It was the hummus that finally did it: a faint smear of chickpea in the bottom of a tub otherwise wiped surgically clean, and returned to the fridge. ‘What the [expletive deleted] am I meant to do with that?’ I found myself ranting, pointlessly. I was at home, alone. But there I was, a grown man shouting to himself about traces of tahini in a tub. That is what a lifetime of kitchen infractions does to you. Eventually, you snap. This, my top 10 kitchen crimes, is an attempt to write that frustration away. You may find it therapeutic. Breathe, relax, let’s begin.
1. The empties
Returning a millimetre of milk, an irretrievable sliver of mayo or the last pathetic fart of Tommy K to the fridge is awesomely selfish. But, yes, you may have more milk or ketchup in. The situation can be saved. Leaving the ice-cube trays empty and derailing a Friday night G&T, however, is truly apocalyptic. You cannot instantly freeze water.
2 Knife crime
Have you seen someone using a serrated bread knife to chop an onion (!) on a glass chopping board (!!) or a marble kitchen counter (!!!), possibly permanently damaging the blade? Call a lawyer. It’s grounds for divorce.
That feeling when someone puts your £16 extra virgin olive oil on the windowsill in direct sunlight so a mixture of heat and UV photo-oxidation ruins its delicate flavours. Tip: only buy canned oil.
4. Tighten up
Do you ever drink a fizzy drink and think, ‘I wish this was flatter’? No. So screw the lid tight and refrigerate it immediately. Squeezing air out of the bottle is, the boffins now say, pointless.
5. Losing your rag
This is inevitable when someone uses a dishcloth to wipe up food debris and, rather than rinsing it over the sink, simply plonks it on the drainer full of bits. It is a crumbgrenade, primed to explode in the hands of whoever grabs it next, scattering herb mulch and chilli seeds everywhere.
6. Bin juice
Did you know, when full, the kitchen bins need emptying into the large rectangular wheeled objects that live in the back alley/garden/car park at your home (clue: they smell and each week some blokes come and empty them into a lorry). At Naylor Towers, I am seemingly the only one who knows about this magical system.
7. It’s not cool
In the fridge, the volatile compounds that give tomatoes their flavour grind to a complete halt. Consequently, chilled tomatoes taste of nothing. As for bread, the fridge’s low-humidity accelerates the retrogradation which turns bread stale. It is utterly ridiculous to chill either.
8. Dishwasher dramas
I am easy about ‘efficient’ stacking. Is separating knives and forks in the cutlery basket essential? No. But put my new non-stick pans in, an absorbent (now warped!) wooden chopping board or open the dishwasher and blithely leave food storage containers of water sitting there all day, and we will have words. Words like idiot.
9. Hardened criminality
That is, the failure to mop up, say, boiling milk that has spilled onto the top of the stove or leaving used porridge pans to set hard so that the oats weld themselves on. The next person to clean up will need a bionic arm to shift that lot.
10. Spread the love
Used the last of the butter? Then get another pat from the fridge. Otherwise, someone will find themselves urgently softening fridge-hard butter in the microwave, a process which, even if timed to the millisecond, produces not smooth, spreadable butter, but a revolting oil slick. It ruins good toast. Is there any bigger crime?
Read more articles by Tony Naylor…
What have they done to our chocolate?
Maximum pleasure, minimum pennies
10 reasons I won’t be doing Dry January
My 10 restaurant rules for New Year
Is this the future of food?
Save our Great British curry houses
Tony Naylor writes for Restaurant magazine and The Guardian