The Thunker - Sarah Donohoe

The scenario is more or less the same in small towns, bedroom communities and urban neighborhoods alike: a group of people gather for an in-home get-together. The men tend to assemble in a living room while the women make final touches on their culinary contributions in the kitchen. The hosts pour drinks. There is lots of jollying and small talk—sports, the weather, the kids and grandkids, how bad the pot holes are this time of year.

That’s how it was at my neighborhood’s annual soirée last weekend. Three host homes. Three hours. Three groups of guests, each group starting at one of the three host homes. After an hour: fruit basket upset. Half of Group 1 went to Home 2 and the other half went to Home 3. Half of Group 2 went to Home 1, the other half to Home 3, and so on. If you don’t get it, that’s ok. Neither did any of us. But we scrambled from house to house and managed to make merry at each of the three host homes. We met some new neighbors, re-introduced ourselves to folks we hadn’t seen since last year’s soirée, ate a little, drank a little, and generally made ourselves at home at each location. We were guests this year but we plan to be a host home for next year’s soirée.

When you host a social event in your home and it involves guests contributing to the fare, you can expect certain circumstances: someone will forget to bring a serving utensil; the person responsible for the hors d’oeuvres will show up after happy hour is over and there is no longer a need for appetizers; when everyone has gone home there is one lone, unclaimed bowl left on the counter.

And there’s one more common element to having guests in your kitchen; one more annoying circumstance that should be rectified by kitchen construction code; one common courtesy every homeowner should provide her guests:

There oughta be a law that all kitchen trash cans must go under the kitchen sink!

I’m guessing each one of us has been in the situation where we pull the seal off the new jar of salad dressing/mayonnaise/sour cream/Marmite (Marmite?) and we need to throw it away.

How easy it would be if we could count on that under-the-sink trash bin. That’s where the trash belongs. Always has. Always will. No guesswork. No snooping. When we look there and don’t see a trash can, then we’re in a pickle. Do we risk appearing to be a snoop, starting at the left and moving clockwise around the kitchen, opening first one, then another cupboard door until we find the mystery receptacle? Do we instead, seek out the busy hostess and hold out our trash to her, asking politely if we can be so bold as to inquire to the whereabouts of her rubbish repository? Or do we discretely deposit our trash behind the coffeemaker so it is out of sight until the bleary-eyed hostess finds it the next morning?

Most politely, we stand in the middle of the kitchen and scan the cupboards. Could it be there, in the tall pantry? Or over there, near the door that leads into the garage? Do they have a trash compactor so the door is smaller than average? Is it right behind the dog food bowl?

Under the sink, I say. Under the sink. Right side, left side? That’s up to the homeowner. But under the sink!

Now, I have to reveal that my own kitchen fails to meet these very expectations. The circa 1955 house, including the kitchen, was completely remodeled before we bought it so we had no say in the location of the trash receptacle. During the showing, the former owner proudly exhibited how the cupboard holding the trash has a track so the bin conveniently rolls out for easy access and behind that appears a recycle bin. This, admittedly, is a handy feature. But the trash/recycle drawer is halfway across the kitchen from the sink. If this were someone else’s kitchen I would never think to look there, around a bend, at the end of the counter, four drawers away from the sink.

When any guest is in my kitchen, I am on the lookout for the first hint of their searching, rather panicked look, and then I point and say, “The trash is in the cupboard with the white knob. ” (Each of my knobs is unique so I only have one white knob.) I follow that with, “There outta be a law that every trash can goes under the sink. ”

Everyone I say it to agrees—probably to keep me from any further trash talk.

You may let The Thunker know what you think at her e-mail address,

© 2020 Sarah Donohoe

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