Going Business Side Down

We are in the midst of a great, prolonged debate in this country.  There are strong feelings and strong arguments on both sides.  And, as with many issues, once people have staked out a position it is incredibly hard to convince them to change it.  

I’m speaking, of course, of the Great Dishwasher Silverware Loading Debate.

How do you load your silverware into the dishwasher?  Do you put everything — knives, forks, and spoons — into the dishwasher so that the business end of the utensil is down in the basket, and the handle is up?  Or do you do the reverse, and go handles down for everything?  Or do you split the baby — an uncomfortable phrase when you are talking about knives — and put the pointy end of the knives in the basket, but have the bowls of spoons and the tines of fork up and flapping in the breeze?

Believe it or not, the experts and dishwasher manufacturers disagree about the best way to approach this common household chore.  Some say forks and spoons should be placed business end up and out of the basket to maximize water pressure and cleaning power, and to prevent spoons from “nesting” together and stray food particles from being trapped between fork tines and the basket.  Others says the fork tines should go into the basket for safety, to avoid scraped and punctured hands and fingers.  And there does seem to be consensus among experts and manufacturers that knives should go in blade down to avoid shredding the hands that reach down to retrieve them.  

I’m somebody who places all utensils, even spoons, into the basket business side down.  I’ve always done it that way, for a reason that the experts don’t mention — at the point of removal, when the human hand interacts with the sparkling clean flatware, isn’t it better to have the grubby hands grabbing the handles, which after all are designed for the human hand to hold, rather than the working ends?  Why have hands grappling with the metal parts of the utensils that interact directly with the food?  And I’ve got a simple answer for the concerns about “nesting” and food trapping — mix up the utensils when you put them in the basket, and if a utensil comes out less than pristine, put it back into the basket for the next dishwasher run. 

Sometimes “experts” really don’t know what they are talking about. 

Washing And Drying By Hand

Our dishwasher conked out during the height of the Christmas baking season, when dirty pots and pans, greasy cookie sheets and mixing bowls, and chocolate covered spoons and spatulas were piled high in the sink.  We knew it was cooked when we heard that vague, disquieting grinding sound that signals the death knell of every piece of modern machinery.

A repairman came, took a look, and said we could spend hundreds of dollars repairing an aging machine or we could buy a new one.  Hmmm — tough choice!  Dishwashers apparently have the most rugged job in the household appliance world, because in the years we’ve lived in this house we’ve now blown out three dishwashers, and no other major appliance is even close.

IMG_2241Of course, we’ll buy a new dishwasher — what American house could be sold without one these days? — but first we’ll do some careful research to assess which brand is most likely to stand up against the relentless pounding that occurs in the Webner household.

In the meantime, we’ve rediscovered there’s something calming about washing and drying the dishes by hand.  You stop the drain, squirt some dishwashing fluid into the sink, turn on the hot water, and let the steam and suds rise as you stare out the window, like Elliott in E.T.  When the soapy water reaches the point where it covers all the dishes, you begin to scrub and scour and rinse and set.  The motions become mechanical, and you fall into the dishwashing zone of consciousness.  Before you know it, the dishes in the sink are gone and have been transferred to the drying rack on the counter.

Then you fetch a dishcloth and begin drying, using the familiar circular motion that would delight Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid,and carefully put the dishes back in the cupboards and the utensils in their drawers.  When you’re done, you scrub down the sink until it gleams and towel off the countertops until they are spic and span.  Hey, the kitchen looks pretty good!

As I said, we’ll be buying a new dishwasher — but for now doing the dishes by hand really isn’t that bad.  In fact, you could argue that washing up by hand every now and then is good for the soul.