The Urge to Strangle

2007.Jun.09 Saturday · 4 comments

in Life

 Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together – mass hysteria.”

– Dr. Peter Venkman, Ghostbusters

Buenos Aires – People who cook will understand this. People who don’t cook may sympathize, based on their attachments to wherever their workspace is, but they won’t understand it. Not at a visceral level. My kitchen, to the casual observer, would normally appear to be a mess. Not an unclean mess, but a disordered, chaotic space, with things stacked up here and there, random arrays of bottles, scraps of paper, and bowls and utensils everywhere. I constantly get asked, politely, “how do you manage to turn out dinner for twelve so easily from this……..?” The “this” in question isn’t the size of the kitchen – I may not have a huge space to work in, but I’ve actually been in restaurant kitchens that were smaller and had more than one person working in them. No, the “this” is a politely veiled reference to the apparent chaos. But here’s the thing, like anyone whose desk looks much the same, but somehow manages to turn out their work at a rapid pace, and always knows where that one piece of paper someone else is looking for is, it’s actually completely organized. In my mind. Most of it comes from trial and error – the things I use the most are closest to me, things I rarely need are further, or even stuck away out of sight. But I know where each and every item is in the kitchen.

Or I did until Thursday.

There’s a new kid in town. Literally. A friend of Henry’s who’s filling in for the guy who usually helps us out, cleaning the apartment, washing dishes, etc. I was out for the day Thursday, and he apparently came by to get the lay of the land, and immediately decided that he had to start work right then and there. He’s a neat freak. A cleanliness addict. And he’s a design student….

Imagine if you will, and interpret this in your respective environments… the kitchen is gleamingly clean – every nook and cranny scoured. I can get behind that. I really can. Every pan, plate, glass, and utensil has been artfully arranged to be visually appealing, including a pyramid of every coffee mug that used to be in the cupboards, prominently stacked on the countertop. The bottles of oils and vinegars and what have you are now arrayed around the room by color and size, in a decorative rainbow, there are even ostensibly casually placed flowers at various intervals, with appropriately contrasting colors. The spices and herbs have been reorganized in their racks by color. The utensils in the drawers, formerly jumbled, though with things like whisks and spatulas at the front and rolling pins and rarely used cutlery at the back, and all “horizontal” so that I could reach in and grab them, have all been turned 90° to the “vertical” and lined up by form and color, with handles facing to the back of the drawer. The canister of coffee emptied out (where is the damned coffee!?) and refilled with yerba mate – he doesn’t drink coffee, but goes through a couple of pots of water a day worth of mate. The scraps of paper on which I’ve been planning the weekend’s menu and recipes are simply gone, after all, they were just scrap paper….

I gasp. If I was Fred Sanford I’d be on my way to be with Elizabeth. If I was Ralph Kramden, he’d be on his way to the moon.

It takes me an hour to find salt – and I have half a dozen different types. He’s placed them, neatly together, atop the cupboards where they’d be out of sight – after all they’re in ugly plastic containers. I had to actually call him to find out where the can opener was – he didn’t recognize it for what it was, and stuck it in a closet in another room with the toolbox. Strangely, though, he left the pliers that I use for removing fishbones in with the spatulas. I spend literally hours on Thursday evening, and then more on Friday morning finding things, putting them where they’ll be of most use to me, getting things out of the way that have no place where they are. By the time he returns on Friday evening, he’s the one who gasps. I tell him if he ever wants to set foot in our kitchen again, he’ll stick to washing dishes, dusting, and mopping the floors, and not so much as lift a finger to “organize” or “arrange” anything. He’s not happy and makes it clear. I don’t care – it’s my kitchen, not his. I doubt he’ll be back after this weekend.


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Sugar and Spice June 9, 2007 at 17:49

So that’s the source of the tone on my post. 😉

I just wrote a response to your comments and just wanted to reiterate that I did not mean any comment of mine to be negative in any way towards you. In fact, I’m a fan of yours not like your new temporary help I imagine.

Saratica June 10, 2007 at 13:19

I won’t be sending my mom to you… she alphabetizes everything. She took all the excess silverware out of the drawer and hid it away: there are now five forks, five spoons, five knives… I’m nuts and I don’t even cook!!! You are in my prayers…

ksternberg June 11, 2007 at 00:34

Totally amazing that this guy had the idea that he could simply go ahead and rearrange your kitchen. He’s lucky he didn’t end up on the wrong end of a chefs knife. You have more patience than me. It’s nearly equal to a visitor redecorating one’s home.

dan June 11, 2007 at 09:10

Yet, strangely not uncommon amongst folks who clean houses for a living, I gather. I’ve never had a maid or any sort of clean-up person, but among friends who have, I’ve heard similar stories. Including, to some extent, redecoration…

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