The Cook’s Dilemma: Tidy vs Messy

Raggedy Ann&Andy1943

Illustration from Raggedy Ann and Andy’s Cookbook (Note: Copyright date is the year Andy was born)

Andy here:

My sister Helen and niece JoDee recently gave us Raggedy Ann and Andy’s Cookbook (1975) as a gift for our 50th anniversary.  It couldn’t be more relevant for our blog. The book is by Nika Standen Hazelton, an influential mid-century cookbook author. Although this particular book was written with children in mind, Hazelton raises one of the thorniest adult issues (at least in my opinion) of kitchen life; an issue that hits too close to home for comfort — messy vs tidy cooking. In her opening comments to her youthful readers she says,

“Most of all, remember to Clean Up as You Go Along (caps original): wipe the counter, wash the bowls, soak the pots and pans, keep the kitchen tidy (emphasis mine). Otherwise, you will finish making the recipe and you will be left with a mountain of dishes to clean up, and that will take half of the fun out of cooking….”

In our own kitchen you will find two very different cooking styles (philosophies?). If she were still around, how I cook would make Nika Hazelton beam with pleasure. I compulsively clean and put things away as I go. You would hardly know the kitchen was in use.  Ann, on the other hand, attacks a recipe with gleeful abandon and lets the flour dust and carrot peels fall where they may. More than once I have commented (mostly under my breath) that it looks as if she’d tossed a hand grenade in the kitchen as she walked out. Although I try to claim the moral high ground with my prissy style, I have to admit that mess and clutter can be more productive than neat and clean.   What takes me half of the morning to prepare she can whip together in a fraction of the time. I am more concerned with a tidy outcome; she with a tasty (and done!) outcome.

Apropos to this topic, I just came across a Web article on the psychological benefits of giving up on cleaning and embracing the mess.”  Based on the author’s argument, Ann should be one of the most well-adjusted and creative cooks in the universe. I, on the other hand…..well, let’s not go there.

In closing , I should provide a cautionary note to those who are contemplating going down the messy path with abandon. Without the anal, tidy freak (read, me) around to restore the kitchen chaos to a semblance of order, the process of messing things up would no longer be an option, possibly stagnating the creative impulse and limiting the pursuit of happiness. So, all things considered, I do play an important part in the kitchen. More later, after I clean up.

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