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Chapter VIII, "Everyman's House" book, by Caroline Bartlett Crane
Crane, Caroline Bartlett, 1858-1935, author

Western Michigan University

Architecture, Domestic


Better Homes in America

Item Number

Part of Caroline Bartlett Crane "Everyman's House" Collection

collection, text


97 CHAPTER VIII THE KITCHEN 'IN REVERSE' IF IT were done when 'tis done!' I hear that silent exclamation of the heart from countless women, rising at the conclusion of the dinner they have cooked and served. For the rest of the family, ?tis done. The 'assassination' of her viands has 'trammelled up the consequence' for them. The group rises and gracefully dissipates itself, each member feeling 'with his surcease success.' However, 'we still have judgment here,' but with no 'even-handed justice' about it. For the ghost of the beneficent banquet rises 'to plague the inventor thereof.' It is embodied in that dreadful, dreary, stupid anti-climax--the Dishes! Now I strive to show in this chapter that Dishes can be so greatly ameliorated as to lose their bad reputation. But first, let me remark that there is no earthly reason why any 98 EVERYMAN'S HOUSE woman with an able-bodied child past four should do all the after-dinner work unaided, provided the house is so planned and the details of work so routed that it is safe for children to help. Of course, if there is no particular place in the kitchen to set anything, and if something spilled on the floor is a real labour to clean up, and if swinging doors are going to bang on fingers, and collisions there-through are liable to lay low one's child and one's china, then the children can't be of much assistance. One of the reasons-by-the-way for the design of Everyman's House is the conviction of the designer that children should be taught from a very early age that it is their privilege and their duty to give help about the house; and that the house, therefore, should be so planned that it is practical for them to do so. More of this in Chapter XIV. However, we shall suppose that, this time, Mother has the after-dinner work to do quite alone. And we shall cut back to the moment when the table is to be cleared for dessert. Just as the food-laden service dishes were set from the kitchen into the passway 99 THE KITCHEN 'IN REVERSE' when dinner was about to be served, so now they go back to the kitchen, not by being carried through the door, please notice, but by being set into the passway again. And for this there is abundant room. Not only is the passway a four-story affair, but its lower shelf is continuous with the counter board extending to the sink. Thus, dishes may be set through as far as the arm can reach. Also, there is an extension shelf which can be drawn out above the warming cupboard and over to the stove--making within easy reach a continuous passway of some nine square feet, with the three passway shelves above, each adding a space sixteen inches square. This passway is left open on the kitchen side, but is closed off by a small door, sixteen inches by four feet, on the living-room side. Furnished with pressure catches, the door opens easily from either side. The plates, etc., being removed and the dining table cleared of crumbs, Mother reaches the pudding from the passway near the stove and duly serves the dessert. After which, placing the dessert dishes and the crumb tray in the passway, Mother folds the tablecloth and pad and lays them on a shelf in the cup- 100 EVERYMAN'S HOUSE board at the left. She lets down the table leaves, replaces the vase of flowers, and, taking the carpet sweeper from the broom closet at the right of the window seat, she sweeps the rug. The room is now restored to its living-room character. Not until now, when all the dishes are already in the kitchen, does she have occasion to pass back into the kitchen herself, where we are presently to see the wheels go round in reverse gear. Mother finds the dishes precisely where she wants them--on the counter shelf extending to the sink. Butter, milk, and remnants of the meal which are to go to the refrigerator are arranged on that useful counter tray, and all are taken in one trip to the end of the left-hand counter by the entry door. Here, observe, she stands within easy reach of both the counter and the refrigerator, into which one thing after another can be placed. Never any occasion to make two or three trips across the kitchen, carrying only two things at a time, with no place but the floor to set them, while she rearranges the refrigerator contents to receive additions. 101 THE KITCHEN 'IN REVERSE' Remnants of food from plates are scraped into the triangular perforated basin in one corner of the sink. The dishes are prepared for washing, are washed, rinsed in hot water, and arranged in the drier, whence some of them go into the warming cupboard, some into the adjacent kitchen cupboards; while others, with the towel-wiped silver and glass, go through the passway to the china closet on the left of the window seat--if you wish. However, there seems to be no reason why, with a clean white towel spread over them, they should not remain in the drier rack on a shelf of the passway, awaiting the next meal. Why is dishwashing at the nadir of woman's respect in both the domestic and commercial kitchen? The only flavour of romance surrounding it is when the bridegroom wipes the dishes for his little bride. (However, should this not be interpreted as obedience to the vow to cling to her in prosperity and adversity?) A woman of refinement who is undertaking to run a small but smart tearoom tells me of her difficulties in the matter of dishwashing. She doesn't find the patent washers wholly 102 EVERYMAN'S HOUSE satisfactory for china (nor do I). And, anyway, there are the cooking dishes. 'When I advertise for cooks or waitresses,' she said, 'I get applications from comfortable-looking women and trim, well-groomed girls. When I advertise for a dishwasher, I am confounded by the very off-scourings of female service: grimy, unkempt, bedraggled, hopeless old women who seem to be confessing their pitiful, self-despising condition by merely offering to wash dishes!' (I was reminded of the culprit who, confronted with china unpleasantly reminiscent of past meals, said in mingled confession and self-defense: 'I owns up to that applesass and that beef gravy; but that there egg was already on when I come.') 'Now, what is there about dishes, I wonder,' said the tearoom proprietress, 'that seems to be so beneath the imagination of the average wage-earning woman?' 'Does the average home-keeping woman like it much better?' I inquired. Woman's repugnance to this task is partly to be accounted for by the fact that, after the pleasant respite of the mea[l], it comes as such an anti-climax. Anti-climaxes are seldom 103 THE KITCHEN 'IN REVERSE' thrilling, particularly one that bids us be up and doing at the moment we would find it singularly agreeable to sit or lie down. Notwithstanding all of which, I, for my part, like dishwashing the best of any kind of housework. In fact, I can see nothing essentially unpleasant about it, except as the plumber and the woman's own predilection for martyrdom make it so. One of the seventeen wonders of house-construction is--the height of the sink. Our sink is thirty-three inches high at the edge, instead of the usual thirty. The first intention was to have it an even yard high, but after trying that on various of our acquaintances, we decided thirty-three inches to be the right average; especially since it is good form in Everyman's House for a woman not to be a martyr but to wash her dishes sitting down. 'Sit down!' thundered 'The Fighting Coward' (in the movies) to his former persecutors, and they sat down! 'When you can make a man sit down,' he confided to his comrade, 'you've got him tamed.' Would that I could thunder effectually to women to sit down when they should! What a taming 104 EVERYMAN'S HOUSE of formidable tasks! What surcease to aching backs and fallen arches; and strained tempers, too! However, I have known women who thought it fairly scandalous to sit down to peel potatoes, though we all sit down, do we not? to shell peas. Right under our sink in Everyman's House is that most convenient stool, its two front legs foreshortened just enough to incline the worker's body at a convenient angle to her work. 'Sit down!' we gently entreat our guests. Have your sink high enough to let the knees under. You wash dishes in your lap, as it were. Sit at your ironing, too, as much as you possibly can. Don't stand when you can sit. If you will sit, dishwashing, particularly, can be transformed into rather pleasant work than otherwise. And this is important, for one reason, because skimping on dishes defeats all dignity and daintiness in table service. Dishwashing is warm and pleasantly sudsy, and has this advantage, that you can think of something else meanwhile. Cooking I find very exacting. One who is not doing it regularly is apt to forget essentials--even forget to use the holders, until scorchingly reminded. 105 THE KITCHEN 'IN REVERSE' But one can drop naturally into dishwashing any day. And I insist that dishwashing is quite the reverse of a 'dirty job' except in the hands of those horrid persons who put the dishes in, scraps and all. Bits of soft paper, such as orange wrappers, go into a corner of a drawer by the sink in Everyman's House, for wiping off grease, etc., from dishes; or it may be rinsed off under the automatic hot-water faucet ever at your service. Now, here is the way I would wash dishes, if I lived in Everyman's House. I would take a seat unashamed on that kitchen stool, from which everything needful for the operation is in easy reach, on the wall or in the drawers. I would not wear rubber gloves. With good soap or soap flakes, dishwashing is rather improving for the hands than otherwise. I would wipe or rinse off the especially soiled dishes; assemble them all in proper order on the drain counter; wash them (glass and silver first, of course), and turn them all upside down on the opposite counter to drain off the dish water. I would wash the cooking dishes and treat them in the same way. Then I would wash and scald my one nice bright pan and 106 EVERYMAN'S HOUSE clean the sink. After which, I would place not too many dishes at a time in the pan, and pour boiling water over them out of the tea-kettle--unless it comes practically boiling from the faucet. (Already hot faucet water boils almost at once upon the stove.) I would completely immerse the dishes in boiling water and let them stand for a minute or so while I clean the stove and dry the cooking dishes over a sterilizing blaze, and take care of the garbage and other matters. Then I would fish those dishes out of the hot water and arrange them in the drier, and put in some more dishes, adding some more boiling water, and so on, till they are all done. Then I would wash and scald cloth and towels and pour the hot rinse water down the sink as a chaser to a bit of washing soda. There's absolutely nothing repulsive, that I can see, about dishwashing done right. On the contrary, I call it dainty work. I have tried using a large, square drain pan, to hold water deep enough to cover the dishes in the drier; then lifting drier rack and dishes out to dry off. However, I will have to put a drain in the bottom and draw the water off before that can be pro- 107 THE KITCHEN 'IN REVERSE' nounced a success. Even then it requires an extravagant amount of hot water. On hiring help the one thing about which I am invariably specific is my way of washing dishes. Will she do it just that way? That kills the germs, you know. It is really not a fad, but a matter of health and safety--for her as much as for any of us. Will she do it? 'Certainly.' In fact, that's the way she always does do it. She does it that way once or twice, under observation and some discreet prompting. However, it appears that of all hard words of tongue or pen, my words are the hardest specimen; and on this rock the ways have split, of me and maids who'd rather quit! Why, oh, why do some mistresses, as well as maids, pour more-or-less-hot water over the bowed and huddled backs of a trough of dishes, and call that 'rinsing?' One maid explained the matter thus: 'You see, it makes them easier to wipe!' Even manufacturers of patent dish driers picture lovely ladies in the daintiest of evening frocks, simply revelling in this same performance! For my part, I'll have none of dish driers without the boiling- 108 EVERYMAN'S HOUSE hot bath as a condition precedent--after which, the drier is doubtless more sanitary than a towel. It is indeed a pity that silver and glass must be wiped and polished. 'Dishwashing deluxe,' someone called the method explained at Everyman's House. Hardly 'of luxury' but certainly no back-breaking, repulsive process which gives you just cause to hate and despise it. I can seldom view the results of any housewifely labour of mine with the unmixed pride with which I eye a trayful of freshly laundered dishes. I then recall a pronouncement I once saw somewhere : 'It takes a lady to wash dishes.' With this sentiment I agree. Pleasant, anywhere, to see one! At the sink I'm bound to be one! Something more about taking thine ease in thy kitchen. Not only sit when you can, but be sure, when you build, to consider what you have to look at--outside as well as in--some hours of every day. Don't focus the kitchen, as a matter of course, upon the ugliest or most uninteresting view available. Perhaps no good view is to be had like our long, lovely view over hills and valleys. (One young wife ex- 109 THE KITCHEN 'IN REVERSE' claimed, 'I'd enjoy to sit and wash dishes with a view like that!') Then, if lacking a land-scape, we especially recommend, as a source of recreation on the other side of your window, a 'better home' for bluebirds or wrens. Everyman's House has both. And in winter, a bird-feeding station at the sill. So easy; so good for you and for the birds and for the children!

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