Kai Staats: The One Dish Rule For many years now, I have witnessed an increasing reliance on the dish washer, that seemingly indispensable kitchen aide which not only cleans forks, knives, cups and bowls, but our children’s (and pets’) toys too. While the discussion of water savings remains open to debate, so many variables related to the make, model, and efficiency of the dishwasher versus gas or electric water heater, whether you fill the sink or wash each item individually—I have discovered that only with a dishwasher can one have a kitchen full of wares and yet not be able to find a single clean fork, cup, or plate.

Because the dish washer reaches its maximum energy and water use efficiency only when full (which is also when it cleans the poorest), an incredible amount of effort is spent in moving items from the cupboard to the table to the dishwasher and back to the cupboard again. A perpetual, daily ritual which in my opinion, is a modern day unfolding of Sísyphos in Hades.

Instead, I maintain the One Dish Rule: one bowl, one dish (plate), one fork and one spoon.

Here at Victoria Guesthouse on Mount of Olives in East Jerusalem, by the very nature of the “Clean your own dishes” policy, we wash our dishes immediately after eating, no matter if we prepared a full meal or indulged in a mid-day snack.

It is simple, fast, and efficient. The One Dish Rule establishes a strong sense of personal responsibility as no one desires to be “that person” who doesn’t clean his or her dishes. What’s more, it is an opportunity to do something kind for another guest whom you have just met, to offer to clean their dishes while you are at the sink. Best of all, we are never for need of a clean utensil, even when thirty or forty people come and go in a single day. If, on the other hand, we were to load a dishwasher, they would either run it half full or walk away, assuming someone else would take care of it later.

What’s more, I have fond memories as a child of washing and drying dishes with my parents. We would take turns, my brother and I matched with either our mother or father, standing on a small metal step stool to reach the counter. It was a time to talk, laugh, tell stories, and to be together, side by side. I felt important and part of the team. I do not recall ever declining the opportunity, and to this day when I visit, I prefer to wash dishes by hand for the chance to talk rather than load and unload the dishwasher.

For those concerned with the spread of germs, this topic invokes the need to address several issues: the misunderstanding of “Kills 99% of harmful bacteria,” surfactants, full drying through evaporation, and the nature of an immune system in a “sterile” environment compared to one comprised of a full-featured set of antibodies and response mechanisms. Topics for another time …