On Housekeeping, Romance, and Seven Layer Dip

“Cooking is the only part of housekeeping I manage with any grace; it’s something like writing a book: you look in the refrigerator and see what’s there, choose all the ingredients you need, and a few your husband thinks you don’t need, and put them all together to concoct a dish. Vacuum cleaners are simply something more for me to trip over; and a kitchen floor, no matter how grubby, looks better before I wax it. The sight of a meal’s worth of dirty dishes, pots, and pans makes me want to run the other direction.” 

Madeline L’Engle, A Circle of Quiet

Dear Joey,

I am very, very lucky that you clean and even luckier that you actually like to clean. This is not to say that I don’t clean. I do clean. I’m not sure I’ll ever experience the same satisfaction or enjoyment you experience when you clean. And I know I give you a bad time when you re-do something I’ve just done (especially when I know I did it well the first time), but it’s only because this subconscious,  somewhat neurotic tendency makes me insecure about my not-so-great housecleaning skills. But again, the truth is, I am very lucky that you have any sort of interest in making and maintaining a clean house.

You know how I hate to go to bed before the kitchen is clean? It’s not because I derive a single ounce of joy from washing dishes or scrubbing counters. There is nothing that can ruin a beautiful morning than stumbling into a messy kitchen with leftover, stinky dishes from the night before. I don’t stay up late washing dishes because I enjoy it; truth be told I hate washing dishes, mainly because there is no end to it. An empty, clean sink doesn’t stay that way for long, and the moment another dirty dish finds its way into a clean sink, which it inevitably does, defeat sweeps over me and I get a little bit depressed. Splatters on the stove, a dirty microwave, and the grunge on the kitchen floor all make me uninspired to get into the kitchen and cook again, but I’ve made my peace with the fact that these chores are the price one must pay to have a clean kitchen. The endless amount of work a kitchen demands makes it hard for me to get on top of other household chores, and the truth is that vacuuming and dusting and laundry often get passed over for clean counters and frying pans and sippy cups.

To make matters worse, moving in with my family made the task bigger, more formidable, and far more difficult to keep up with. When everyone is going in a thousand different directions while I am at home with a toddler and an infant, getting (and staying) on top of all the messes on my own was impossible. A source of many meltdowns that have occurred in the past few months. We all tried to do what we could when we could, you included, but the house just never seemed to get really clean. Picked up, yes. Clean? No. In a moment of genius (or mercy), we decided to hire outside help for this season that we’re all here together. As much as I appreciate everyone’s willingness to chip in for it, what I appreciate most of all was one of the sweetest, most thoughtful things you’ve ever said to me: “Why don’t we plan to get take out on cleaning days?”

You have no idea how much my heart swooned when you uttered those words.

Before we got married, I read about women whose idea of romance involved her husband doing the dishes or folding laundry without being asked to do so. I admit that there was a very real part of me that was sad for these women that that is what their definition of romance had (in my mind) devolved to. But part of me was a little nervous that someday I would become one of them, and that I would eventually become one of those women whose definition of romance would involve her husband loading the dishwasher while I sat with my feet propped up after a long day.

I get it now though, how having a break from the unpleasant but necessary drudgery of housekeeping is romantic for a woman. It makes a woman feel important, well cared for, valued. I understand why women’s hearts swoon when their husband makes taking out the garbage, changing bedsheets or pitching in with dinner dishes part of his routine. It isn’t so much about the wife not doing the task; it is about what the husband’s act communicates to his wife. When a husband does these things, he tells her this:

 Just because I am done with my outside job for the day doesn’t mean that I am done with work for the day. You work hard at your job all day too, but you don’t have to be the only one to work around the clock. I know how full and difficult and tiring your days can be, and how discouraging it must be to have more work waiting to be done after the kids get to bed. I’m not off the clock until you are. I am with you on this because we are in this together. 

To me, the suggestion for take out was your way of telling me that you understand how much I need a break – mentally, emotionally, and physically. You see my needs, and by doing something to meet them, you are telling me that I matter. You are telling me that you are with me on this because we are in this together.

So even though I passed on take out this week, opting instead to clean out the fridge of some of the things that needed to be used up, please know that I will gladly take you up on your offer in weeks to come. In fact, I know in the months to come I will eagerly await it, both because it’s very much like a mini-vacation, and also because it is a very real, practical way you show me you love me.

Love, Scratch

Seven Layer Dip

It’s true: I passed up an opportunity for some truly yummy take out in favor of having this dip for dinner. The problem was, we had most of these ingredients in the refrigerator, and they really needed to be eaten up. When looking at them, disparate as they were, a sudden burst of inspiration hit me as I realized  7-Layer Dip could use everything up at once with minimal cleanup. Plus, eating bean dip for dinner reminds me of our earliest days of marriage when we could raid our fairly sparse pantry late at night and almost always come up with bean dip and chips for dinner. This version uses sweet bell peppers instead of tomatoes, a happy discovery born out of the fact that we were out of tomatoes. As it turns out, I like this version much better than the version with tomatoes. If you don’t like bell peppers, add tomatoes instead. If you don’t have tomatoes, leave them out. This dip is ever so forgiving.

About 4-5 cups refried beans
1 pint sour cream
Taco sauce & hot sauce
1 sweet bell pepper (red, orange or yellow), diced
Sharp cheddar cheese, grated
Black olives, sliced
Green onions, sliced
Tortillas (whole wheat, corn, or flour–whatever you prefer or have on hand)

Spread the refried beans in the base of a shallow 9 x 13 pan. Spread the taco sauce on top of that (in whatever thickness you like–more will yield a sloppier finished product, but that might just be tastier in your opinion). Sprinkle hot sauce on top of that, if you like your dip spicy. Then, sprinkle the sweet bell peppers evenly, covering the whole pan. Next is the hard part: spread the sour cream evenly on top of the bell peppers. I did it by first stirring the sour cream a bit to loosen it up and then dolloping a good bit of it every few inches over the bell peppers. Then, using a spatula, I played connect-the-dots between each dollop, eventually making it easier to spread the sour cream evenly over the top. (Please note that it will not look pretty, and that’s ok. If some taco sauce peeks out between dollops, so be it. No one will know.) Cover the sour cream with the remaining ingredients: first the cheese, then the black olives, and finally the green onions. Refrigerate for an hour or so, or until the dip has time to firm up a bit.

To really cut down on dishes, eat the dip with chips right out of the pan. We won’t judge you if you do.

One thought on “On Housekeeping, Romance, and Seven Layer Dip

  1. Anonymous

    Even before we had kids, I would tell Lewis it was sexy when he did chores. He never believed me! Now I know why it is so sexy!

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