I’m warning you now: If you ever come over to my house for a meal — be it a Thanksgiving feast with all the trimmings, a blowout Christmas dinner, cake and Champagne for my birthday, or just a weeknight pasta party — you won’t be allowed to help me clean up in the kitchen after we’ve eaten.
Yeah, I know. I made the food, I did all the prep work, I sweated over the details, so I should be allowed to sit back while you do dishes and take care of the rest, right? Wrong. So, so wrong.
Don’t be offended. I understand you’re coming from a place of kindness and you really just want to help. But the best thing you can do for me and for the other Monica Gellers of the world is to let us do us. This goes double for post-Thanksgiving dishes.
My Thanksgiving cleanup history reads like a rap sheet of bad behavior: I’ve snapped at my well-meaning mother-in-law, pretended not to hear people asking what they can do to help, and physically chased people out of the kitchen while waving a dishtowel around like my friends were a pack of angry crows. Shoo, shoo! Writing it out like this sounds absolutely terrible and indefensible, but I’m going to defend my actions anyway.
The kitchen is my workspace.
Because cooking is part of my profession as a food writer, photographer, and recipe developer, the kitchen isn’t just the kitchen — it’s my office. Every pot, colander, knife, and bowl is the equivalent of Milton’s red stapler in Office Space.
Anyone who comes back to their desk after a week away to notice their papers have been moved, their keyboard is sticky, and their chair is no longer the right height knows exactly what I’m talking about.And because the kitchen is my workspace, knowing how my investments are maintained and where each piece of equipment is stored is of paramount importance.
Doing the dishes is soothing (really).
And I know this is very hard for some people to believe, but I honestly find the process soothing in its own (sad) way. It lets me decompress after a big blowout meal, focusing my thoughts and energies on watching the pile of dirty dishes transform into a neat, orderly arrangement of clean dishes. I appreciate the routine and, frankly, the alone time.
But drying dishes is a different story.
There is one exception to this iron-fisted rule: I will accept help when towel-drying large platters and other pieces of serveware once the drying rack has been filled to capacity. But oddly enough, no one seems to want to take responsibility for handling my wet, slippery vintage Pyrex. Hmm.
So I’ll continue to exert my stranglehold on holiday meal cleanup. Everyone else at the table is welcome to start dividing up leftovers into take-home containers while I commune with my dishes over here at the sink. Trust me, we’ll all be happier in the end. Because I’m only content when my kitchen is not just clean — it has to be Monica clean.