My Kitchen Exorcism

The mania began in the pantry and only ended because I was exhausted. Down but not out, I vowed  that I wouldn’t rest until I had rooted out and excavated every black hole in our house.

A black hole in a house is an enclosed space where entropy and chaos are allowed to flourish behind closed doors. A closet is an excellent spot for a black hole, as is a chest, armoire or kitchen cabinet. Our house is riddled with black holes which have festered into shameful cesspools of forgotten crap. Today, I went after the lower kitchen cabinets, where I found cats living with dogs in an unholy  landscape reminiscent of  Mordor.

This intense feeling of wanting to introduce order in the home comes to me when it is our turn to host Thanksgiving. Now that I am practically able-bodied again, I am on a cleaning bender, desperately trying to conquer the squalor that I let build up over the last year and a half when I was laid up.

I love hosting Thanksgiving and could not be blessed with a friendlier or more fun loving and nonjudgemental  bunch of in-laws, yet each year I am overwhelmed by a powerful and irrational urge to pass myself off as  a credible “fabric softener person.” It’s not just Thanksgiving that awakens my inner fabric softener person—it’s the prospect of being cooped up all winter in a messy, disorganized environment that sends me off the deep end.

A fabric softener person is someone who buys and uses fabric softener and probably uses dryer sheets as well. She might even use Glade Plugins, and probably cleans the toilet with that industrial looking blue stuff that squirts under the rim and badly frightens the bacteria that cruises the toilet bowl in tiny rowboats. She sorts laundry by color and always has a stain stick. She has scented candles.

A fabric softener person is everything that I am not.

A fabric softener person does not use a coffee can as a container for the toilet brush. She does not have a kitchen ceiling so water stained that it looks like it was tea-bagged by the Jolly Green Giant. She is not dealing with the rust problem on the refrigerator door by plastering it with bumper stickers. Her world is clean, orderly and fresh smelling, whereas mine is clean enough and smells like weed, lentils and Nag Champa.

I love to cook for friends and family, and I make everything from scratch. Instead of following recipes, I review recipes and then attempt to build upon their “spirit.” I spontaneously invite friends over for dinner and make something that is not only edible, but often inspired, using only the ingredients I have on hand.

Today, as I unearthed one disgusting, ancient and rusted baking sheet and cake pan after another, it occurred to me that for someone who spends as much time in the kitchen as I do,  I have the world’s nastiest tools. While nothing could get me to forsake my beautiful collection of cast iron skillets or my pressure cooker, I realized that I could and should throw away and replace some of my more “vintage” items.

I could buy a meat thermometer that can be read, I mused. And a pizza pan that is not rusted and black with grease, and a basting brush with bristles!  Why, I could even purchase a chef’s knife with an actual  blade that is  sharper than a spoon! I could store my leftovers in those nice glass containers with snap-on lids, instead of bowls covered over with twice recycled bread bags! I could own a can opener that opens cans! And, I am worthy of a real lemon squeezer!

These extravagant thoughts piled up in my head like snowdrifts until I had to stop what I was doing and go straight to Marshalls. I can do this, I thought, mentally cursing my mother for burdening me with my depression-era vision of home economy. Where else could I have acquired my profound sense of unworthiness? At this point the damage is already done and I have infected my own children with the same sense of extreme stinginess.

When My Royal Consort and I used to paint the seaside pleasure domes of the 1%, I would get very bitter about the elaborate kitchen that the lady of the house invariably claimed to have “designed” herself.

Sometimes I’d catch myself being all heated and think “whoa girl, have a sarsparilla and calm down already! So what if the bitch has an awesome freaking playground of a kitchen, and you just have a broken stove with only two burners and an oven that won’t shut off?”

My irritation wasn’t so much about me being resentful of what I had or didn’t have. It was more about my Oppressor not knowing or appreciating what she had. It seemed like such a huge waste. Ditto for the rich wives who called themselves artists and had studios built for them. I wanted to smite them all.

These ridiculous kitchens would typically have huge expanses of exotic marble counter tops, bar sinks, regular sinks, several ovens and two refrigerators—basically enough fire power to cook a four course dinner for Mitt Romney and all his relatives, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and both Bushes, 1 and 2.

Until today, I had never gave the kitchen section of Marshalls much attention because I did not see the need for any of those modern kitchen tools, but as I admired the goods, I was amazed by the heft of a modern cake pan, the user-friendliness of the basting brush (which has evolved since World War ll into a cheerily colorful neoprene affair that can actually be washed). Amazing, I thought as I marveled at a turkey baster, Fleet Enema, Inc.  finally got out of the kitchen supply business!

In the end, I allowed myself to splurge on two cake pans, a can opener, a set of three basting brushes, an apron, a set of tongs, and a long, sharp fork with a handle that stays on. It was a mad, wanton spree that set me back about $70.

I could not quite pull the trigger on purchasing a decent chef’s knife because my meat cleaver still works and I am not worthy.

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  1. jcnorton says:

    Digging the black hole, too. I always considered the areas of my closets that I haven’t seen in years and the contents of the 4 under-the-bed storage bins as nebulous. Black hole works better — all that stuff disappeared long ago…

    And I am so glad you’re feeling more able bodied. It sounds like the surgery was a success and that Don Joy fulfilled (his) role.

    1. admin says:

      Don Joy was all that and more–and he should have been–$365 was billed to insurance for his services! I feel amazingly great. Able to sleep once again, and now, back to the gym which makes me very happy. We just booked our flight to AZ so we can go hiking with the kids over Christmas. xoxo

  2. jcnorton says:

    Like you, a fabric softener person is everything I am not. But somehow at work I come across as one. (Perhaps because I use spray starch when I iron the requisite work shirts because spray starch makes the wrinkles come out faster and thus lazy me doesn’t have to iron as long.)

    Love “the spirit” of the recipe.

    I have a dear friend who has several different types of bottles and spouts for several types of olive oil on the counter in his designer kitchen. All of the bottles are easily within reach and constantly refreshed, whether he’s used them or not. I would say that he is a fabric softener person.

    1. admin says:

      Thank goodness for the fabric softener person! I wish I could remember how that expression came into our personal lexicon…I think one of my friends coined the phrase, and it just hit the nail on the head. I think it began when the principal and the PTO got all hysterical over bacteria and tried to introduce hand sanitizer at school. Me and two other hippy chicks raised hell over the plan to annihilate all bacteria, and prevailed over “the fabric softener people.” Love the olive oil person!

  3. Al Fermeglia says:

    My God, you are funny. I am proud to know you!!!

    1. admin says:

      And you are a talented fly tier (did I spell that right?) I have to add those pictures to the rooster post!

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