Opinion

Thanksgiving misgivings

In this spirit of this week’s holiday, we pull a chestnut

from the Review’s editorial page archives and wish

readers a Happy Thanksgiving.

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One element of Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations which doesn’t get enough mention, though it is always at the back of every housewife’s mind, is...dishes. I don’t mean the dishes as you see them in the pictures, piled high with turkey and assorted vegetables, with a rich red streak of cranberry sauce, but as we – housewives unlimited – see them in the kitchen afterwards, when the streak of cranberry sauce has turned into a smear and the dismembered fragments of turkey clutter what is no longer gravy but grease.

No kitchen was ever large enough to find room for the dishes that wait to be washed after these family reunions, which the poets have celebrated without a word of praise for the heroines who have to clean up the mess.

We are given to large family reunions, so I speak from the heart. Of course, husbands who can sit comfortably and smoke in the living room while all this is being faced in the kitchen will say, “Well, you have a dishwasher,” as though that solved all problems.

Years ago I took a dishwasher on a week’s trial. I am still trying it. But no dishwasher has been trained thus far to clear the dishes from the table, to scrape them, to arrange them in the wire compartments and, after washing them, to arrange them, to put them back on the shelves. In these little jobs, I figure that I do more loading and unloading in one day than a stevedore does in a week (overtime included), and I can’t strike every couple of years for a new contract at higher pay.

Here is a problem which so far has baffled a civilization that has taught us how to cook without cooking, and how to dispense with old-fashioned habits like walking and reading.

The sensible thing, I suppose, would be to use paper plates, then throw them all in the fireplace; this has the advantage of saving on firewood. One genius in the family has suggested building a table with inset plates lined with some substance like the element of a hot-plate and electrically wired so that when dinner is finished, all you need to do is turn a switch and burn up the stale gravy. You can tell that he has never stuck his nose in the kitchen and sniffed the results when a stew has boiled over.

Furthermore, when it comes to dishes, what wife can be completely sensible? What wife doesn’t want settings for eight or 12, with silver to match, even through she hopes to high heaven she may never have to use them? So there is my solution. I don’t want to abolish family reunions; I wouldn’t dream of being so inhospitable. I just want to make them impossible by moving into an apartment with a kitchenette just big enough for two, a kitchenette with plenty of shelf space to accommodate 12 soup plates, 12 dinner plates, 12 bread-and-butter plates, 12 dessert plates, all of them the choicest china, fit for a banquet – and once every six months, I will take them down, dust them, admire them, fondle them, and put them back.

– Frances Olin Gowen, The FOG Horn,

Bainbridge Island Review, Nov. 29, 1956

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