In search of healthy and fun meals to feed my family, with an eye toward sustainable living.

Here you'll find recipes & ramblings about keeping my family fed with what's available in Alaska between local produce, a little bit of wild harvest, and the modern grocery store.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Kitchen chores - done by house elves!

In our household, kitchen chores get done by house elves, even though our last name is not Malfoy! For those few of you who may not know what house elves are: they're servants (more like slaves) in the wizarding world of Harry Potter. Dobby (pictured), is a house elf. Beloved by many a Harry Potter fan, with his big eyes, big ears, and heart of gold, he saves Harry Potter's life numerous times, ultimately dying for him in the last book (sob!)

But back to kitchen chores, like parents all over the world, we've struggled to find a good arrangement for our young brood to help with the daily kitchen chores. Somebody's got to do the dishes, and besides, it builds character! The obvious one was for the kids to take turns: today it's your turn, tomorrow your sister, etc... And they, in turn, started referring to their assigned day as "house elf" day, reflecting the fact that in their own minds, having been assigned to wash dishes was just shy of slavery!

But there was always squabbling, and they begged us to revise the system. For one thing, each child seemed to feel very "put out" when the other did not have to do any chores on that particular day (nothing is worse than having to do chores while your sibling is watching!). SO, they kept on wanting to change the system, and after a while we reluctantly agreed, ok, why don't you come up with your own system!

Here is what they came up with -- yes, it's complicated, but they seem satisfied, and it works!
1st day (Monday): The "Clean" house elf empties the dishwasher and sets the table -- in other words, takes care of the clean dishes and helps with dinner prep. The "Dirty" house elf clears the table, helps put food away, and loads the dishwasher (not their favorite job!!!).
Next day: reverse

Simple enough, but how about the trash? To a parent that sounds like a clear-cut job for the "dirty" house elf -- but even that got more finely sub-divided: there's the actual carrying of the trash to the garage ("dirty" job"), putting in the new liner, and doing the recycling ("clean").

I admit that we parents did some eye-rolling at all the negotiating that takes place, but I now realize a couple of important things:
#1 they're doing it, with less reluctance than when we assigned their tasks point-blank.
#2 they like each other's company -- and they're often found negotiating finer points among themselves, like "If you can put that pan away and refill the ice cube tray, then I'll scrub the pancake mess off the counter, and then we can make cookies together after dinner..."
#3 there's power in self-determination- even among mere house elves!

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