Wednesday night was the night of 1,000 kitchen disasters in our house. I’m still recovering.
It was Eric’s turn to make dinner, and he was going to make the crisp chicken marinara from Cooking Light. He asked for some help with the recipe, which surprised me initially. After all, it was one of those fast and easy dinner recipes, right? But I needed a break from my laptop and I wanted to make that roasted sweet potato winter salad for my lunch this week, so I agreed to join him in the kitchen, figuring I’d make my salad and I’d also be able to answer any questions he had about the recipe since I’d be right there.
So we got started in our already kinda-dirty, “We need to run the dishwasher tonight” kitchen. Just two honest kids with a dream of making a couple healthy meals. It was rough from the start, mainly due to the lack of clean dishes. (WHY do our knives go SO FAST? The answer, I’m loath to admit, is that I’ve somehow managed to lose half of our knives somewhere between our house and my office.) But every time we’d manage to find some buried-at-the-bottom-of-the-drawer utensil to get the job done, something else would go wrong with Eric’s recipe, which was way more of a hassle than I had originally realized. And I couldn’t help him because I was getting out my fourth Ziploc bag after the first three had split as I pounded out my chicken breast to prepare it for grilling. Each time I would yelp with frustration and stride across the kitchen, trying to stay out of Eric’s way and awkwardly trying to keep the chicken and/or its salmonella-packed juices from sliding out of the bag, basically feeling like I was doing some sort of relay race that involved running back and forth balancing a broken condom.
After getting my chicken marinating, I peeled the sweet potatoes for my salad. I rarely peel potatoes for recipes because those skins are good for you and also, I’m lazy. But Wednesday night, for some reason, I decided to do things by the recipe. It was a decision I’m still regretting.
I peeled the potatoes over the sink, as I’ve seen my grandma do numerous times as I’ve watched her make her famous-to-my-family potato salad. This was how I knew it was an OK thing to do. I finished that task, added the onions, covered everything in olive oil and smoked paprika, and got them ready to roast in the oven.
Meanwhile, Eric was struggling. It’s hard to explain why this seemingly simple recipe was so troublesome, but it just had a lot of little steps, steps that involved more dishes. The search for dishes, as well as the thickness of the chicken tenders meant that the timing was completely messed up. So there was a lot of waiting around, turning off one burner while we let another part of the recipe catch up on another burner. After helping him briefly, I decided I’d clean up a bit and decided to run the garbage disposal. I shoved all the orange potato peels down it and ran it. And for the first 90 percent of the peels, it worked. And then it stopped.
Well, crap. The garbage disposal was clogged. And worse, it was clogged and it was totally my fault. That meant I was going to be on the front lines when it came to solving the problem. .
Rather than immediately make plans to call a repairman, I decided, in the spirit of DIY, to see if it was something I could easily fix myself. And, turns out, it was! God bless Google for making “how to unclog a garbage disposal potato skins” fill in automagically. Focusing specifically on potato skin clogs gave me better advice, because apparently, not all clogs are created equal.
The advice told me to use a plunger. It also said not to be a disgusting human being and use the same plunger you use in your bathroom. At this point, it was after 8 PM and I had no desire to go to the store for a new plunger; it would have to wait until morning. We were stuck with this clogged drain for the night and we were just going to have to make the best of it.
We continued with our cooking and I loaded the dishwasher as best I could, but there came a point when we had to start filling the non-clogged side of the sink with pans and dishes and such. And it was just one of those nights when the dishes were all so disgusting. There was greasy olive oil. There was marinara sauce. There were chicken bits. There was sticky, sticky honey. My sweet potatoes were taking forever to roast. Meanwhile, Eric was moving onto the more tedious parts of his recipe: breading the chicken with panko and then browning it for two minutes on each side. It was getting close to 9:00 and we were both so over it at this point; I think all either of us wanted was to just go sit down for five minutes. As for dinner, it was becoming less and less important with each passing minute. If we had had any clean spoons, I think we would have just called it a night with some cereal.
Eventually, we made it through the browning phase and then it was time to make the pasta (in water that had taken an absurd amount of time to boil) and then move onto the broiling phase. (Nothing caught on fire, which was a small personal victory!) When we finally sat down to eat, using a paring knife to cut the chicken, the victory felt hollow in the aftermath of our horrible-looking kitchen. The chicken was good but it wasn’t that good.
We cleaned up as well as we could, but it was a lost cause. When we left the kitchen, our dishwasher and sink was full and our counter was stacked with pots and pans. I did some yoga and then snuggled with Eric and the dogs, figuring I’d deal with everything in the morning.
Kitchen: 1. Rachel & Eric: 0.
I woke up on Thursday dreaming of plungers. I knew this task couldn’t wait; I was going to fix this thing this morning. After Eric left for work, I bleached our plunger and then headed into the kitchen.
I’ll admit, I felt really self-satisfied at this point. I’m going to fix my garbage disposal, I was thinking. And I’m going to be so proud of myself when I do! I’m going to totally handle an adult home repair like it’s no big deal! I was probably actually strutting with my plunger as I entered the kitchen, which is pretty gross, and sad, and probably means I deserved what happened next.
Per the instructions, I put the stopper in the left side of the sink. Then I started to plunge. When I did, the little spout where water comes out when the dishwasher is running burped out a little spurt of water. Uhhhh whut? No one told me that was going to happen. I pumped the plunger again. Another little spurt. I did not like that one bit. With each subsequent push of the plunger, it belched more water over the counters. The water had bits of sweet potato peel and spinach floating in it; though it was odorless, it looked like a combination of shit and barf, so the experience of watching it flow over my kitchen counter was just really unsettling.
But still, I pumped the plunger. And just when I got a good rhythm going, just when I started to think that I was going to clear this clog, just when I was thinking about how I was going to write a blog post over my victory over this goddamn disposal, the little spout got that “I don’t feel so good” look on its face and threw up all over me before I could get out of the way. Chest to thighs, I was covered in the dirty dishwater.
Fuuuuuuuuuuck this. Fixing the garbage disposal was going to have to wait until I got home from work.
Kitchen: 2. Rachel & Eric: 0.
While I was at work, I did some more research online and talked to my coworker Jesse, who is quite knowledgable when it comes to things like this. While one blog post I read said to use Drano at this point, it was a recommendation that came with caveats. Jesse also warned me that using Drano is risky because it can really mess things up if it comes in contact with other parts that can’t handle it. At this point, I was over the ineffective plunging and ready to take the whole damn thing apart. In trying to figure out how to do so, I ended up on Lowes.com, which said that when plunging, you needed to plug all areas where water could escape. Hm. Was it the little spout that made my plunging so ineffective?
When I got home from work, I put on what I call my superhero outfit: thick rubber gloves and an apron I keep specifically for cleaning. Then I put my hair in a ponytail. The layers and the hair tie make me feel transformed into the nothing-scares-me version of myself, comfortable handling any household task, no matter how disgusting it is. I felt like I had been pushed around by a bully at the bus stop before school, and now, after school, I was marching over to the playground to kick that bully’s ass.
I tried to fill the left side of the sink with water so I could plunge it into the right side, which several websites and my mom recommended. (My mom also told me that my grandma peels potatoes into the sink, but she always puts a plastic grocery bag down first, so she can then just pull it out and throw them away. Curses!) But turns out, that side of the sink was totally fine. Since that was a no-go, I just put the stopper back in it and then wrapped the little spout in a towel, per the instructions from Lowe’s. I started to plunge. Water flowed through the towel freely; it wasn’t plugging a damn thing. I briefly considered going out for some super jumbo pads with wings to strap on to it, but I pushed through. Every time I pushed on the plunger, more water would soak through the towel. There was a lot of water, but it was coming in big spurts, coughing and hiccuping and really forcing itself out. I had no idea if this was good sign or a bad sign, but I did take a moment to scrape out some of the potato peels that were stuck in the spout before I continued.
Eventually, I realized the only way I could do this alone was with one hand holding the towel tightly on the spout and one hand (which really meant chin/elbow/boob) pumping the plunger. I gripped the spout and pumped as best as I could, feeling quite hopeless.
But then — was that…was that water I heard? It was the tiniest sound of water draining from the unclogged side of the sink. I had no idea if this was what I wanted to happen but I chose to take it as a good sign and started plunging with a renewed sense of vigor. The left side continued its tiny, slow drain, the spout continued to hiccup large amounts of water, and my chin/boob continued to work that plunger. Finally, I felt confident enough to flip the switch on the disposal again and, amazingly enough, it began to grind.
At that point, I dropped the plunger like I was dropping a mic and strutted out of the room like a total badass.
Well, not really. First, I jumped up and down and squealed like a teen girl watching the newest “Twilight” trailer. Then I just started cleaning everything in sight. While I was really proud about what had just happened, I was still embarrassed that it needed to happen. So I ran the dishwasher and then scrubbed everything else in the kitchen. Then I mopped the floor. Then I swept and mopped the whole first floor of our house. I wasn’t ready to start cooking dinner at the scene of the crime just yet. I needed to atone a little bit first.
Eventually, all was clean again and I got out the ingredients for my fast and easy beef stew. With every step of the process, I was so grateful that the garbage disposal was working and that the kitchen once again looked like a place where you’d cook a meal, rather than cook meth.
Kitchen: 2. Rachel & Eric: 1.
I don’t like those numbers, so I’m going to end this with an ominous look and a clear threat for vengeance: You haven’t seen the last of me, kitchen. One day, I will seek justice for what you did to my home and my family.