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Friday, December 11, 2009

The Art of Dish Arranging

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
I was introduced to the art of dish arranging at an extremely young age. My mom started me washing the dinner dishes when I needed to stand on a kitchen chair backed up to the sink. I'd wash, she'd rinse, and I'd watch as she'd put each item into the dish drainer to drip-dry. As I stepped down to a mere stool, I took over the rinsing and stacking while my younger sister washed. By the time I was standing on the floor, I'd begun perfecting my technique.

Dish arranging techniques are individualized visions. Trying to dictate how another arranges dishes can lead to resentment, discord, and outright rebellion. It's far better to allow each to develop his/her own style than to risk losing the services of a dishwasher completely. Even though I cringe when unloading a dish drainer my husband has arranged, no way am I going to say a word. He must be free to follow his own path.

I prefer an orderly approach - plates lined up, graduating down in size, from the far end of the drainer (while at the same time allowing enough space for any pot and pan lids to slip in at the very end to allow for the protruding handles). Bowls, on the other hand, start from the right, graduating up in size. Mugs align alongside the bowls, and glassware, according to fit and drip range required, either on the pegs or with the mugs. Table flatware goes handles down in the nearer hanging bin section, cooking utensils and paring knives (handles up) in the farther one. Judicious arranging of serving bowls and cooking pots above allow for everything to fit while preventing anything from retaining water.

Automatic dishwashers also require dish arrangement expertise, but their very design dictates much of the process, and stifles the creativity and flexibility only available in a well-stacked drainer. I've had very limited experience with automatic dishwashers. There wasn't one in my childhood home (why get a dishwasher when she already had five of them, my mom always said). I was 16 when we moved to a house that did have one, and I left home at 18. Not a one of the various rentals I lived in after that had one, and neither does our home now.

That this is far from the usual state of affairs nowadays was brought home to me very vividly a couple of years ago. My sister and family were visiting for Thanksgiving, and after a day spent in the kitchen and a wonderful meal, we decided her teenage sons, my nephews, should do the washing up. It was a bit of a shock when we realized they had never in their lives faced a sinkful of dirty dishes - a life lesson lacking up until then. They were given a rudimentary lesson and then left to develop their own techniques. It was only right, after all. Dish arranging is a personal quest. By this year, they had the basics down, and are well on their way to realizing their own artistry.

17 comments:

Francesca said...

I'm quite proficient in this particular art, as I also haven't had a dishwasher since I left home. I'm looking forward to the day I can intruduce my pre-teen kids to the techniques of this art, but our dish rack hangs high above the sink, and in the interest of preserving my dishware I've delayed our (dish arranging) art classes. But they master the art of sorting the cutlery, and so all flatware, utensils and knives always go handles up - they've been known to fail their fine art of hand washing tests:)

GooseBreeder said...

Looking forward to the time next year when a white goods dishwasher makes it's way into my kitchen again,it's been a few years.Love the tidiness of it although you can't beat a nicely stacked dishdrainer like yours.Bit concerned about those power points just over the drainer though!Happy Christmas!
PS good you got thoe nephews washing up, never know when a skill like that might come in handy!

ms lottie said...

Oh, there is an art to arranging dishes in a dishwasher too! I am amazed at how many my husband CANNOT fit into the machine. Maybe it comes of my years of arranging a dishrack when I was one dishwashing child of six.

Neat post. Thanks!

FlamingAndromeda said...

Wow...I'm not alone...other people do this too...it is an art...my family think I'm weird when I suggest to them they could fit much more in the dishwasher...when it's blindingly obvious they're using the available space inefficiently and then proceed to do it...and they still can't see how I do it! If only I could get that organisation out of the dishwasher and in to the rest of my house!! :-D Not to mention the effect of halving the amount of dishwasher uses that happen when I pack/repack the dishwasher!! But I do remember back to when I was a kid and had to handwash the dishes and everything had to be in it's particular place or it wouldn't work properly

Cindy said...

Oh, brings back memories of my brothers and I at home doing dishes! Dad called me the stacking queen! I washed, rinsed, and put up on the dishrack. The boys had to take care of them. I arranged mine exactly like you -- that's the base and you can go quite high if the base if correct! I hurried to get my job done, then the boys had to delicately take them out of the drainer! Heehee.....it was fun watching them take the puzzle apart!

AKA Angrywhiteman said...

Love this post. To me it has very little to do with dishes, yet speaks a great deal to human nature and the art of getting along. Espousing the good sense of not fomenting rebellion among the volunteers by restricting freestyle.

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

Nice post- and so true about not complaining about someone's approach being different. My DH loads the drainer exactly the opposite of me - but at least I didn't have to do the dishes :)

Never have had a dishwasher, so I am well acquainted with the nuances of the dish drainer and dish towels!

Julie said...

What a touching picture of the boys doing dishes. You've captured a moment.

Sadge said...

Thanks, everybody - so glad you liked it, and AKA, glad you "got it." ;-)

GooseBreeder: I don't really like where most of the power outlets are in our house, and then there are other spots I wish I had one. Sweet husband built the place before we were married. There is a clear plastic cookbook holder that lives between the drainer and the wall - it's the best I could do.

tymxgrl said...

I love it Sadge. Sure brought back a lot of memories. I'll be sharing this with my sister (my fellow dishwasher growing up).

Beth said...

When our dishwasher broke, my daughter (9, at the time), was perplexed about how we would wash the dishes without it. I said we just wash them by hand and she got a glow in her eyes and said "This must be how the Pilgrims washed their dishes"!

transitionyourlife said...

Our family just experienced living without a dishwasher for a few weeks. It was interesting that during that time when we hand washed the dishes we had lots of extra fun family communication time.

Anonymous said...

That is exactly the way I stack my dishdrainer!!! I did grow up with a dishwasher so this is something that I had to figure out on my own. Now I have my oldest wash the supper dishes and it drives me nuts, but I am picking my battles one at a time.

Great post.

Shan

Annodear said...

snip >>"Automatic dishwashers also require dish arrangement expertise, but their very design dictates much of the process, and stifles the creativity and flexibility only available in a well-stacked drainer."

Au contraire, mon Sadge~ stacking an automatic dishwasher is no less a creative and artistic endeavor ~ and perhaps even more so, because while you want it to be as full as possible... the splashing water must be able to reach *every* surface.

Still, it's an excellent "life skill" that your sweet nephews are learning there :-D

Pippi said...

This is an old post but I just had to leave a comment! You arrange your drying dishes just like I do! And you're right -- other people have different ways and even though it's hard you have to suck it up if you want them to do the dishes.

We finally got a dishwasher last week. I love it, but it's tiny. My husband and I are learning the art of filling it full while making sure the dishes actually get clean. It's quite the art as well :)

Sadge said...

I keep an eye on all of my old posts here. Thanks for commenting!

Emma said...

That's pretty much the way I arrange my wet dishes too! :) I'm so glad I'm not the only person who thinks it's important :D