Thursday, July 9, 2009

Clean Up As You Go!

One of my mom's kitchen rules was: clean up as you go.

It's possible to take this to ridiculous extremes. My Aunt Jeanne (for whom I was named) was not a great cook but she was a dedicated dishwasher. If you were cooking anything in Jeanne's kitchen and let go of it for a minute (let's say you were stirring the sauce and put the spoon down while you spent 30 seconds searching for the dried basil), she would wash it. You'd reach out your hand for that spoon and it'd be gone...over to the dish drainer.

And then there's my second (and final) husband (the first one never did anything in the kitchen that I ever noticed, which is possibly one of the reasons he was so skinny), who is (in many ways) cut from the same piece of cloth as Jeanne. In the (small) kitchen of our first home, the food prep area was to the left of the sink. We stacked anything that needed to be washed to the right of the sink.

I spent something like 49 hours one day (yes, I know there are only 24 hours in one day) making my own beef stock. I roasted a cow's worth of beef bones, then I boiled them in huge vats (lobster pots, actually) of water with onions, carrots, celery, and herbs. Then I drained the stock, put it back in the vats, and added crushed eggshells to help "clarify" the broth. (By now you're thinking, "You are a very sick lady, Jean", and I agree, and you haven't even heard yet about the time I boned and stuffed a game hen into a chicken into a turkey before adding gourmet stuffing and roasting the whole thing one Thanksgiving) Then I poured the broth into large bowls and left them to cool for about 10 minutes while I washed my hands, took a leak, and had a hit of wine.

Refreshed, I returned to the kitchen ready to pour this fabulous stock into freezer containers and IT WAS GONE! Mr. P. had discarded every last drop, carefully washed all the bowls, and was sitting virtuously at the kitchen table reading the Sunday newspaper."Where is the stock?" I screamed.

He looked up from the financial pages and said, "What stock?" (OK, I just added the financial pages for fun. He would only read the financial pages if there were ads in there for guns and knives - hey, not a bad idea!).

"The stock I left on the counter!""You mean that brown stuff in the bowls?""Yes, the brown stuff in the bowls! Where is it?""I threw it out and washed the bowls. Why?"For a moment I was speechless (hard to imagine, I know). I looked at the gleaming, empty kitchen counters and thought of all the work I had put into that stock. What was more important, a loving husband or 20 quarts of beef stock?

And I said, "What the f**king f**k?! That was the f**king beef stock I've been working on all day, and you threw it out? Why would you do that?!"

He carefully set the newspaper on the table and said (slowly, with equal care), "It was on the right side of the sink. That's where we put everything that needs to be cleaned, right? On the right side of the sink?"

Silence again. How could he think that those bowls brimming with fragrant, glorious, homemade beef stock were something that needed to be discarded? Was he totally witless? Or was I? Because he was right: I had put them in the goodbye zone. I shook my head at him ("You got me!"), wearily refilled my wine glass and retired to the living-room with two dogs who were probably thinking, "That beef stock sure would've tasted good poured over my kibble."


Anonymous said...

Great story!

Tina said...

agggghghggh Although I would love to have my husband lift a finger in the kitchen when it comes to cleaning I was screaming the F word with you when I got to that part :)