“The person who’s cooking should not have to do the dishes.”

During a recent interview with the Village Green Network, Joel Salatin called it “one of the keys to slow food.” And, no, he wasn’t talking about grazing animals on pasture.

Us & Joel Salatin

He was talking about housework, specifically about spreading it around — almost like manure on a field (metaphor mine, not his) — among the members of a household. Delving into the inner-workings of the casa de Salatin, Joel said that everyone pitches in at the house on Polyface Farms in Staunton. He said doing so is key to bringing local food to the table, which, admittedly, can take some serious work. If you spread it around, the insurmountable task of changing your life from fast food to slow becomes, well, doable.

And then, he said what may be my favorite Joel Salatin quote yet:

“The person who’s cooking should not have to do the cleaning.”

Amen brother!

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I went ahead and applied this quote to the post-cooking cleaning, specifically the dishes. There’s nothing worse than spending a few hours over the stove on a dish that requires far too many dishes only to spend another hour over the sink. The more time you spend at that sink post-cooking, the more likely you are to take cooking shortcuts next time to avoid the same circumstance. (Blanch the green beans before roasting them? Nah. Make my own tomato sauce? Nah.)

As much as you might love cooking, there are days that it just feels like work. The kind of work you have to do three times a day. There are days when you’d much rather give in to your family’s begging for just one night out. And there are days that, as much as you’d like to cook, the thought of doing dishes afterward is enough to send you running to the nearest Chipotle for its compostable containers.

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I was fresh out of college when I got engaged (we get married young in Kansas) and was home between internships, planning my wedding. One night, my mom sent me to the store to “get stuff to make dinner.” Sure, I thought, that can’t be too hard. I’d lived in a sorority house for two years, a dorm room before that,  where other people made me food (if we can call it that). But how hard could dinner be?

A few minutes later, I was standing in the produce section in tears, my poor sister embarrassed to be seen with me. The only recipe I could conjure up on the spot was for guacamole, and I didn’t think that constituted dinner (though, now, sometimes I do).

“I’m not ready to get married if I can’t even make dinner,” I said all sniffly.

Well, somehow, I did get married that August, nearly four years ago. And, somehow, I learned how to “get stuff to make dinner” and even how to cook it. And, though I didn’t realize it at the time, I now attribute much of my success to the man I married (and to culinarily curious coworkers at my first job).

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I can attribute much of my tendency to cook and my joy therein to the fact that I have a husband who willingly and lovingly does the dishes.

I can attribute the other part to the fact that I have a husband who eats a lot. There’s nothing better than cooking for someone who loves food and scarfs down almost anything you throw at him.

The first house (OK, the second, but I don’t count the “bachelor pad” he picked out without me) we lived in was cute as a button — but sans dishwasher. It had an excuse for a dishwasher that you could roll into the middle of the kitchen, hook up to the faucet and wait for it to do its magic. We never used it.

A lovely sink for dish-doing, but no dishwasher in our first house.

A lovely sink for dish-doing, but no built-in dishwasher in our first house.


There’s the little mobile dishwasher on wheels, which we never used.

It was in that house, after meals that made the dishes pile up, that I really grew to love my husband. He’d dutifully take his post at the sink, unsolicited, and begin working through the piles while I put away leftovers. I don’t recall having a conversation about this being “his job,” it’s just something he did.

Now, for those of you who are single and rolling your eyes at me… know that this is how things worked about half the time at that first house. The other half of the time, my husband was deployed, and dish duty — along with all other duties — reverted back to yours truly. When he was gone, I planned my meals around using the least dishes possible, regularly living off a frittata for days and warming up pieces of it on paper towels. I think it was this on-and-off perspective that made me appreciate even more my husband’s desire to step up to the dish-doing plate when he came home.

These days, I overhear him telling friends that he likes doing the dishes (I mean, we do have a dishwasher now). He says it’s therapeutic, gives him time to think, kind of like driving (another thing I’d rather not do if he’s willing). But I get the feeling that he’s learned to like it, that he does it first and foremost out of love for me and, every once in a while, out of thanks for a really great dish.

So, a word of advice to those of you yet unmarried with even a little inspiration to cook in the future: find a mate who does the dishes. It makes meals all the more worth making.


One Response to ““The person who’s cooking should not have to do the dishes.””
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  1. […] be obsessed with food & cooking (see the story about my initial grocery store breakdown here) and that he would be the perfect companion in this hobby. Cole does dishes and goes to far too […]

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