So. Let’s start where meals end. At the kitchen sink. This is a good spot to pick at, if yer gonna pick. As I said in my intro kitchen post, this area needs some good brainstorming.
When you’re looking at a sink, you need to know whether it’s a dishwasher afterthought, or the actual location of all the washing of a kitchen’s dishes. The function is of course quite different. Mine being the latter it consists of three main task areas: a place for dirty dishes, a place to wash and rinse said dishes, and an area to stack for drying. I loathe to dry dishes by hand. Why would I use my time to do what the air will do for me? Health codes actually prohibit drying with a towel in restaurants because it tends to be unhygienic. Lucky for me to have another defense besides laziness.
I cook a lot of our food from scratch, as you might have gathered. Most days involve a cooking project, like bread, granola, muffins, etc, in addition to our regular three meals a day. This means I make a lot of dishes. Even if I (or Hubby, overall I’d say he does maybe a third of the dishes, though I’m sure he thinks he does half) dutifully washes them once/day, that still means a decent sized pile. I’d say at least 2 square feet, unless they were efficiently stacked, which they never are. They’re spread helter-skelter all over whatever counter space is within reach of the sink.
My point is, we have to plan our kitchens for the reality of how we live/cook/eat. My kitchen needs at least 2 square feet of space for dirty dishes. Fact. They will not bow out or behave deferingly. If I don’t provide them with said space, they will leach out into other parts of my (precious) counter space.
This sink area fortunately provides just about that. I like that it’s separate from my other counterspace. My Cordova kitchen had one continuous countertop, meaning the Dirty Dishes Area was right next to my Stove-Side Food Prep Area. There was always leaching, and I hated it.
One trick I have found that helps is to have a wash tub for putting dirties in. It kind of keeps them contained and helps the area not look as cluttery.
I like a Washing Area to have two sinks. I’ve heard some folks like one big sink that they put two wash tubs in, but I like having two separate sinks. Often I’m doing something dirty in one sink (washing muddy shoes) and need to do something else in a clean sink (drain pasta water). Mama-ing is full of this kind of multi-tasking. I still like to use tubs though, in my separate sinks. Say I’m washing dishes when said muddy shoes enter the kitchen, and then the pasta water needs draining all at the same damned time? Plus, in an effort to save water I often use my rinse water for washing the sinks out when I’m done, or soaking a stubborn pot (that is, after I use it to thoroughly rinse my sponge and brushes), and those reusings are easier when it’s in a removable container.
Here’s another mundanely common kitchen problem that’s rarely dealt with, that really gets my goat. Soggy sponges and rags. This is not just a matter of asthetics. Those suckers breed nasties like crazy. I think it’s funny (as in ironic, not haha) when I go into someone’s kitchen and they have antibacterial dish soap and a host of toxic cleaners, and their sponge is sitting in a puddle of old dish water in the bottom of the sink. When your sponge smells gross, it’s because it is gross. Sponges are pretty much asking for it. A dishrag is a much better solution, they’re thin, they dry fast, you can throw it in the wash once a week, and they last more or less forever. Unfortunately I’ve just never been able to come around to washing dishes with a dishrag. A sponge feels right– it’s the right size, the right thickness, it’s got the scratchy stuff on one side. But to keep a sponge from going nasty, you have to rinse it well and give it a chance to dry between uses. I used to have a little slatted soap dish/stand. That worked good and was pretty. Haven’t found anything like it here, so I improvised with this old onion bag.
Incidentally, I also wound up a big wad of onion bag to make a pretty damn fine scrubby.
You’ll also notice in the big photo up top that I have a bar for hanging rags on above the sink. Kids and rags go hand in hand. We have two kinds of rags in our house, the relatively nice white washcloths for general table/hands/face wiping, and some old (colored) bath towels I ripped into rag sized for floor rags. Wet floor rags I loop over the recycling box by the door to dry between uses, or await washing. The regular rags go above the sink on that bar, which is actually just a length of bamboo (a common yard trimming here) suspended by two strings. Easy peas.
Then, on to the Drying Area. Here’s my big innovation. You know how dish racks always drip water into a puddle? And then they invented those rubber trays to go underneath to funnel the water back into the sink? But they don’t really work, and instead the water just sits in little puddles and gets funky? Well, I set the far end of my tray/rack unit on a piece of 2×4, so that it’s got quite an angle to it. Then the water actually does run back into the sink. No funk! You can kind of see it in the photo up top. The tray I got at the Sally here is stout, all it took was the 2×4 to set it on, super easy. The tray I had in Cordova was floppier, so I set it on a piece of plywood (screwed it on actually, with two screws at the top end where the water wouldn’t be going) and propped the plywood up at the far end.
If you’re a baggie reuser, which you ought to be if you’re reading this blog, you’ll understand what a pain in the ass drying the damn things is. You can slip them over a wooden spoon handle or something, but it doesn’t hold them open very effectively, and then the corners don’t dry. In Cordova I had a cool little thing I’d gotten at a garage sale. It had two sets of dowels sticking up, about 4 inches apart. When I bought it I was thinking of it to hold dishes, vertically (more on that later), but it didn’t work. Instead I stumbled upon using it as a bag drying rack, and it worked fantastic! Only an analytical thinker/housewife like me could be so excited by a bag dryer! It was about 10 inches long and held several zippies at a time, each one held open by three or four dowels. I’ve been meaning to make one since I got here, it would be easy to replicate with a 2×4 and some 1/2 inch doweling. I promise when I do, I will post an instructional. It also worked a treat for canning jars, which are a fact of life, and dishwashing, for ladies such as myself. And dish drainers never have enough of those side thingies for all your glasses and canning jars….
I have long dreamed of building a large dish drying rack that would also be where the dishes go. They used to be a common thing in old British kitchens. They have a series of slats that the dishes slide into vertically. Oh, how glorious to wash the dishes and then put them to drain, The End. No extra putting away step!
But I’ll save that for my fantasy kitchen post, at the end.