Graswich Unleashed: Dishing the Holidays


The holiday season is my favorite time. I’m not interested in mistletoe and holly. For me, the holidays mean I get to wash a lot of dishes.
My family eats at home during the Christmas season. And we have guests. This means that between now and January, I’ll get to wash stacks of dirty dishes almost every night, plus glassware, pots, pans and flatware. I can’t wait to take off my coat and get started.

I have been told we have a nice automatic dishwasher in our kitchen, but I wouldn’t know about that. I have lived in the same house for 17 years but have never used the automatic dishwasher.

I don’t know how to load the dishwasher, or how to start it. I may have opened the door once, curious to see what an automatic dishwasher looked like inside, but my curiosity didn’t last. (And maybe it’s kitchen appliances in general. I once lived 10 years in a condo and never opened the oven.)

Some visitors to our home get anxious when they see me doing dishes. They make self-conscious remarks and even offer to help, as if I’m trying to make them feel guilty. I tell them not to worry. I like doing dishes, I say. Most of the time, they give me a skeptical look, like they don’t believe me.

Mrs. Graswich used to fall squarely into the guilty category. No matter what I told her about the joy of solitary dishwashing, she would say I was lying and tell me to leave the dishes for later, when she could stack them in the automatic dishwasher. Once or twice, she forbade me to wash dishes. I sulked while the plates piled up. The machine didn’t get the job done until the next day.

Now Mrs. Graswich is OK with my obsession. She knows I’m much faster than the automatic dishwasher, and every bit as good. My hands are accustomed to hot water, and I use plenty of soap. On several old pots, the Teflon has been scrubbed off. That’s how good I am.

It wasn’t always this way. As a kid, I never washed the dishes. I don’t know how they became clean. I don’t remember anyone doing dishes in the kitchens of my youth. My mother must have cleaned the dishes&emdash;very quickly&emdash;because I have no recollection of dirty plates lining our counter. Maybe they were washed by magic.

I used to hang around saloons in Sacramento and would ask friendly bar owners if I could work as a bartender. David Chow let me go behind his bar at David’s Brass Rail (now gone), across from the Capitol. I didn’t learn to mix drinks, but I sure could wash the glassware. David had three little stainless steel sinks for washing glasses. He took each dirty glass, dipped it into each sink for a fraction of a second and declared the glass clean.

David said there was a special chemical in one sink. The secret, he told me, was to make the water as hot as my hands could stand. The secret potion would do the rest. As far as I know, nobody ever died drinking from David Chow’s glassware.

These days, even crummy bars have automatic dishwashers. No more secret potions. That’s one reason why I don’t hang around bars as much.

I prefer to stay home these days, especially around the holidays. Soon the dishes will be stacking up. I’ll get busy, lost in my happy dishwashing thoughts.

We aren’t fancy people, but we would sooner die than use paper plates.

R.E. Graswich writes a twice-weekly blog for He co-hosts the afternoon news with Kitty O’Neal on NewsTalk 1530 KFBK AM radio and reports nightly for CBS 13 news.