Friday, October 10, 2008

Do I really need a dishwasher?

It has been my wont, in the past, top be sniffy about people who require all mod cons on their boats. My venom has, however, been somewhat muted when it has come to the subject of dishwashers. Not because I would ever have one on a boat, but because I have long had, and sworn by, one at home, and it would be hypocritical to criticise someone who was living on a boat for having one in their home.

Now, however, I am not so sure. Since going off on Warrior in August, I seem to have developed a taste for washing up by hand. I can see many advantages. You don't need so many plates, mugs and glasses if you wash them up three at a time rather than waiting until the dishwasher is full. There is no doubt (and here I am recanting a long-asserted claim) that often, for a range of reasons, the dishwasher doesn't actually get things clean. And after a while it leaves watermarks on glasses. The very filthiest things have to be soaked and scrubbed anyway. As for the environmental impact - I have clung perilously to the argument that used in certain ways, a dishwasher can be more economical in terms of time and energy than hand washing. But the circumstances in which this is true are surely very limited. When you wash up by hand, you alsio have a sinkful of hot soapy water to wash down the worktop and wipe the table, so avoiding running the tap and using sprays. Lastly, I found I actually really didn't like the task of emptying the dishwasher and putting the stuff away. Too much at once. Whereas a few bits on the draining rack can be popped away while waiting for the kettle to boil, efficiently drained and without dribbles of cold rinsing water running down your arm. No filters to clean, no expensive salt/rinse aid/tablets to buy; another 600mm of space in the kitchen. Truly, I am a dishwasher apostate.

This would be the latest in a long line of kitchen appliances I have decided I can do without, mostly since taking up boating. First to go was the microwave, when I needed the counter space for an enamel breadbin purchased at my first IWA Festival. Not missed at all. Then the toaster, when it fused the house for the last time. If the grill's good enough to make toast on the boat, it's good enough at home. The TV (not a kitchen appliance, I know, at least not in my house) went four years ago when we concluded that the programmes weren't worth the price of the licence - it was an experiment, but it worked. The tumble drier wasn't replaced when it gave up the ghost - I always felt a bit guilty about that anyway.

Now we are also seriously wondering if we actually need a freezer. Our old fridge freezer is very scabby looking and no doubt highly inefficient, so we are keeping our eyes open for a newer second hand fridge. We were planning to get a separate freezer, but... all there is in there at the moment is half a packet of peas. Would we miss the ice cubes and ice cream in the summer? With a small supermarket five minutes' walk away, could we find a better use for the space and the electricity?

That then led me to think, what else might we do without? A cooker is, I think, pretty vital, and a washing maching would be hard to do without. Ditto a fridge - I didn't have one on Andante and it's the one thing I really did feel the lack of. Our electric kettle is over ten years old and still going strong (Rowenta, if you're interested). I'd like to think I'd have a stove top one when the time came to replace it, but it would probably cost at least six times as much. I bought an electric kettle for the office in Woolworths a while ago for less than a fiver. It's obscene, I know, but it's also a perfectly adequate kettle.

But there's one kitchen appliance I don't think I will ever give up, and it's one many might think would be low down the list of essentials. It's also the one thing where I would never accept an inferior imitation: my Magimix. My first one was bought for 50p at a jumble sale. When the lid (always the weak point) broke, I couldn't replace it because the model was obsolete. I was all set to fork out £200 for a new one, but then I found a second hand one in the local paper and got it for £85 - brand new and with all the peripherals. The thing with Magimixes, that makes them superior to other food processors, is that they not only have very powerful motors (that's why they're so heavy and so expensive) but also that they're direct drive: no gears to wear out. I use mine nearly every day, from making breakfast smoothies through teatime cakes, to chopping onions and pureeing soup. I could live without it, but I'm glad I don't have to. Yet.


James said...

Feel free to indulge your new-found love of washing up by hand next time you're on the Duck!

That said, one of the great pleasures of narrowboating is washing up and watching the world go by as you move along; and this is where a very non-trad bus window does help!

S said...

I have a porthole right in front of the sink!