This morning, at 7 am on a Sunday, I emptied two drawers and threw out 100 chopsticks because I wanted to make a pie.
I don’t have a lot of time during the work week, this time of year, but I often have solitude on weekends — I can’t sleep in, and my wife can; my son’s schedule is still all over the place, but no matter how late or early he’s up I can almost guarantee he won’t be here when I am insomniac on weekend mornings.
And yesterday I made one of our semi-monthly shopping trips alone, and I was seduced by the plump ripeness of Door County cherries, pregnant with flavor and just in season. And I bought three quarts, both the sweet yellow-red ones and the dark rich Bing.
So the plan is to make pie out of them, consolidate one perishable food into another. Possibly two pies, so one can be shared or saved.
But first, I have to pit them.
So I went to the kitchen, got out the cherries and a bowl and a smaller bowl, and went looking for the cherry pitter, a medieval-looking torture device for small fruit:
It’s possible to process quite a few dozen cherries in a short time with this device; it’s incredibly slow and slightly dangerous without it.
I am not the pie-crust maker, so I thought I would get the cherries pitted, possibly sugared, and be ready for the rest of pie when Laura wakes up.
But I couldn’t find it.
There’s a particular kind of blindness I get — maybe you do too?— where if things are the same for a long time, I stop seeing them. This can happen for a long time, years even, especially for places that don’t change much or ever, like drawers. Until something shocks me out of my complacency, I’m not going to see what needs changing.
Today, that shock was ants.
My dubiously-grown adult man son, living with us again because covid, and college gone remote, and now it’s summer and instead of internships there’s sparsely-attended volunteering, political discussion, and sleep, got up this morning, let out the chickens and the dog, made something in the frying pan, and went back to bed. Somehow, in this process, he besmirched our counter.
There was no obvious smear, but I know. I know because ants were in the middle of it, doing a little pirouette of joy at eating our left out food. It was like an ant painting, an ant line dance, and I wish now that I’d taken a picture.
I probably would have, if I’d had any idea I was going to get mad enough to write an article.
Instead I threw vinegar on them, and then scrubbed down the counter, then washed it again with soap. I scraped out the edges of the stove where it meets the counter, cleaned around the burners, washed the frying pan that was ALSO full of ants because it had been left full of butter.
And then, ants defeated but stomach still roiled, I looked for the cherry pitter. Because I was still planning on making a pie.
I started by looking in the usual catchall utensil drawer, the one where we keep the hundred things we think are necessary to have around in case we someday want to cook with them plus the 6 things we actually use.
It was fuller than it used to be. We discovered while qarancleaning earlier this year that this drawer has a space at the back, one big enough to let things like spoons, potato mashers, pastry knives, and the good spatula fall through into the “kitchen gadgets we use three times a year” area of the cupboard.
Last year the good spatula disappeared, and then the backup spatula. One emergency replacement spatula seemed inadequate after that, so after we found it all we now have four. There are a couple of other things that had the same trajectory.
So long story short, there were too many things in the drawer, and I couldn’t find the cherry pitter. So I looked in the silverware drawer.
And looked. And looked. And looked. I couldn’t find it.
It wasn’t in there, but I couldn’t tell, because the drawer was stuffed with five years of unopened straws and fast-food disposable chopsticks.
I got mad, and started taking things out of the drawer.
I remember setting up the silverware drawer when we got our silverware (which is stainless steel) We bought a new holder, we set everything up, we got rid of all the old stuff by taking it to Goodwill or St. Vincent de Paul or someone who would sell 15 mismatched forks for a quarter apiece. A good deal, since that’s where we got them all in the first place. We hadn’t revamped the drawer since then.
We had added chopsticks, because we order Chinese food relatively frequently, and we often use forks instead. Laura sometimes uses the chopsticks for art, and Ray sometimes uses them for making chainmail, so they’re useful to have around, and a lot of the time it’s easier to keep something than make a decision.
That was five years ago.
But today? There were ants.
Not only was I still squicked out by the ants from the counter, there was also one ant in the drawer itself. He had probably just fallen in, but seeing that last ant, combined with getting up early and being frustrated from insomnia, reminded me of my inability to change anything else about my life or the world around me in this dystopian hellscape that the US is in the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Twenty.
I pulled all the silverware out of the drawer and put it in a pot, with water and soap. I pulled out the new-now-old silverware holder and put it in the sink. I dumped 5 years of crumbs out, I sorted what was in there, I threw out most of the chopsticks (about 50 pairs).
I still had three quarts of fresh cherries on the table.
And I still didn’t find the cherry pitter.
I got even angrier. I pulled out the entire utensil drawer and dumped it on the counter. I sorted a bunch of dubiously useful kitchen things and put most of them in the sink for washing and some of them in the garbage. At the bottom of the drawer, I found the pitter, and no patience at all.
When I got done emptying all the drawers and washing drawers and that rubber contact paper that goes in the bottom of the drawers, I was too angry to put things away or to cook, so I came to Medium.
I’m a terrible writer, in that I only write when I must, when the pressure of the world or the pressure in my heart builds up and I can’t not say something, can’t not speak. Moreover, the blocks to writing, the dams in the flow of words, have to break open so I can let anything out.
I didn’t know if it would ever break — every time I go through a dry spell, I wonder a little if it’s over and I won’t write again.
But if you had asked me a week ago what would break the dry spell, I would not have thought it would be one hundred chopsticks, three quarts of cherries, and one ant.