Update from the Kitchen

It started with a mighty crack that sent both dogs into full defcon 5 barking. The dishwasher, my stalwart kitchen companion who served 25 years without a single repair, had finally broken a door spring, and I knew there was no hope of a replacement part. It limped along for a few more weeks, loyal to the end, but a getting a new dishwasher was inevitable.

All new appliances seem to come with an attitude and require much drama with their installation. This time around there was no shut-off valve for the dishwasher and the one for the kitchen faucet wouldn’t turn the whole way so the hot water heater had to be shut down and well, on it went. I was informed that I needed to get a plumber to put in new valves (which I did but now there’s an issue with the hot water pressure in the faucet but that’s another story.)

The new dishwasher swept in like a fashion model on the runway, dressed in her chic chrome ensemble with this annoying (but oh so trendy) handle that sticks out a little more than I’d like but there was a six- month wait for one with a “concealed handle.” I put a load of dishes in, forcing myself to give up my long-ingrained habit of scraping and rinsing them first. “Put them in dirty,” the installer said. “The stuff in those little packets dissolves protein and food particles and if it doesn’t find any food, then it turns around and leaves etching marks on your glassware.” Wow. Nice, ok, so I’ll leave them dirty because I don’t want to be punished by the Cascade pod.

I was used to a dishwasher that sounded like a crew of sailors on KP duty laughing and joking as they slammed pots and pans around. My old dishwasher went to work with a vengeance and there was no question that it was running. If we wanted to watch TV, we didn’t turn on the dishwasher.

This machine takes polite sips of water and occasionally produces little sighs of effort but there is no raucous clamor of things being cleaned. This one is stealthy and just a touch arrogant.  I opened the door after the first load was finished to discover everything in it was wet. Not just a few droplets wet but needing to be hand-dried wet. A few phone calls later, I was told by a very helpful GE employee, that a “dry” setting must be chosen before each load or otherwise it defaults in all its ecological correctness to not drying at all. Who knew? I was used to just pressing “normal” and expecting the machine to operate that way. (In my defense, it should be noted that full instructions no longer come with an appliance. You must go online with your model number, sift through the website to find your 79-page product manual, select what pages you think you’ll need, and print them yourself.)

I suppose we’re settling in. The machine is cleaning my dishes (quietly) and drying them. I do like the top rack for utensils, and I’m gradually learning to leave food residue on the plates although at times that causes me great anxiety. (What if that cheese gets baked on forever???)

Meanwhile, across from the new dishwasher, the oven lies dormant, suffering from a blown baking element. The technician didn’t know for sure because the baking element in this five-year-old oven is hidden to allow for the less than effective “aqua bath” cleaning of the unit.  The “part is not currently at our distributor in Ohio, so it’ll be a few weeks.” Fortunately, we’re coming into grill season, and baked potatoes are great in the air fryer.

She Who Must Be Obeyed

She sits there in the middle of the kitchen island, resplendent in her trendy stainless-steel garments. She is the Queen, without whom no one is fed, and she expects to be treated with adulation and reverence or else she’ll turn on you at a moment’s notice. Like her mother before her, she is demanding and requires high maintenance at the most inopportune times.

“Put in a downdraft oven,” they told us when we built our home in the late 90’s. “Such a clean look with no more ugly vent hoods,” they said, but no one mentioned the feeble ventilation that would leave our upstairs bedroom smelling of sautéed garlic and onions. For days.

This one comes by it honestly. Her mother was a Jenn-Air, an appliance family known for its crankiness, and she demanded constant attention from the day she arrived. “I want a new motherboard, I want a new fan, I want another motherboard, I want a new control panel, and you will recut the damn granite before I go back in that slot to cook Christmas dinner.” Three months later she sighed and said, “That’s it. I’m done. Find someone else to slog away in this hell hole.”

The appliance gurus told us we had only two options because they’re not making  many downdraft ovens anymore. (Duh…I wonder why?)  The coronation of Queen Kitchenaid required the granite to be cut yet again to meet her just slightly different dimensions. “Here’s what I expect,” she told us upon arrival. “I will take as long as I want to preheat and if you complain, I will take even longer. My skin is delicate, so don’t you dare splatter me with that dreadful acidic tomato sauce or nick me with one of those horrid cast iron pots you insist on using or I will be scarred for life. My burners have two options—scorching high or non-existent. I don’t believe in a slow simmer. You will cut a new hole in the floor to align my fan with the vent because I don’t have the same plumbing as my mother, thank God. And as far as cleaning, I require a spa-like water bath for several hours and then I want to see you on your hands and knees with a scrunge. Mom put up with that abusive high-heat cleaning business, but I will have no parts of that. We’re now environmentally correct, you know.”

The other appliances, sigh and roll their eyes. They are ever faithful servants, working without the slightest complaint since 1997. They’re not fancy, still clad in their black plastic coats, trendy at the time. The dishwasher has a dial instead of digital controls and can be rather noisy but never asks for anything. The frig is equally loyal, partly because he knows that when he dies, there will be no unit now available to fit in his space. They feel sorry for us because of having to deal with the Queen.

We’ve had about four years of peaceful coexistence. I tend to her as she wishes to the best of my ability. But recently, I’ve been hearing pre-heating complaints. An odd screech here and there and then it disappears. Ah, just like that strange noise in the car—turn up the radio so you don’t hear it. Perhaps something’s loose, I tell myself. If it was anything major, it wouldn’t go away, right? Until this afternoon when the occasional screech turned into a full on she’s-going-to-blow-Captain Kirk-rattle which didn’t stop until I turned off the oven. Of course, her timing is perfect—right before bake sale and holiday cooking season.

Google informed me that it was probably some kind of bearing in one of the fans that had worked loose or broken. Are you kidding me? After barely four years of playing by all her rules, she pulls this kind of crap? I gave her a time out to think about her choices for a few minutes and then hit the preheat button again, bracing for a return of that horrible grating noise. This time she complied, and grudgingly allowed me to finish my baking project. “OK,” she said, “Since you already have the chocolate melted, you may finish for today, but nothing else. I just haven’t been feeling like myself lately, and I think I need to see a specialist, preferably soon. Or else you can just forget about Thanksgiving.”