A 900 page tome titled “Home Comforts” by Cheryl Mendelson still makes its appearance in my kitchen now and then, when I am stumped with questions such as “How do I get soy sauce off my white shirt?” or “How do I effectively clean up dog vomit from my one and only Persian rug?”. I bought it when I still lived the single life in an apartment and god knows it was no use to me then, as I was hardly ever home, but I liked the idea that a lawyer so cherished household tasks that she set out to write the ultimate treatise. Way hipper than Martha.
I do have (a not very successful) Martha side that comes out once or twice a year, when I become dead set on completing some improbable do it yourself project. Not to mention I am a neat and clean freak, a trait I fully inherited from my mother – although I do not obsess over spider webs in high places where I can’t reach or on keeping baseboards immaculate, I do vacuum every day or all my meals would be overtaken by dog hair and I can’t go to bed unless the dishes are done. But there are some chores I abhor and I would gladly sell my firstborn (if I had one) in exchange for somebody else performing them for the rest of my natural life. In no particular order:
- Polishing Silver. My mother is big on silver while I have only three pieces I acquired through well-intentioned donations. They rot on the dining room table until I happen to notice them, once a year, because of the black stained deep yellow patina that has accumulated over those 12 months. Shamed by my mother’s inner voice, I will retrieve the polish from a back cabinet in the laundry room, spread newspapers on the kitchen table and set to polish. The alternative is to wait for a visit from my mother who, as soon as she sets the suitcase down and sees the forgotten silver, shrieks, forgets all about her jet lag and starts cleaning it. Works every time.
- Ironing. I find no redeeming quality to this task other than appearing in public with a well pressed shirt (in my case, a decently pressed shirt). I know, I could send it to the dry cleaners but if it’s an item that can be comfortably washed at home, I think it’s too decadent to send it out for ironing. Typically my ironing piles up until I can’t ignore it any longer, at which point I set the board in front of the tv, in hope of relieving the boredom and off I start. My mother finds ironing meditating and relaxing. I do not possess her patience hence I lose interest pretty quickly in pleats, collars, cuffs and the like. Plus, I get hot flashes with all that steam.
- Bathroom. I will gladly handwash dishes after a dinner party for two hundred rather than tackle a 3 square foot bathroom. The shower stall gets me every time – it’s a fight between me and the tiled walls. I am probably thicker than the average person but I can’t understand how I am supposed to rinse everything without a hose and just a shower head affixed to the wall. Needless to say, I emerge from the task looking like Ottie after his dreaded bath.
- Working in a professional kitchen, I am well aware of the function of a grease hood and how such a thing gets routinely cleaned. Somehow, the same logic does not apply to my stove as I never stopped to ponder, until about a year ago, where the grease from the food I cook goes. Well, up the hood, out the vent and it sorts of disappeared as far as I was concerned. Until one day, I asked my mother (by now you have understood she is the doyenne of all my cleaning matters) if she ever cleaned her stove hood. “Of course” she screamed down the phone or, rather, “Certo!” . Shamed once again, I set out to unscrew various parts and I was left face to face with a stinky and grease covered fan that I cleaned the best I could. The parts I could remove, I dragged to the sink for a painstaking half hour of foul and sticky grease removal. Who knew?
- I can vocally ask my cell phone to dial a number, write a note, play some music, get me tickets to a show but my stove still can’t clean itself. Somebody, out there, must invent a self-cleaning stove. I can’t live with a stained stove which, translated into everyday parlance, means that, every time I cook, I am left sponging, rubbing and polishing the damn thing. I could do what Mexicans do and cover every part with tinfoil but I don’t want my stove to look like a ‘60s appliance from Star Trek.
- And, finally, laundry. If I invest money in a washing machine, I expect to shove my clothes in, select a programme that sounds about right and retrieve clean garments. Wrong! Treatises have been written on how to remove every stain known to man, which different products to use, pre-soaking, pre-scrubbing, pre-shrinking and the like. Way too much time which, occasionally, means turning a stained t-shirt into a rag or using large amounts of bleach to see if the desired blinding white effect can be achieved.
No wonder Martha created an empire on the whole business!