Holiday "Disasters"?

I am waiting for my new dishwasher to be delivered. The current model, still tucked into its cubby in my Chapel Hill kitchen, decided to give up the ghost on the day before Thanksgiving. Here I am twelve days later expecting its replacement any minute. We tinkered with it and tried all the “troubleshooting” suggestions in the manual. We went online to look for more hacks and videos of what to do. It made a few clicking sounds but the pump just wouldn’t run. And if the pump doesn’t run, the wash cycle won’t either..for good reason. Who needs a dishwasher full of dirty water that won’t empty?

You may have noticed that appliances these days run on various electronic  “smart” modules that cost several hundred dollars to replace.  In this case, a mechanical problem stopped the controls. Most of my focus when something goes wrong is to see if I can “outsmart” the modules. No luck in this case.

I was reminded of several other holiday “disasters.” Something about putting our kitchen workhorses through days of serious cooking seems to push everything to the edge of a breakdown. There was the Thanksgiving when we were just finishing a kitchen renovation in our new home in Chapel Hill and the water line broke with a houseful of people the night before our gathering. It was the first night with our grown children in the new space and I wanted everything to be just right and for them to feel at home. Of course the plumbers hurried on over in a flash-- one does pay double time for holiday calls..and rightfully so. Fortunately, this problem was short-lived.

Back in Atlanta, I once foolishly stuffed way too many potato peels into the disposal and overwhelmed the poor little thing on the first night of Chanukah. It froze up. The latkes came out great and eventually so did the peels after I carefully fished them out by hand, found the special little disposal tool that comes with the machine and got it sputtering back to life.

Just a few years ago on another Thanksgiving, the oven thermostat died. It was a brand new professional quality stove with an oven big enough for a flock of turkeys. But for some reason, I could only get the oven to stay on by using the “broil” setting, thus over shooting my target temperature and then having to turn it off for a while. I hoped the average temperature wouId somehow hover close to 325 degrees and I guess it did. The 18 pound bird came out juicy and cooked through. I spent a good part of the day monitoring a small oven thermometer, turning the turkey so the top would not overcook and sticking temperature probes into the bird every 20 minutes or so.

I have always liked a challenge, am handy with fixing things, so each of these potential disasters had a happy ending. This Thanksgiving and in the days since, we hand washed and dried our dishes the old-fashioned way. There is definitely something I like about that process. Sometimes family or guests pitched in and we worked in tandem chatting about friends, work, a new grandchild or of course, food. I was reminded of our dear, long departed friend Anne Queen who used to host back-to-back dinners and brunches at her tiny cottage at the edge of the UNC campus. I sometimes offered to come help her wash dishes afterwards but she said, “I like to do them all the next morning by myself in the kitchen. I stand at the sink and think about all the people who had come and the conversations we had. I really don’t mind doing it at all.”

Washing Dishes

Our fast-paced electronic world has removed us from so much of the actual process of cooking and cleaning. Mostly I am grateful for this. But the time “freed up” by my gadgets just makes me pack in more things to do sometimes. Standing in front of my sink, hand-washing the dishes, I find myself grateful that this is the worse thing that I have to tackle at that moment. After all, it is hard to multi-task with a wet glass in one hand and a dishtowel in the other. I find myself reflecting, getting centered, and having a sense of accomplishment when all is done and the dishtowels are hung to dry. 

I have a home. I have food. I have work I love. I have dishes to wash and towels to dry them and I have the comfort of family and friends with whom to share all of this. For these gifts and even this year’s holiday “calamity”, I am grateful. The larger world has shown me, in the seemingly endless barrage of catastrophes and horror, that not everyone is so lucky and that a broken dishwasher is not a disaster.

Wishing you and yours and each person on this planet an abundant and peaceful Holiday Season and New Year. 

Katherine & Max washing dihes



  1. Jon's avatar
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    Great blog Kay. I wonder if you and Buck have softer hands after a month of hand washing? Merry Christmas
  2. David's avatar
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    Ask Heidi about the time we ran the cleaning cycle on our oven right before Thanksgiving.

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