March 24, 2013
Culture is not only preserved in the meals we serve but also in the way we eat them and clean up.
I never knew that a dishwasher could evoke such strong emotions - emotions that varied from ecstasy to extreme disgust. The ritual of cleaning utensils is merely a chore that has to be done at some point before bedtime but for parents visiting us it is a case of personal hygiene.
The first time my mother witnessed the dishwasher in action, she was in total awe. This was the machine that cleans utensils with a press of a button. She wistfully touched it dreaming about the bliss of an electrical invention that replaced her chatty, nosy and eccentric maid. Despite being severely jet lagged, she stayed awake to witness the machine deliver on its promise. Were the utensils really dry and squeaky clean? Can all those dishes fit into this rectangular haven? Just a scoop of soap would suffice? No noise just a rhythmic humming? She eagerly kept watch for the light to turn green on the Clean indicator. The moment it happened, she hopped, skipped and jumped. The dishwasher was opened and hands clapped in glee. It was really true, the miracle of technology.
But life is full of twists. Presently, the dishwasher and mommy dearest are not on great terms. She mumbles every time she places a bowl in it. She curses the wretched weather that prohibits a service area for dumping used vessels. If solids are to be removed and dishes loaded in an almost clean state why do we need a dishwasher? She grumbles that a dishwasher uses water in which an entire family can shower for a week. How can well groomed Indians dump their plates and cooking pots in the sink without washing or rinsing? What about our Indian/Tamil culture where we pick up after our meal, wash the plates and clean the area? Where was the sense of hygiene? Is there a point in sanitizing our hands when our dishes marinate in a dirty pool? What values are we teaching our children?
Not only do I see her point but I also concur. Water is a luxury in most places but here hot water flows 24/7, so we have forgotten the need to conserve it. Isn’t the sole purpose of having a dishwasher to make life easier? So why wait till the end of the day to load it when our limbs are crying from exhaustion? If culture is the way we live then shouldn’t our children learn to pick up after they eat? Besides it is a challenge to keep dumping used vessels in an already overflowing sink. So we heeded to the cry of cleanliness.
Now plates and mugs go directly into the dishwasher. Minimal scrubbing and dishes are loaded impromptu. The only pitfall is switching it on. Earlier there was clear division of labor so the person in charge religiously filled the soap and turned it on. (Let it be clear that in the essence of the fair play act we took turns). Now the controls are in murky territory. So there are days when we wake up to a fully loaded dirty dishwasher or eyes drooping with slumber switching on an empty one. Hopefully by the time my parents are scheduled for their next visit we will get our act together. If we don’t, the dishwasher might not be the sole recipient of ire.
Culture is not only preserved in the meals we serve but also in the way we eat them and clean up with our bellies belching from it. We might not have eco-friendly banana leaves but we can still make every drop of water count. Merely recycling milk cartons is not good enough for the environment. But that discussion is for another day. Until then the dishwasher and my mom will have to make their peace.