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Today’s Confession: The Old Dishes in the Oven Trick

Dirty Dishes

People have actually said to me that they envy how organized and clean my kitchen looks. And they figure that I’m naturally neat and proper, always putting everything in its place.

It’s an illusion, people. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s a camera trick – my kitchen really does look that way, most of the time – I have decided to come clean. This will make us both feel a whole lot better.

Let’s go back to my first apartment in Far Rockaway. When I would do a lot of Shabbos entertaining and the dishwasher would be packed to the brim, I would shove all my dirty dishes into the oven. Hey, it got them out of sight, and I could still use the countertops and sink. Deep down, I was probably hoping for some kind of miracle: when we would open that oven door after Shabbos, the dishes would be sparkling clean! (It never happened. I learned that an oven will never, ever transform into a dishwasher.) Anyway, as you’ve probably guessed by now, there was many a Sunday when I would turn on the oven to preheat it and – what’s that funny smell? Ah, the aroma of dirty dishes at 375°!

Well, now I’m all grown up and moved into a house with such a fancy shmancy kitchen that I have a nice-sized dishwasher, extra deep sinks and a section of my countertop where I can stack things and still have the workspace I need throughout Shabbos. No need to use the oven for storage. So in the last 4+ years we have lived in this house, I haven’t indulged in the Sunday morning dirty dish cook-off.

Until now.

Last Shabbos I hosted Yaffa, a person I love and to whom I will be forever indebted (‘cuz she introduced me to Hubby). She came to spend the entire Shabbos with us, along with her hubby and five of her (seven) kids. I really wanted to do it up right and make some special things. Maybe I went a bit overboard and maybe I procrastinated a little -- okay a lot – so I was working up to the very last minute.

There I was, just minutes before candle-lighting, with a ton of pots and pans and dirty spatulas and mixing spoons. I don’t want to load up my dishwasher, because I’ll need that for all the dirty Shabbos dishes. Panic sets in. I must get those pots out of sight! Then I remember and thank G-d for the OVEN trick. I hurriedly load all the stuff in the oven, close the door, and voila -- a clean kitchen! Just how I like it; no mess, no stress.

So went on with my life.

Two days later I have a house full of people: we are shooting new episodes of my cooking show and I am preheating my oven for the first episode.

I start to look for my spatula for the first dish. I cannot find a single spatula (Hello -- I have 3!), and I’m missing other key utensils. Then people start sniffing. Uh, Jamie, what’s that funny smell?

Déjà vu! After 4 years, the meaning of that strange odor comes back to me and I race to the oven. Folks, let me tell you that burning plastic has a tang all its own. I found my spatula -- split in half and melting onto the cookie sheet and dripping down my sauté pan and onto my oven grates. I cheerfully announced that ruining a half dozen cooking utensils in one fell swoop is a great reason to stock up on the newest stuff.

And that is how I came to be in the market for new spatulas, and plan to buy myself a whole lot of great new gadgets I may never use. Listen, one cannot question the deep workings of fate. I think I was due for a kitchen upgrade anyway.