A stack of shamefully undone washing-up prompted me to unearth this gem from the magnificent second edition of Alan Davidson’s Oxford Companion to Food (OUP, 2006):
“The purification of the utensils has to be the final, culminating stage of any meal, the stage which in effect sets the scene for the next meal and permits life’s processes to continue.
“It follows from this that the choice of person to do the washing-up is no light matter, and that the person or persons chosen should be viewed as having a privilege. Whether they use traditional techniques or harness modern machinery to help them is immaterial; the responsibility has been given to them, and the honour of praise for a job well done awaits them.
“The sight of a washer-up standing, dominant, at the sink while the other celebrants of the meal, typically, loll in chairs recalls irresistibly the similar scenes enacted so often in places of worship – the priest standing before the altar, the congregation seated, the timeless ritual unfolding for the thousandth time but charged with as much significance as on the first.
“As the utensils begin to emerge in pristine purity, as the dancing mop-head and caressing linen cancel out any recollections of the grosser aspects of appetite and eating, even the proudest shoppers and cooks, exalted by witnessing the true climax of the meal, must acknowledge the precedence of these acts of completion.”
I myself will be using traditional techniques. On with the marigolds.