Log in

No account? Create an account
Mama Deb
.:::.:....... ..::...:
Mama Deb [userpic]

We handwash our dishes - not once in our married life have we owned a dishwasher, much less the ideal two (or maybe three - for Passover.) And we've become rather better at it lately, so it's on my mind.

We're Spoiled

I'm not talking about those people who have dishwashers, although they do seem to be a norm. I'm talking about more basic things. See, one of the things I collect are antique cookbooks, including two children's ones - Mary Frances and the Kitchen People, which came out around 1912, and Patty Pans, which was published in 1938. Plus I have a 1941 Girl Scout Handbook (and I have two more Girl Scout handbooks en route.

Side note about Mary Frances. Mary Frances is "the dearest, sweetest little girl in the world." She's also the younger child in a middle-class American household just prior to WWI - her family employs both a cook and a maid, and Father works all day. And, being a "nice, womanly little girl", she wants to learn all the skills she will need when she runs her own home. She learns them from the tools themselves (plus the occasional help of an adult or a fairy) in a series of instructional story books - starting with cooking. (First recipe? Toast. Second recipe? Buttered toast. Final recipe? Roast beef.) I own an original copy of the cookbook, and reprints of other books in the series, the latest one being "The Mary Frances Housekeeper" - in which she learns to keep a house from a family of paper dolls. Starting from scratch - there are full plans for building a cardboard house bound in the book. I'm so tempted...

So, what does this have to do with dishwashing? Or being spoiled?

All of these books have directions for handwashing dishes. And they start with "have lots of hot water." Because even as late as 1941, many people did not have hot running water. Many may not have had running water at all. My senior seminar paper was about ads in Life Magazine during WWII, and by the end, utility companies and appliance manufacturers were advertising the new kitchens that would be available when it was all over. All of these "dream kitchens" included hot water heaters. (Yes, utility companies. There was a true competition between having all electric kitchens and all gas ones. Electricity seems to have won, except for gas stoves.)

So preparation for dishwashing started before a single dish was dirtied - there had to be a big kettle of hot water ready and waiting. And then - well. The Girl Scouts had the dishwasher pile the dishes and such on the *kitchen table*, along with one dishpan of hot, sudsy water and one of hot clear water. (And to put hot water and washing powder in any pots before hand.) Patty Pans and Mary Frances has us using the sink, but there is still a pan of suds and one of clear. And there are clear instructions as to the order of dishwashing - glassware, silverware, dishes in increasing order of size, serving pieces and finally the pots and pans.

And if you're going to use a single pan of suds and a single pan of rinse water, it makes sense. You want the hottest, cleanest water to both wash and rinse your glassware, and your silver. But it also means that your dinner plates are going to be rinsed with...well. Ugh. Or you can put the plates and such on a wire rack (this is from the Girl Scouts) and pour more hot water over them. Which would work. But you're going to use a single pan of each because it took forever to heat water, which was why there was always a tea kettle on the stove.

(And the Housekeeping book would have us clean our sinks with a bit of kerosene afterwards. No, thank you.)

So, just having hot running water makes us spoiled. And since I go without it one day a week, I can relate.

Modern Instructions

Just for fun, I googled around finding handwashing instructions. And - other than changes in tools - most people don't use washrags anymore (unless they knit them themselves), dishwashing liquid is easier than powder or bars of soap and there's that hot water, plus many people have double sinks - the instructions don't seem to have really changed. Fill a dishpan or a side of the sink with hot soapy water (one site went with rinse water instead - I guess to save on running water), wash the glassware first and the pots last, and try to use water hot enough to sanitize and dry on its own because dishtowels=icky. Oh, instead of scouring the dishcloth (as per Marilla's instructions in Anne of Green Gables), there's sticking the sponge in the microwave, and no one suggests using kerosene to clean the sink.

And it's not quite the way it's done in my house. We have one single-well sink. It's stainless steel, so we can kasher if we want, but the fact is, it's considered treif. This means we can't fill it with hot soapy water or hot clear rinse water. We can't even let things touch the bottom - we use wire sink racks to prevent that. We could use a dishpan, but they're messy and a pain to drain out, so we choose not to.

How do we (meaning, mostly, Jonathan) do it, then? We start with an empty sink. The things to be washed are placed in it, while waiting for the water to get hot. Any pots are filled with hot soapy water. If there isn't room right away, things to be washed are piled nearby. Then we get the appropriate dish sponge (blue for dairy, red for meat. I don't have any pareve utensils.) and get it wet and soapy. Then -working in no particular order, except the greasiest gets hit first, we soap up the china, silver and glassware. When everything in the sink is soapy, we rinse them off, leaving the plates for last. This lets the soap do the work. And then we move on to the next batch. Meanwhile, if there are a lot of dishes, the other one of us dries and puts away to make sure there's room in the dishdrainer.

One difference between us is that I turn the water off during the soaping phase. Also, if the next meal is going to be the opposite polarity (normally after a meat dinner), I clean out the sink and switch to the other dishdrainer and sink rack.

And. All of this is new.

Management Changes

The deal has always been that I cook and Jonathan wash dishes. But, well, I *like* cooking, and dishwashing isn't that much fun. Also, most of the dinners I make - which is the main meal we eat together - are either meat or pareve, and so I rarely changed the kitchen. Even when we started eating breakfast daily, we used disposables. Thus, there was no need to change the kitchen and no need to do dishes very often. It had gotten to the point that the sink would be emptied only if we ran out of plates or silverware, or I needed a certain pot to cook with, or if I really wanted to make a dairy dinner, or it was Thursday and there was the cleaning lady.

And washing that many dishes at a shot? Painful for Jonathan's back, and filled the dishdrainer to bursting (dry and put away? Me? Hah!). I was very skilled in balancing a colandar among the debris when I wanted to drain some pasta. Yeah, not good at all.

So,what changed? We spent Passover with my inlaws. And they're methodical. My father-in-law washes the dishes right after the meal, with my mother-in-law making certain he only has the table stuff and an unavoidable minimum of other utensils to wash. As soon as they're dry, they get put away and, if necessary, the kitchen is changed over.

And I was determined to be helpful this time around (it's been years and I'm aware that they accomodate a lot with us.) so I washed and dried a lot of dishes (less than usual - my mother-in-law paid her cleaning lady to come in and wash dishes for the seder nights. She also helped to serve the soup and such. It made things much easier. She had to leave before everything was done the second night, which ran late, but there was very little to finish up. I started and my nephew did the rest.) I also,for the first time, observed Jonathan's dishwashing technique and I thought it was very efficient. (Normally, I run off to watch tv or go on the computer.) And, you know, it was nice to dry while he washed. We chatted.

And I decided that we'd try this when we got home. And so far, so good. It's been *nice*, and it's made for a number of little changes that add up to, well, things being a bit better.

1. We no longer use disposables every day. Right after Passover, Jonathan bought four little Corelle cereal bowls, and we use them for our cereal. Which means we set the table for breakfast now with our nice dairy spoons and even napkins. On dairy placemants instead of newspaper over the meat ones.

2. When I cook, I clean as we go. Since *my* decision means more work for* Jonathan*, it just seems fair that I not leave anything but, well, table stuff and any unavoidable pots and pans. Which means that it's not odd for me to serve dinner from a kitchen that barely looks cooked in. It's much more pleasant. I'm even cleaning the counters more.

3. The sink is clean. It's even - dare I say it? Shiny. Because even if the sink is treif, I still don't want particles of the preceding meal hanging around if I'm changing things. I'm cleaning other things, too. Because, well. They're there and might as well.

4. Cleaning lady no longer spends an extra hour just cleaning dishes.

5. I'm making more dairy meals. It's no longer a chore. So I'm actually using my dairy equipment.

And then there is the extra together time after dinner when he washes and I dry and put away. That's nice, too.

The only problem is Shabbat. We have our own hot water heater, so we can't use our running hot water - if we lived in a large multi-family apartment house with at least some non-Jewish tenants, as my in-laws do, and shared the hot water system, that wouldn't be a problem, but it is here. If we use up the hot water, more will come into the heater, the heater would turn on and the cold water will be cooked. If a hot water heater is shared, there's no telling who used it up (and it may well be large enough that it would refill before then), so hot water would be permitted. I do keep a thermal pot filled with hot water to help make coffee and tea, and we can use it on Shabbat, but it only holds so much. The other factor is sponges - can't use them on Shabbat, either -can't wring. There's also the rule about not preparing on one day for the next. (Friday night and Saturday day are considered one day.)

So, on Friday night and Saturday morning, we have to wash our dishes with cold water (and some judicial use of hot water for soaking) using nylon pads that don't absorb much water and can't really be squeezed. At first, when we tried this experiment, Jonathan just suffered with the cold water, warming his hands in a cup of hot when necessary, and doing the extra soaping and scrubbing necessary, plus the extra drying when dishes don't dry themselves.

Now, I use rubber gloves and they make all the difference - they insulate nicely against the cold. I can't find ones to fit Jonathan or he'd be using them. I know they exist. I still think I should make a sanitizing spray or something, though.

Breakfast takes seconds to wash up from, so he does that. The only problem is lunch. And we've pretty much decided that it's the only meal that's going to wait for cleaning so it can be done after Shabbat. It's bothersome, but hot water makes a difference. (And I do those, too, just because I'm home, he's not and I'm waiting for the computer to boot.)


Huh. You know, I learned that about washing the dishes. That order I mean, and the thing with the two sinks, one for washing one for rinsing. And I mean, my parents had a dishwasher (though I've never owned one). Actually I'm not even sure whether my mother taught me or I learned on some class trip where we had to do chores. But how else would you wash dishes? I mean, you'd waste a lot of water and energy if you washed in a nilly-willy order and just changed water all the time or cleaned under running water. I mean sure hot running water makes it much more convenient, and I'm actually a lot more wasteful with hot water than many other people I know, because I have central hot water through the house's heating unit rather than having to use an electrical heater which makes it more expensive, hence I tend to get admonished sometimes when I help my brother doing dishes at his place and sometimes by friends to be more careful in using hot water...

Yeah - most of the dishwashing instructions are simply common sense, especially if you're not using fresh hot water for everything (which *is* wasteful. That's why I shut if off during the soaping phase.)

It does make sense, you know. If we were paying our own water bills (currently, I don't think the City charges residences, at least not 1-2 family houses), the two-pans scheme would probably be better. Even now it would probably cut down on gas bills. But washing under running water is how my Dad does it, so that's how I do it.

I was taught a general avoidance of letting water just run. Like don't do this if you wash more than just your hands in a sink, but use the plug, don't let the water run while brushing your teeth, don't rinse dishes under running water, don't just push the toilet button once but use the watersaving stop button whenever possible as to not use too much water for flushing,...

The lists of do's and don't for conserving water that were taught at home and in school were very long (which I get on principle, but sometimes especially as a kid I was fairly resentful about all the scolding considering that it rains here all the time I think there's rain on 190 days on average per year so it rains more than not, and now I know that fresh water conversation is still important, but it's hard to follow that logic, when you're four or five or so and taught how to wash yourself...) And later in school we had sections in class drilling us on water and energy conservation which were also enforced in school, like the instructions on how to air rooms with the least energy loss, how you need to turn of the lights when you leave a room, how you shouldn't use any stand-by functions for electronics and so on. (Not that all had an effect, like, I'm still too lazy to keep my freezer properly defrosted, otoh not just do I know that I waste money, I also feel guilty about it. *g*)

It used to be that I cooked, and hubby cleaned, but when we were doing diet-to-go, with our meals provided, it became very unfair to him. So we got in the habit of doing dishes together.

Now that we're doing southbeach, I spend a lot more time cooking, but we're already in the habit of doing kitchen stuff together. So hubby now helps me cook, and I help clean up, and you're right, we spend a lot more time together.

It's funny - you've just finished eating dinner together, right? So why is this extra time so important?

I think it's because, well, you're *eating*. Even if you're talking, your mouth is occupied at least part of the time. Plus, when you wash dishes, talking makes it more fun. It's only five-ten minutes, but it's...nice.

Just a historical note - my mom, who was born in 1938, did not live in a house with indoor plumbing until she was 10 years old. They had a pump in the yard and an outhouse. All the water for baths and washing dishes and cooking had to be brought into the house in buckets.

Nod. I mentioned that at the times these books were written (as late as 1941, and I'm sincerely not surprised that some places were even later), many folks didn't have indoor plumbing, let alone running hot water.

We are extremely spoiled. And I'm extremely grateful.

I learned that order, as well. The idea of the order (according to Miss Pink, my domestic science teacher) was that the least greasy things got washed first, keeping the washing water cleaner longer.

And I was taught that if you have hot running water and you don't have a second sink to rinse in, you keep the hot water running - the whole time - and rinse under that. I was surprised to discover on a TV programme about cleaning, that that's still how cleaners and housekeepers are taught to do it. On that basis, a dishwasher is actually cheaper.

Yes, as I figured.

The cost of a dishwasher is also the cost of installation, and, in our case, is only usable half the time.

Since we can't fill a sink with rinse water, we have to keep it running. Not much choice.

Just out of curiosity -- doing dishes doesn't count as working (whereas carrying an umbrella, I believe I've been told, would)? Huh. (I mean, I guess I've never known my cousins to leave dishes from Friday dinner all the way until Saturday evening, but now that I think about it -- which I never have before -- I think I have known them to put things in the dishwasher on Friday night. Huh.)

Umbrellas are forbidden on two counts.

1. Building. You are, in effect, erecting a minature tent. This is completely forbidden.

2. Carrying. It's forbidden to carry in a public space.

It's possible to make certain types of public spaces "private", and technically, one could open the umbrella either ahead of time or, according to some opinions, under another roof, so in those cases, it might be permissible to carry an open umbrella. However - that's pretty intricate and people seeing this might think was permissible to open an umbrella outside on Shabbat, so I've only heard of one rabbi ruling that way.

As for washing dishes - well. Scrubbing isn't really permitted. Squeezing sponges. Ashkenazim can't use solid soap. There's the hot water issue. But since it is possible to use cold water (or hot water in certain circumstances), liquid dishsoap, and things other than sponges, and people (us, increasingly) are bothered by letting dishes sit overnight, at least visibly, plus we do need to make the kitchen dairy for breakfast - washing dishes is permitted in those cases.

Many people will store dirty dishes in their dishwasher until Shabbat is over. There is no reason why not, so long as they don't run it, and it eliminates the piles of dirty dishes that might otherwise happen.

(And, seriously? If leaving dishes lying around unwashed would ruin someone's Shabbat, they are absolutely permitted to wash them in a halachically permitted fashion.)

I use dishcloths. I don't use sponges.

I like using dishcloths because they're washable, reusable, and infinitely easier to squeeze into tiny places in tall glasses and other awkward things that need cleaning.

So, when I switch over the kitchen, the dishcloth and the dishtowels all go into the wash. I don't ever have two sets of anything out at one time. The only cloths available are those that I'm using for the dishes that I have out. Less confusion for other people (or during a rush) as well.

I also don't leave the hot water running the entire time that I'm rinsing. (Like you I can't use a pan for rinsing because we only have one sink.) Once the water is hot enough, it rarely loses its heat when I'm washing the next dish prior to rinsing.

My husband does the majority of the dishwashing. He hates dishcloths. And that is that.

I don't have laundry machines (same reason I don't have a dishwasher - Brooklyn apartment.) Laundry gets done once a week by a laundromat. For which we pay by the pound.

If we used cloth napkins (as, perhaps, we should), I'd need to use napkin rings and reuse them, and keep a good supply on hand.

(Oh. And everything is color coded. EVERYTHING.)

I've never lived in a place with a dishwasher. Everything gets done by hand.

The City's building code had a provision as early as 1893 that every house or apartment connected to natural gas had to have a hot water heater. I'm thinking it had more to do with the fact that the City owned the gas company (and therefore sold the hot water heaters). I've never seen an electric hot water heater in this city. Of course, I've never seen a house here heated by anything but gas either.

Hot water heaters tend to be gas or oil, just like the furnace. I suppose if a house is heated electrically, they'd use that.

Except in places where it can be solar, of course. Solar would be great - could use it on Shabbat. :)

Mom jokes that we always had a dishwasher growing up. It's name was either my sister, my brother when he was old enough, and myself. We hand-washed for years before Mom and Dad decided that as long as they were re-doing the kitchen, an automatic dishwasher was a reasonable extra expense. And come holidays when we're using the china, the silver, and large pans that won't fit in the dishwasher, we still do dishes by hand. And yeah, we'd do dishes just like that, one sink full of hot soapy water (or just a plastic container, in the first sink, because it didn't have two sinks), and the rinse water in the other section.

We use wash-cloths instead of sponges, though. It just seems more convenient and it's easier to wash them thoroughly (important, considering how messy Sara's section of the table gets).

We wash dishes the way Jonathan grew up - and the way he grew up, Daddy always did the dishes, so when he got married, it became his job.


How hard is it to get to your hot water heater? Most hot water heaters have a switch for turning the heating element off. You could turn it off just before candelighting and turn it back on after havdalah. The hot water should be fine for Friday night. Saturday afternoon it'll probably still be fairly warm, depending on how good the insulation on your hot water heater is.

Re: Shabbat

We rent the top floor of a two family. Hot water heater is in the basement only accessible through our landlady's apartment. And then we'd have to do it again afterwards.

Not worth it.