It is a habit that has upset almost every flatmate I have ever had. Even my ever-tolerant mother has expressed displeasure at my ability to accrue washing up. I am the kind of girl that is just never happy with a performance in the kitchen unless every pot, pan, bowl, spatula, can opener and grater has been used at least once.
My favourite red pot: I like to get that dirty at least twice.
There are a few reasons for the disorder.
I reckon a pile of dishes that resembles the leaning tower of Pisa is a brilliant distraction if the fare is below par.
The felafels may be bland, but look at that mess! If it looks like you’ve pulled out all stops, the appropriate noises will be made.
And then there is my obsession with feasts.
One of the real delights in burning the bottom of every pan is the array of dishes you can create. A feast is not a feast without seven different dishes, at least, and a pile of leftovers that easily last a few weeks. If you’ve got a kang kung stir-fry alongside your gado-gado and rendang then you’re scraping the sides of Indo cuisine rather than serving up cliched satays.
Or maybe that’s a cop out. Maybe I just like mess. OK, I admit it, I love the mess.
It’s so liberating to riot through the kitchen leaving a trail of chaos. I liken myself to a European settler with my ability to leave the natural environment in disarray.
A mate of my walked into my room a few weeks ago and, without stopping to put on her social filter, exclaimed loudly “how can you live like this?” Oh, what a glorious mess that was. Weeks it was, before I could see the floor of my room.
However, today I may have outdone myself in the mess stakes. I had a little cook off. By myself.
Flying solo in the kitchen is a huge error. Already, I’ve done four rather ambitious loads of washing up. And there’s more to go. I’ll admit it is immensely satisfying that the red pot has already been washed three times, and it is dirty again, but washing up is not where my strength lies.
I make the mess. The suckers that I cook for, they get to clean up.
My favourite rule at home was always “if you cook, you don’t have to do the dishes.” And did I cook. I still have the scars from the vicious old potato peeler
If ever I was beaten to the chopping board – my Dad also loves to create a superb mess in the kitchen – I’d have to think outside the box to avoid the dishes. Ma and Pa would be outside enjoying the fresh winter air, leaving my brother and I to an impressive stack of pots Dad had dirtied.
My screams would bring Jan running.
I’d have welts like zombie bites all over my body from my brother’s malicious tea-towel flicks. I still don’t know how he gets the end to bite so badly! There’d be water and suds all over the benches and windows. Rob would have to have a second shower on the nights that I decided to throw the rinsing water on him. Gosh, those were the days!
I understand not everyone shares my enthusiasm for the kitchen. Take one of my friends. I don’t want to name her, so we’ll just call her Zahara. She has beautiful long black hair and a Costa Rican husband.
Zahara is very good with take-away. She knows exactly what she wants and how to order it. Usually she will have some small change in her wallet. Her car is never without petrol, so her trips to pick up food are never complicated. I am sure that she does not even need the menus anymore – the numbers of several reputable outlets are probably permanently stored in her phone.
In a moment of generosity and frugality I made a business deal with Zahara. For the usual price of her weekly take-away I would cook her a week of meals. Winner, winner chicken dinner.
Herein lies the reason for today’s cooking catastrophe. The kitchen was destroyed after I had carefully crafted four pizzas, one large batch of spaghetti bolognaise and a Sri Lankan chicken curry (the curry doubled as payment for one of the bets I lost to Shorn Lowry at the cricket. The lawn is yet to be mowed.)
Cheese and grated zucchini were splattered across the floor. The stove top looked like it had been caught in the middle of a tomato fight. There were no pots left in the cupboard.
It was a beautiful mess.
But, this is the biggest issue with the deal Zahara and I had struck. She was not there to immerse her hands into the hot, soapy water and sweep the floor.
So, the dishes piled up and I kept cooking.
Now, imagine the almighty mess after I whipped up some spinach and fetta filos, baklava, coconut rice pudding and hummus.
I could not even recognise the colour the stove had been in the morning. The floor resembled a chook house. Food scraps were littered across the benches like roasted English tourists on a Thai beach.
It was shambolic! Oh, and it felt so good.
Luckily, Shorn and the hot girlfriend were being treated to dinner. And she who cooks, does not wash up.
Photo #1 by Ali Rae.