wedges of lemon in an ice tray filled with vinegar. When filling your rinsing sink, simply drop in a cube to melt.
Meanwhile, after a rejuvenating soak, your cutlery should only require the briefest of washes to remove any remaining grease or grime. With your most fragile pieces and sharp-edged utensils out of the way, your dishes are now ready to shine. Before dipping them in water, scrape off any remaining bits of food and sauce to prevent your soapy solution from taking on a murky, swamp-like quality.
CHAPTER FOUR: DRYING
Most of us experience a spike in the volume of dishes we use during times of celebration. And with all the extra dishes going around, drying them can be equally as challenging.
One should never be left to do the dishes alone on such occasions – no matter how good-natured or insistent we are. Assign yourself a small team of assistant washers and driers and make sure you’re well stocked up on super-absorbent dish towels. And for extra drying space, use your oven racks, placing them on dish towels to catch the water.
CHAPTER FIVE: THE DISHWASHER
Anyone who has ever lived without a dishwasher will know something of agony. True, there are fates far worse than a life without the machine, but it is commonly believed to save marriages, reduce the fly population of any home, sterilise feeding bottles, and save water. Simply put, the dishwasher deserves a spot amongst the best inventions of all time along with the bicycle, the automobile, the aeroplane, and scissors.
Above all, a dishwasher makes life simpler and easier, but here are a few tips that will make it even more effective:
There is seldom a reason to rinse a plate before putting it in the dishwasher, so scrape it clean instead. Saving water is one of its best attributes.
Dishes should always face inwards towards the centre, not towards the sides.
Knives should always be placed in the cutlery rack with the blades facing up.
Glasses go between the tines (or prongs), not over them.
When the cleaning cycle is complete, unload the bottom rack first to prevent any excess water from the top rack to drip onto the dishes below.
Use gloves when removing glassware to avoid getting greasy fingerprints on them.
Keep smaller, lighter items like lids and small containers from being flung about the interior during the stormy washing cycle by putting them in a nylon laundry bag.
To ensure that every member of the household knows whether a load is clean or dirty, use colour-coded magnets.
Clean the traps and seals often and run an empty load with vinegar once in a while to clean out any build-up or mould.
EPILOGUE: A FEW FINAL WORDS ON CLEANING
Most of us use too much dishwashing soap. When done like an expert, which you most certainly are by now, you will know that more soap won’t necessarily do a better job. Mix one tablespoon of soap in a small bowl, whisking it into a dense froth. When needed, dip your sponge, scourer or dishcloth into the foam as needed.
Buying dishwashing soap in bulk is often more cost effective, but bulky dispensers can cast such a pall on an otherwise cheerful kitchen. Get yourself an uplifting soap dispenser to brighten up the time spent at the sink and store the rest of the gallon in the cupboard.
High-tack labels are well known for their mood-altering qualities, suffusing the cheeks of even the most centred individual to darker hues upon discovering them on an otherwise beautiful object. A simple and non-abrasive solution to this problem is to make a paste out of vegetable oil and bicarbonate of soda. Spread the mixture evenly over the label, leave it on for ten minutes and rub it off.
In the end, washing the dishes need never be a sordid affair. In fact, there are many who find it therapeutic – even constructive. Renowned crime novelist, Agatha Christie, for instance, said that the time she spent washing the dishes was her best time for planning a novel. And if the thought of such solitude fills you with dread, put on some music, revisit a few long-forgotten dance moves and make it an entertaining team effort.
THE ULTIMATE KITCHEN SINK PLAYLIST
No one needs to suffer in silence. Before turning on the hot tap, compile yourself this playlist:
Ons Maak Stoom, Amanda Strydom
Don’t Rain on My Parade, Barbra Streisand
All by Myself, Céline Dion
Dancing in the Dark, Bruce Springstein
Hotel California, The Eagles
Crying, Roy Orbison & K.D. Lang
9 to 5, Dolly Parton
Pata Pata, Miriam Makeba
Dance Me to the End of Love, Leonard Cohen
River of Dreams, Billy Joel
Total Eclipse of the Heart, Bonnie Tyler
Karma Chameleon, Boy George and the Culture Club
Small Room, Karen Zoid
Make Your Own Kind of Music, The Mamas and the Papas
Die Nostalgie, Laurika Rauch
Walking in Memphis, Cher
Sacrifice, Elton John
Happy, Pharrell Williams
I Wanna Dance with Somebody, Whitney Houston