Thirty Thousand Streets

Thursday, October 26, 2006

'Washing Up Bowls'

It was my turn on the flat cleaning rota the other night, which, if nothing else, gave me turn to meditate on a feature of many kitchens, which I think is utterly superfluous, but still persists to linger on, like a kitchen based appendix (the wasted, vestigal stomach in the human body, rather than the bit at the back of that textbook you never read).

I'm talking about washing up bowls, and I'd like to invite each and every one of you to explain what practical purpose they serve. Feel free to use simple, childlike terms and intonation, diagrams, pictionary style sketches, or, if you peep me on the real (I can often be found in the Hermit's Cave holding forth about such trivia) maybe you'd prefer to communicate through the medium of mime, charades style.

Be as patronising as you wish, only please, can someone explain, 'cause I just don't get it.

Ok first and foremost I realise you can wash things up in them, but then you could also wash things up in the sink they're placed inside. To use an analogy it seems like placing a slightly smaller bath within an existing bath when bathing. Or building a house only to live in a shed inside it.

The restricted space the bowl allows basically means that you have less room to manipulate the crocks, less elbow room to grease the elbows so to speak.

But probably the worst thing about them is their materials however – as being constructed from low grade plastic they are subject to inummerable abrasions from the cutlery that shimmies daily across it's surface, or the scalding pans that brand weals into it.

These no doubt act as a matrix for a rogues gallery of bacteria, for whom the washing up bowl is probably to germs as the Costa Del Sol is to ex-pat British felons: Warm and accomodating.

Despite being cleaned regularly with the bleach equivalent of shock and awe, ours has still managed to acquire a 24/7 greasy sepia tinge, and a bum-fluff beard of frayed plastic. It looks rank. If it was a person it'd probably be someone like one of Roald Dahl's twits.. certainly no-one you'd want in your kitchen, let alone your sink.

Doubtless someone is thinking:

"why don't you just replace it then, if it's so manky?"

But I don't want to. I don't want another one when there's a perfectly good stainless steel sink there that everyone seems to forget about. I almost want to suggest flinging it out at a house meeting but I'm sure I'll just be met with an awkward, uncomprehending silence, because, of course, the bowl is the sink: and I might as well suggest we go and wash our dishes in the blood of newborn badgers for want of any consensual response.

In one place I lived in, the bowl (and I will stop going on about this soon, I promise) was circular, and only fractionally larger than a dinner plate, so when plates were stacked within and you needed to wash them you either required a gecko-like adhesive touch (which would be better served fighting crime) or to upend the lot into the sink anyway. Arrrrgh!

I used to hide it, but my housemate would simply find it and re-manifest it back in place like it was some kitchen based groundhog day – a utensil themed cycle of eternal recurrence. But why?

There was a piece in the Metro recently discussing the imminent relaunch of Smash, which for anyone lucky enough to have been not born yet or dead at the time, is what happens when people pretend something tastes like potato when it doesn't. It seems odd to think that in these nefarious, virgin olive drizzled times, anyone could excited about a powdered substance that isn't typically inhaled in toilet cubicles, but the allure here is nostalgia, apparently. People just have an unquestioning affection for the chintz that lurked in the cupboards and kitchens of their youth.

Another prime example of this would be those plastic swing top bins, which on the surface were really neat, but whose central design conceit (the swingy bit) was actually flawed, in that it either got too full to swing (though don't we all, eh?), or the act of scraping leftover food in would typically deposit a slug trail of food on the bin's lid.

Evolutionary pressures do seem to have edged that one out the door, somewhat, but in the washing up bowl a true design parasite persists, good friends, attached, remora like, to the seamy underbelly of the nations kitchens. A simple chrome sink, or ceramic basin will suffice for my loft appartment and/or country pile (if and when I come into posession of either).

So to return to my original point, is anyone up to the challenge of defending the humble 'washing up bowl'? can anyone be arsed? I suppose there is an industry built around the construction of this tat, so it's continued popularity probably ensures a subset of the nation's injection moulders have got jobs to go to on an industrial estate somewhere, but otherwise, I'm quite literally, not buying it.


gridrunner said...

No, I'm with you on that. You'll find exactly no washing up bowls in my flat.

Pentadact said...

I know! It's bizarre. I took my mum to task on it, since she always reinstated ours whenever she was over, and she had no satisfactory explanation. I think she said it was 'nicer'. But it's just a smaller sink! and harder to drain!

I'm not a fan of stagnant, brackish goop being the mechanism by which things I eat off are 'cleaned', nor of the taste of the soap veneer normal washing up methods leave over everything, so I prefer to wash up under running water anyway. You can leave the plug in if you want to conserve water, then observe that the total amount used is less than it would take to fill up bowl or sink with filthy soup, and drain it away guilt-free. I digress, but that's why I first came to question the washing up bowl - it only encourages this dirt-incest.

I can conceive of one purpose for the bowl, but I'm 94% sure this isn't what it's intended for. If someone's left a load of washing up in it, and you want to do your own, you could feasibly remove the bowl, washing up and all, and wash yours up in the sink. I've never seen or heard of anyone doing this, though.

Pentadact said...

I wiki'd it just now and can't find a mention of them, but the article on Dishwashing opens appropriately:

Zeno Cosini said...

I get on fine without one - they're really only any use if you have one of those arched, single-fawcett taps that swivels on a horizontal axis from left to right.


Now, the method: fill the bowl with hot, soapy water. Once the bowl is full, swing the tap around so that the water is falling into the gap between the bowl and the edge of the sink (i.e, so that the water coming from the tap is now draining down the plughole BENEATH the bowl).

You wash your dishes in the soapy water, removing them and rinsing them in the water flowing from the tap.

If you were washing directly in the sink, you couldn't have the tap flowing constantly to rinse the dishes in because either the water level would rise continually (plug in), or the water would continually drain, meaning the dishes wouldn't have the chance to soak (plug out).

One thought - the bottom of the washing up bowl out to be arched so that water can more easily flow under it and down the plughole

The Eyechild said...

Gridrunner: Good lad. I think we can warmly pat ourselves on the back for being exempt for what I can only consider as being mass consensual self hypnosis.

Pentedact: Word. Those things are straight up grimey, and the under the tap technique is a pretty sure fire winner. Interesting wiki article though, which would seem to suggest there is a historical prescedent for their existence...

Zeno: Gotta respect the technique.. you're like a Shaolin Monk of the draining board.

I think what we've all learned here today is that rinsing is key.

gridrunner said...

Rinsing. Yes, I'm quite a fan of the rinse. I take issue with those who simply take plates from the soapy bacteria-infested broth and place them on the draining board. When I see plates stacked up with suds sliding off them I shiver with fear for my, and everyone's health.

Anonymous said...

Don't you just lick them clean and them back in the cupboard?

When you get a bit more affluent you get a dog to do it for you......


Anonymous said...

I have a good reason to use washing up bowls! If you are running water into the sink to wash dishes with the plug in and get distracted you get a flood. Not with a bowl and the plug out of the sink. I agree with the rinsing posts as well.

Anonymous said...

"Washing up bowls"

Utterly superfluous. A self-perpetuating product through force of habit by the inflexible mind, created by an opportunistic company that feeds off such minds.

Besides, they are ugly as sin. What self-respecting home owner would have a cheap plastic cotainer sitting amidst their beautiful designer kitchen?