Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I really hate mopping

My new kitchen.
I taught a cooking class yesterday at our local community center. I was excited about it and now that it is over I can admit that I was nervous about it. Even though, or especially because, I was teaching 6th and 7th grade girls. I attended an all-girls school in 6th and 7th grades and those years were surpassed in awfulness only by sophomore year of high school and 2010.

We made pizza from scratch, which the girls liked, and we made honey gelato, which they did not, and I brought them Italian almond cookies that I had baked out of a Marcella Hazan book to show them what they could do with the egg whites left over from gelato. These, they loved.
Brutti ma Buoni cookies
Altogether, it was interesting, fun, fairly successful, and about 150 times more labor-intensive than I'd expected. I had to bring everything to the community center kitchen -- every spoon and mixing bowl and grain of salt and bag of flour and quart of milk and paper towel -- and take it all away with me when I was through. I'm being paid a small sum by the community center and I'll be lucky if I break even, but I don't care about that at all. It was the time and schlepping that got to me.

Some highlights:

1. I bought both a ball of beautiful fresh mozzarella and a pouch of factory-made Lucerne pre-shredded mozzarella for the young ladies to taste test and compare. It did not occur to me that they would prefer the pre-shredded mozzarella. But they did. I'm not sure if this was herd dynamics at work, or a true preference, but they fought over every last flaccid shred of Lucerne in the classic "nice" girl way: "You guys, that's not exactly fair. . . "  I realized then that I had been aiming way too high with this whole project, and that they would have been psyched to talk among themselves and make English muffin pizzas with jarred ragu and sliced hot dogs. I am adjusting my approach for the next class.

2. Chickens have pecking orders, as do goats, as do middle school girls. I knew this, but had forgotten just how obvious and poignant and nerve-wracking it is, even when you're a bystander. On a couple of occasions, I could feel even my own steely will bending to the charm and power of the alpha girl. It was shameful.

3. Still, kids are fascinating and funny and they get so excited about separating eggs and stirring and eating pizza and watching ice cream machines churn. I like kids and I like watching kids and I like listening to kids, especially now that I am no longer a kid.

4. An hour after the class ended, I finally had the kitchen clean, had washed down the counters with sponges and sanitized them and scrubbed the sinks with Comet and swept assiduously and emptied the trash in the dumpster and carried all my fifty loads of dirty dishes and fresh mozzarella and unused ingredients back out to the car. It was dark and I was late to pick up Owen and I was just giving the room a final look-over when I saw the sign informing kitchen users that they must mop the floors.

Maybe if the floors had been dirtier.

But, you know, maybe not.

I wonder if they're going to fire me.


  1. Your mozzarella anecdote reminds me of the scene in Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution when he shows the kids exactly what nuggets are made of, then asks who wants one versus a chicken breast. They all want nuggets. This never happens! he says, bewildered and distressed.

    Another egg white cookie recipe I like is this one for chocolate puddle cookies:


    And I hate mopping too, so I recently got one from Norwex. Love it as much as I can love a mop:


  2. It is a fun age, isn't it?
    How are the goats? I've been hoping they are getting over the crying.

  3. Ugh. That reminds of the time I decided to make a pie at my sister's brand new house. It had a huge kitchen, but nothing in it. I had to bring everything -- the Kitchen Aid mixer, the foil, the rolling pin, the measuring cups.... Not worth it! Now I stick to my tiny kitchen where I have to go to the dining room table to roll out the crust.

    I can't believe they have a commerical kitchen with no supplies!

  4. Hilary -- Thanks!

    Girl Detective -- that mop looks great. Big ropey mops always seem like they're spreading rather than eliminating dirt.

    I did have an epiphany about dustpans while sweeping the kitchen. They had a long-handled dustpan like this


    It was fantastic.

    MemeGRL -- Goats are quiet! Not a peep since yesterday afternoon.

    Azure -- Dealing with logistics like that takes a lot of the fun out of cooking.

  5. This is a humbling reminder for me of what my priorities need to be when I teach six 12-14-year-olds how to make a cake tomorrow night. They are going to wish it was a box mix.

    Good taste is a learned skill, I'm afraid.

  6. Ugh, I don't like mopping floors either, especially since I cannot, at this time, really even mop a floor, as I have no mop since the dog chewed the head off of mine two months ago. As I'm too cheap to buy a new one, I scrub my floors, on hands and knees, with a wooden hand-held brush and old undershirts. I feel like some sort of Old Country washer woman. I wish someone would fire me.

  7. i think you need to enlist a couple of these privileged chicks as "interns" and let them do the scouring and mopping and hauling.
    i also think kat should consider mopping the floor with her dog.

  8. I had a hissy fit in my kitchen last night over mopping, as a matter of fact. We discontinued the cleaning ladies because we are having some work done on the house and it's just too stressful to have so many people trekking in and out... but my husband had not picked up one responsibility. It's like now that there are no cleaning ladies, I'm the cleaning lady and we had two weeks of Chicago winter on the kitchen floor. So I was grumpy and pitched a fit. And today he finally put the Christmas tree away and straightened up his office.

  9. I remember when I took home ec in middle school that the last ten minutes of class were required as cleaning time. I remember when we got to bring the recipe we wanted to make that the big deal was you were responsible for your own dishes...I make chocolate peanut butter balls. It ended up being the most complicated recipe and mess, but I cleaned up the mess, which included chocolate on the floor. I still hate mopping.

  10. Anonymous@6:41...as my dog is a drooly, slobbery, sloppy bloodhound, I think mopping the floors with her would only make them worse!

  11. Seriously, why aren't the participants participating in the clean-up (which is a basic part of cooking)? I've never understood this - what about Grandma's rule number two: you make the mess, you clean it up?

  12. I'm not sure I agree that the kids should take part in the cleanup. For me the main reason not to cook more than a bowl of cereal is the looming cleanup.
    On the other hand, a little clean-as-you-go seems to be a good idea. Maybe the girls at the bottom of the pecking order could take care of this.

  13. Oh, Smoyer. It's the alpha girls who need to learn that lesson. Now.