October 8, 2005


Washing Their Hands Of the Last Frontier: In the Kitchens of Many Immigrants, Dishwasher Is a Permanent Turnoff (Phuong Ly, 10/08/05, Washington Post)

In many immigrant homes, the automatic dishwasher is the last frontier. Long after new arrivals pick up football, learn the intricacies of the multiplex and the DMV and develop a taste for pizza, they resist the dishwasher. Some joke that not using the appliance is one of the truest signs of immigrant heritage, whether they hail from Africa, Latin America, Asia or Eastern Europe.

If they have a dishwasher -- and many do, because it is standard equipment in most homes -- it becomes a glorified dish rack, a Tupperware storage cabinet or a snack-food bin. It's never turned on.

Officials at appliance companies have noticed: Sears doesn't even highlight the appliances in its ads in Spanish-language media.

It's a quirk in the assimilation process that baffles social scientists. "It's really striking," said Donna Gabaccia, who studies immigration and culinary history at the University of Minnesota. In the home, "technology is generally embraced by women. Certainly in terms of technology, their homes don't look that much different from Middle American homes."

That's how we use our garage.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 8, 2005 9:44 AM

Yeah, but your garage, if used properly, would not perform a common household task and spare your hands from chapping.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at October 8, 2005 10:32 AM


Posted by: mike beversluis at October 8, 2005 10:54 AM

Our dream kitchen would have two dishwashers, and no need for cabinets.

Posted by: David Cohen at October 8, 2005 10:57 AM

Every once in awhile you discover you're not alone. About a year after getting married I noticed that certain kitchen utensils and containers had gone missing. Finally after a long frustrating search did I learn that the wife had been storing them in the dishwasher. Since then I'll load and run the thing occasionally just to keep the internal mechanisms lubricated. Otherwise the thing is merely a kitchen ornament these days.

Posted by: MB at October 8, 2005 11:10 AM

Since you still have to wash away/wash out the dishes, plates and glasses of the grimiest junk before you put them in the dishwasher, it's the least-useful of all the major household appliances. You can just wash the dishes more thoroughly the first time and do a little more work, but at the same time avoid having to load/unload all the dishes, glasses and utensils from the machine. No wonder it sits idle in so many homes.

Posted by: John at October 8, 2005 11:26 AM

Just put them on the kitchen floor and let the dog do the pre-washing, that's what he's there for.

Posted by: joe shropshire at October 8, 2005 12:32 PM

In real rural areas, storage areas are called "the back yard".

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at October 8, 2005 2:08 PM


Get a baby bottle washing brush. With that, you can make a couple of quick passes over the item, which cleans it enough for the dishwasher to handle the rest, not to mention the rinsing and drying. We run our dishwasher once or twice a day (although She Who Is Perfect In All Ways just puts the grimy stuff in without a pre-wash).

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at October 8, 2005 2:22 PM
In real rural areas, storage areas are called "the back yard".

Yeah, that's right: trust me, I really really do live in a rural area.....

Posted by: Kirk Parker at October 8, 2005 3:01 PM

Then you have the guy whose front yard is a rusty extension of his backyard (and he's known by the name "Porky"). Or better yet, the front yard that's plowed as if he's about to plant a crop of corn (but never does.)

When you get neighbors who start officially complaining about such people, instead of accepting it while rolling their eyes, that's when you know you are no longer really rural area. Ex-urbanites famed "tolerance" of other "life-styles" only goes so far.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at October 8, 2005 4:48 PM

John: When we were about to have our first, we bought our first dishwasher. If you had seen the difference in color between the dishes we had been hand washing and the ones that came out of the machine, you would not cavil at their utility. Also, if you ran the baby bottles and such-like through the dishwasher on the "Sani-Cycle" you didn't have to boil them which was a major pain in the posterior.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at October 9, 2005 12:25 AM

If you can notice a difference in COLOR between hand and machine washed dishes, I suggest that you've been doing it wrong.

I've never used a dishwasher that did I better job than hand-washing, although such might exist.

Mainly, a dishwasher is good for large families, in that it's less work to load/unload/handwash a few that the machine did poorly on, than to handwash, if it's going to take an hour to wash/dry/put away after each meal.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 9, 2005 6:51 AM

OK, I'll agree that for large families, the dishwasher serves its utility. But especially with the baked on/burned in stuff on the pots, cooking trays/sheets and pans, you feel like you have to do 90 percent of the work getting all the @#$*#@$!%#!! stuff unstuck, and then the diswasher merely handles the final 10 percent of the job (and takes all the credit).

Posted by: John at October 9, 2005 11:43 AM