The Postscript: Examining your kitchen through the eyes of a scientist

Published 1:53 pm Wednesday, February 27, 2019

By Carrie Classon


I was nervous yesterday because I was going to have scientists in my kitchen.

Okay, these scientists were friends visiting from out of town, but having company of any type prompts me to notice how dirty my house is. Since scientists were coming, I wondered where I fit on the bell curve of housecleaning. While I’m not at the “ready for hazmat” end, I’m not getting any commendations for cleanliness either. But then, I don’t actually recall ever getting any firm guidelines on how often—or how well—a house should be cleaned.

I suspect my mother never thought to give me instructions because she operates like a sort of perpetual motion machine. Rather than waste a movement, she cleans while she does everything else. In this way, she keeps her house in a constant state of cleanliness and never gains a pound. The downside is that cats do not even try to sit in her lap.

My other cleaning mentor was my former mother-in-law. She told me, “If I can’t see the dirt, I am under no obligation to remove it.” For a long time, I thought this was very sensible advice until I realized she was a short woman with failing eyesight.

I imagined that people who were paid to make objective observations might be less inclined to overlook dirt. One of our guests, Wolfgang, was not only a scientist, but German. I know I shouldn’t generalize (and I’m sure there are a lot of messy Germans) but I’ll admit imagining an Italian in my kitchen sounded less stressful. So, while I baked a peach pie, I decided to look at my kitchen through the eyes of a scientist.

Spoiler alert: I do not recommend this.

The first thing I did from my new science-based perspective was get down on my knees and look at my stove. This was a ghastly revelation.

That stove was dirty in places I didn’t know there were places. I hadn’t even finished the stove when I noticed the toaster oven was full of crumbs. I didn’t really expect my scientist friends to go nosing around in the crumb tray, but how was I to know? We’d be chatting in the kitchen and one of them (Wolfgang probably) might become inquisitive and pull out the crumb tray—as a safety precaution perhaps.

I cleaned out the crumbs and scrubbed that sucker down for good measure. Then I remembered the microwave.

I’m not even sure I trust a person who has a clean microwave. I heat my coffee in the microwave and (since I am not technically awake before my first cup) I cannot be held responsible for spilled coffee. As it turned out, there was a lot—far more than my new, scientific criteria would allow.

After that, there was no stopping me. I cleaned under the cannisters, scrubbed down the refrigerator, and attacked that troublesome spot behind the kitchen sink (how does that get so dirty?!) Finally, I was finished. The pie was baked. I was satisfied my kitchen could withstand scientific scrutiny. I saw a message on my phone.

“Hi Carrie, tried to reach you this morning,” (probably while I was cleaning out the crumb tray!) “Winter storms are coming and we’re going to drive back ASAP. Sorry we have to cancel dinner this evening.”   

I was disappointed, of course, but we’re having my sister-in-law and her husband over tonight to eat the pie. My brother-on-law is also a scientist, but he never sets foot in the kitchen—his or anyone else’s—so I’m feeling pretty safe.

Till next time,


Carrie Classon’s memoir, “Blue Yarn,” will be released in April. Learn more at