I’ll be traveling through airports in the morning, sucking down Starbucks and looking for a decent snack – so the Scrambled Egg winner must wait, and will be announced Friday night. Just think – that adorable little whisk, the perfect kitchen bling, could be yours! But first, since I’ll be on the move tomorrow, we’re having a Friday Flashback.
I chose today’s flashback to honor the many readers who stumble onto Simmer just because they Googled something like this:
“stench coming from dishwasher”
“odor inside dish machine”
“kitchen smells real bad gross like dead thing”
“crap is something in my dishwasher??”
So, let me get this straight – stench sufferers turn to Google, and this is what they get? I’d ask for a refund. From February 28, 2008, let’s take another look at my problems with pears.
Why I’m Afraid of Pears
from February 28, 2008
Why, you say? What kind of sane, grown woman can’t admire a shiny pear?
Well. Let’s hop to another time, years ago, when Josie was but a rosy-cheeked toddler and I ran a dessert company, The Happy Ending, out of our 1929 home. I’d had the county health department inspect my cleaner-than-restaurant kitchen, and we’d made some necessary modifications to operate on the level.
One thing we installed was an industrial, high-heat dishwasher with a powerful food grinder. It felt solid, official. It could quietly chew a whole rump roast, were I to casually toss one in. And that thought comforted me as I went about my busy business. It was serious equipment, and I considered the machine a stainless steel shield, my protector in the new worlds of motherhood and business.
I worked in our tiny kitchen, which doubled as catering center and family feeder. On any given day you’d see the fruits of both labors: stacked butter cookie trays cooling in the sun room, Josie’s favorite sweet potatoes browning in the oven, hazelnut mocha cakes on the dining room table.
Josie also loved pears, and snacked on them in every form – raw, roasted, pureed and, depending on the day’s work, poached in red wine and vanilla bean-specked. One hotel client required weekly deliveries of pear-and-almond tarts – so it was a lot of fruit. And I spent many hours prepping at my little butcher block table, with one eye on Josie, cheerfully tumbling over 50-pound flour bags while I peeled, cored, poached, sliced, diced and tarted up a veritable orchard of pears.
There was an odd, controlled chaos between the ganache and the Legos, the snack bowls and meringues, but my kitchen was clean, so clean. So clean that on the day I noticed a slight odor coming from the dishwasher, I was thrown.
“It smells,” I told my husband.
“It’s fine,” he said.
“He said it’s fine,” I’d repeat to Josie, who giggled. Funny daddy. “It SMELLS , but it’s fine. Ugh.”
In 24 hours the faint off-odor had become a mild stench. I would hold my breath and crack the dishwasher door for a jam-and-slam; that is, jam in the plate, slam the door and run. Later, I’d exhale in the hallway. Then Greg started to come around.
“Yes,” he pronounced one night, two days later, “it smells.”
O Merciful Olfactory Gods! If we can arrive at the golden spot where we agree that something smells, that smell will surely be found. I had seen nothing yet. I’d furtively rattled and prodded the racks, but could not find the source. When the insistent green cloud started spreading out for real, I got bold.
Armed with a flashlight, I swung open the dishwasher door. Oh! Should have had a gas mask. But I went in.
The rotting smell of – of what, of what, a thousand trout guts? old jockstraps in ammonia? – hit me in the face as I swept light toward the back. The smell got stronger, and I saw the shadowy outline of a chunk – pears, I thought – down toward the bottom. Blinded, perhaps by stench and the fact that I was crouched in a wet dark corner of my dishwasher, I did the unthinkable. I reached.
And poked it, with my finger, and in a frozen instant knew that it was not a pear. Not pear, not pear, not pear! I yanked away fast, whacking my head as I backed out, cartoon stars around my head and the sprayer arm spinning, dirty water dripping on me and the slimy, unknown chunk.
I grabbed the closest tool, cooking tongs. Summoning every breath of calm, I turned the flashlight back towards what I now knew was death, death in the dishwasher, a dishwasher death chunk.
I moved in, half-secure that whatever it might be, it was, at least, not moving.
There, stuck between a stainless steel ring and the wet nether regions of the grinder, was a mangled piece of…well, in shaky light, I could just make out a pointy grayish shape, with a small round…oh my god, ear…and then…an eye. A tiny black bead of an eye, unmoving and staring straight at me.
I should have expired. I should have dropped cold right there on my kitchen floor, but instead I reached in with the tongs. In my career, these particular metal tongs had lovingly browned coq au vin. They had turned peppery steaks on the grill and set roast ginger carrots on the plate, but not that day.
That day, guided by shaking hands, they would perform the ultimate service – a service no kitchen tool ever wants to perform. Today, they would scrape out the remains of – now clearly visible in kitchen daylight – a waterlogged, festering, three-day old mouse head.
I had poked naked finger into the squishy cranium of a dead mouse. Not pear, I thought, why could it not have been a rotting pear?
Both head and tongs were thrown into a bag, and then tied in another bag, then frantically stuffed in the trash. I sanitized the dishwasher five times and washed my hands for a week, and threw out the trash can too. If I could replace my finger, I would.
I shed no tears for the mouse’s end, only for my tainted finger and the heroically lost tongs. My dishwasher-shield was just doing its job; he’d scampered into death on his own accord. But…pears. So sure was I that the death chunk was pear that even today, it’s hard to separate visions of soaked, torn rodent head from a nicely peeled Bartlett.
I might overlook it, sliced in greens with walnuts, blue cheese and vinaigrette. But no poaching. If that fruit is in a soft state, a state most people adore and are pleased to eat with creme anglaise, that’s when I check out.
My fellow diners won’t see it at the table, but inside, while they feast on dessert, I’ll be doing a full-body shudder, remembering the cold, cold surprise of wet, beady-eyed, furry not-pear.