Grit Blogs > Country at Heart

Washing Dishes

Country at HeartWhen I think about it, it's a good thing that I like washing dishes, because, growing up with such a large family, there were always dishes to wash at least three times a day – at our house and when I stayed with Grandmother. You know how each of us is different. Well, my "thing" was not digging in the dirt, planting and tending flowers, or cooking, but I didn't mind (especially after a mouth-watering, delicious meal) washing dishes.

We didn't have Palmolive nor Dove and not even any hand-softening, sweet-smelling Joy. Perhaps other families did, but we didn't. What we had was a big, thick, light brown bar of Grandma's genuine, handmade, lye soap. Actually, we used lye soap for everything, including bathing and shampooing our hair when our regular soap and shampoo ran out.

OK, let's get back to the kitchen. When you live in a house without the convenience and comfort of (hot and cold) running water, you have to heat your dish water first. Then, you have to have two good-sized, clean pans but not necessarily a drain board. When the dishes are washed and rinsed, they are then dried with a clean, white dish cloth and the dishes are put into the cabinet or stacked on the table if there is no cabinet.

Dish washing at Grandmother's house was a little different than at our house. For one thing, not only did she have the dish pans, but she also had a drain board – we didn't – at least not during the early years. And unlike today, we didn't have a sponge either. We had a soft, limp, well-used dishrag. The dishes are washed in one pan and rinsed in the other. Once the dishes are washed and rinsed, the dish water is not tossed until the end of the day. That's because the dishes from any other meals are washed in the same water. That may not sound too sanitary, but it is convenient, and if there's not much water, then, that's the way it goes … sanitary or not.

The thing about dish washing is that dishes had to be washed before going to bed, because when the cook prepares breakfast, the dishes have to be ready to eat from. Also, at Grandmother's, on school-day mornings, not only did I enjoy a first-class meal, but I had to arrange my time schedule so I could wash her breakfast dishes before catching the bus. She needed clean dishes for her and Grandpa for lunch. And, if I spent the night, I had to wash her dishes before turning in.

So, dish washing is just like eating. If you eat, you wash dishes. If you wash dishes, then, you can eat again ... from plates without old food dried on them. And, of course, the main reason we washed dishes is because there wasn't a cupboard full of clean dishes. We pretty much ate from what we had – and those were pretty few.

At Grandmother's, there were only three plates to wash but several pots and pans at each meal. At our house, it was a different story. Assuming we each had a plate apiece. There were ... let's see, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight ... I think. Luckily, there were no tea cups or coffee mugs at our house, but there were two at Grandma's. She didn't let me drink coffee, and apparently she didn't consider it punishment for me to wash their coffee mugs.

Washing silverware wasn't that bad, because we barely had a spoon and a fork apiece, and also, people didn't have salad plates and bread and butter plates and dessert plates, and salad forks and dinner forks and dessert forks, and teaspoons, and soup spoons, and dessert spoons, and dinner knives and salad knives and butter spreaders, and on and on and on. Actually, we only had one regular plate and knife and spoon.

But regardless to how many or how few plates there were to wash, there were always pots and pans (and for a little, scrawny girl like me, they were the muscle-building kind). But be that as it may, dish washing is essential, unless, of course, you want to eat out of dirty plates, and even as good as my grandmother's food was, I certainly didn't want to see old, stale food encrusted on the next day's plate, so, the dishwasher did her job.

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