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Befriending the pig of kitchen appliances

Some of my closest relationships are with appliances.

I mingle more with mixers, dishwashers and dryers than I do with my books and my computer. Oh wait. That’s another appliance. I guess it’s fair to say a large chunk of my day is spent with the steely looks of the Plug-In Gang. Hard to call them friends when the only words between us are my annoyances when they don’t cooperate. Except for the icemaker. I adore my icemaker. He happily fills my cold drink demands all day long.

I get along with the stove pretty well, although I’ve had words with his brother, the oven. And the refrigerator better hang in there. He was an emergency overnight replacement for an older cousin who sadly died before his time, at age 12.

And then there’s the garbage disposal. In an early suburban apartment, I had my first dishwasher, first icemaker, and first garbage disposal. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven – for just a year and a half. Then we bought our first house, in the Connecticut countryside. The pretty house had been well tended, and sported both an icemaker and a new dishwasher. But it also had a septic system. And as I learned more about country living, septic systems and garbage disposals do not share happy relationships.

We finally had a house, and being spoiled, I felt like I’d gone backwards. Cantaloupe guts, potato peelings, and fur-bearing leftovers had to be handled … in garbage bags that rapidly smelled in spring, summer, and early fall days. I was young. Wasn’t it bad enough that we had Pampers to deal with?

When we moved again, it was into a dream house with every kitchen amenity — except a garbage disposal. Another country septic system. And then we moved to Warren.

Our “new” house was old – 1868. The 1941 kitchen had to go. When planning its replacement, the icemaker and the “sink pig” hovered around the top of my list.

And so, I moved into a permanent relationship with the long-awaited disposal. Frankly, it’s been a bit rocky.

But to give it its due, I was at fault in most of our skirmishes. I had read that they don’t like potato or carrot peels, pasta, rice, shrimp shells, eggshells or coffee grounds. I began to wonder if it’s that fussy, what’s the point? I skipped the shrimp shells.

At first, I filled it every night with scraps from dinner preparations. A little reading indicated that grinding up lemon rinds freshened the house, and a bowl of ice cubes helps to keep the blades sharpened. (See how great it is to have an icemaker?) I was on top of this. I didn’t send down bones, corn cobs or celery. I ignored those dire warning about carrot peels, eggs, and coffee grounds. And when the first backup came, I was devastated. I learned that plumbers don’t much like disposals – neither the under-sink venue nor the narrow opening.

Clogging happened 3 or 4 times in that house – over 27 years. We had a double sink so when there was a backup, it was in both sinks. Two major clogs were on days before Thanksgiving when washing dishes in the powder room was not an option.

And I learned a little more. When one neighbor moved, she threw most of a container of cornmeal down her the disposal and ran very little water. It turned to yellow cement and all the plumbing in the kitchen had to be replaced. I learned not to put in grease and I began to hear more warnings about eggshells and coffee grounds.

In the 17 years in this house, I’ve only had to call the plumber once about the sink pig. Until last week.

I had just finished a cooking afternoon and the disposal ran just fine. As I restored sparkle to the kitchen. I found a lemon past its warranty and tossed it down.

The water backed up a bit, but I didn’t notice it was in the main sink also. I turned the disposal back on, only to have a 3-foot-high geyser explode out of both sinks. It probably took two seconds to fly to the switch, but during that time the window, the nearby cabinets, the counter appliances, the floor, and the top half of me became covered in coffee grounds and 1/4-inch eggshell shrapnel.

My two-plunger, do-it-yourself method failed. A call to the plumber, another long cleanup, and a shower were the final cost of not listening to the experts.

I’m now a believer. Our eggshells and coffee grounds are heading for the garden in a new compost crock.

And I speak sweet nothings to Little Piggy. I am feeding him organic lettuce trimmings. It’s time to solidify our friendship.

Marcy O’Brien can be reached at Moby.32@hotmail.com.

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