Remnants of a Meal: My Relationship with Dirty Dishes

by Laura on October 11, 2017

in Blog


A homemade family meal.

I have a disdain for dishes, especially if they are still hanging around long after I’ve digested the meal. Yet all around me lie remnants of a meal — on the table, counters, floor and sink. All I want to do is get out of the day’s ‘work’ clothes and get into something comfortable and sit down too relax; yet the promise of another 45 minutes of clean-up lie ahead.

It’s a story that repeats itself every evening around 7 p.m., and it tends to haunt me even in my dreams (and, more often than not, well into the next day!). Time and time again, I relive the same scenarios . . .


The Morning After


I’m back from an early morning swim and in high gear to get showered and ready before the kids are around the table creating another huge pile of dirty dishes. I reach for the Stagg Pour-Over Kettle to fill with water for brewing coffee in my Chemex, and I find that I can’t even get to the faucet.

Brown water pools in stacks of bowls. The burnt and hardened edges of cheese and pasta from prior night’s lasagna dinner clings to the edges of my Denby oven dish, fruit flies scatter from a plate bearing remnants of our apple crisp dessert, and the smell of milk wafts up from a cup sitting precariously on the sink’s edge waiting to tumble into the liquid mess below.

I count to three before plunging my arm deep into the murky water to search for a sponge, all the while hoping I don’t run into anything too squishy, let alone a sharp knife that shouldn’t have been placed in the sink.

Ten precious minutes later, I’m filling the kettle with water, glance up at the clock, and feel the tension returning to my neck –undoing all the good that my morning swim brought to me. It’s nearly 7 o’clock and I wish I would have had the energy the night before to clean the finally dishes last evening, set the table so it was ready for kids to sit down for breakfast, and filled the pot of water for the coffee . . .

But instead, I sat dozing in a chair in front of the television trying to relax before making it to my bed.



The Morning After: Round 2


The last bite of Beef and Stout pie crust was scraped from the stew pot 90 minutes ago. My back aches from sitting in the uncomfortable wooden chairs we bought (and still haven’t replaced from 15 years ago).

I realize it’s late — the kids should have been in bed hours ago, but since they’re in the living room engrossed in playing Nintendo, I have sort of forgotten about them.

Several empty bottles of wine sit on the table, and I’m sure I am sure my lips have a ring of red wine caked on them. I’m dreaming of my pillow and will do anything to get there as soon as I can.

I declare, “That really was a great dinner,” one last time, as I rub my belly and follow up with, “I can barely move.” This, I’m hoping, is the clue for my husband to get on board with me to gently prod our guests to gather themselves, their offspring, and depart. I refuse to look at the clock; If I do, I will just begin to count how many hours of sleep I will get before I have to rise and head off to some early morning sporting event for the kids. There is no rest for the weary, no more room in my full belly, and absolutely no desire to do the dishes.

Five and a quarter hours later, I rise to make coffee, and replay The Morning After scenario again. This time around, the smell of last evening’s dinner mingling with the leftover wine in the glasses makes me a little queasy.



The Icebox


The full fridge

Hand in hand with The Morning After, is the task of putting any leftovers in containers and storing them in the refrigerator. From time to time — actually, quite often — I peek into the cupboard to grab a container for leftovers and there is nothing there. I scan both the sink and the dishwasher, but come up empty. I then turn to the fridge. Before taking a peek inside, I take a deep breath (actually it is more like a sigh), and tug the door open.

Inside, a sea of glass containers stares back at me. So many beckon to be chosen, so I reach for one, but know that if I choose the wrong one, something will come shooting out of the fridge and plaster itself on the flour, the cupboards, the walls and my white jeans.

It’s the leftovers that give me so much grief. For all my great planning on having leftovers for lunch, afternoon snack or transformed into a ‘new’ dinner a day or two later, I find that unless I spoon feed my family the leftovers in the fridge, they just won’t touch them.

 Not only do I have to deal with dishes from the current meal, but now that I’ve plunged my arm into the fridge, I find myself adding to the pile as I determine which leftovers are well past their prime.




No, not the sugary kind (but doesn’t that chocolate cake look delicious?).

‘Cake’ refers to the adherence of certain foods to the dishes, serving utensils and cutlery.

My family just doesn’t understand it. Certain foods need to be cleaned completely off prior to leading in the dishwasher. Peanut butter left on a knife for hours, then cleaned in a dishwasher results in a hard-to-remove caked on mess of something that no longer resembles the smooth, creamy spread used to prepare their lunch sandwich hours earlier. Cheese is another culprit, dried on to anything it has touched, especially when it has been slipped into the microwave. Can I just get a thorough pre-wash out of the fam before they slip the dishes in the dishwasher?

I know what they’re thinking: “If I just quickly rinse and then hide it in the dishwasher, I can do as little as possible. Mom will deal with the ‘re-clean’ later in the day when she empties the dishwasher.


For all my complaining about dirty dishes, I wouldn’t change a thing — (well, perhaps I would demand a bit more help cleaning up!) I accept that it is part of the process, and am thankful for every meal that we enjoy together.



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