Lucy Corry’s Blog: Out, damned spot!
A food writer meets her greatest enemy yet — a black kitchen cupboard.
This column is a cry for help. I deliberated for quite a while about writing it, but things have reached such a stage that I can see no other option.
While Lady Macbeth got to walk the floors of Cawdor castle wringing her hands and wailing ‘out, damned spot’, I must turn to my keyboard instead. My problem is nowhere near as troublesome as hers, but it is causing me quite a lot of grief.
Friends, I have matte black kitchen cupboards and they are driving me spare. We have been living here for five months now and I am still yet to find a solution to keep them clean.
They look fabulous from a distance, or in very, very dim lighting, but the rest of the time they look like they’ve been lovingly stroked by a childcare centre’s worth of preschoolers with very sticky fingers. When Lady M said ‘hell is murky’, she could have been describing the similarly grim state of the black fridge door.
I know there are greater things in the world to worry about (believe me, I am worrying a lot about them too), but the state of my kitchen looms quite large in my life. The previous owner assured me it was easy to keep clean but he was a) not a cook and b) had a cleaner.
At Christmas time, when my work colleagues came over for brunch, one of them suggested that I buy microfibre gloves for all members of my household to wear when in the kitchen. She was joking, but I thought she was a genius.
However, the other members of my household looked at me like I should be locked up for my own safety when I mentioned it.
About a month ago, I turned to my co-members of Food Writers New Zealand (the professional body for Aotearoa’s broad food communication community) begging them for advice with my extreme first-world problem. They got it immediately. Responses flooded in, with real-life advice and support. What a tribe!
There were practical, immediate solutions (cut down on fingerprints by using hips, elbows and knees to open and close cupboards, then use dry microfibre cloths to polish away any rogue fingerprints), suggestions requiring some investment of time (paint it) and money (follow the example of the previous owner and get a cleaner).
Many had been there, done that and had the housemaid’s elbow to prove it. “I also have black cabinetry – love it but bloody nightmare! My cabinetry guy said damp cloth, dab of washing up liquid, rub on then dry cloth off. Works, but what a drag.”
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Perhaps the best advice came from my thisNZlife.co.nz stablemate Lynda Hallinan, who told me “life is too short to stress”.
As in most things, she’s right. Life is most definitely too short to worry about the fingerprints on my kitchen cupboards. Or the man-sized handprint on the glossy black fridge door. I thought about this a lot while I tried the damp cloth and washing up liquid method to limited success.
After reading all this advice I gave myself a good shake and tried to practice mindful ignorance. Obviously, the fact that I’m outing myself as a control freak who aspires to live a clean, fingerprint-free life means that my quest isn’t going so well. But I have realised why it bothers me, which is surely a step on the road to deeper enlightenment. Having a clean and tidy kitchen is about control.
A year ago, I read some Covid-19 coping advice from Dr Eileen Feliciano, a New York psychologist. The one tip that has stayed with me in the last 12 months is “find something you can control, and control the heck out of it’. Dr Feliciano says controlling your small corner of the world is anchoring and grounding when “in moments of big uncertainty and overwhelm”.
I realise now that my attitude towards my cupboards has largely been about feeling the need to control and perfect something. In hindsight, I chose an impossible task that will never be completed, or certainly not while I am working a full-time job, completing a major project and juggling a few side hustles, as well as having a life.
Like Sisyphus, I’m destined to be rolling my metaphorical rock (or microfibre cloth) up the hill every day. Unless, that is I take Lynda’s advice and just let it go. As I sit here at my kitchen table I can see a trail of sticky prints dotted over the drawers on the other side of the room. I know that the ones facing them are in an even worse state.
I am practicing radical not-caring and it seems to be working, sort-of. But I would really like to know if you have a genius way to clean them before my mother-in-law next comes to visit.