Posted by: deadmousediaries | January 19, 2010

The Spaghetti Pot Wars- a slice of marital life from Mitchell Kyd

I took the first picture of the saucepan with the hydrangeas blooming in the background. “This must be distinctly understood or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate” wrote Charles Dickens at the outset of another classic tale. Even though we’re separated by the centuries, Chuck and I clearly have that one thing in common; we know how to set up our readers.

For my entire married life and even long before that, I worked full-time in a very public career. Along the way, I gave birth to two rather phenomenal kids who managed to grow into lives of their own before they had a driver’s license. If I wasn’t working evenings or weekends, we were running to dance class, ball practice, orchestra rehearsal, PTA, and blah, blah, blah. So who cares if the repairman found cobwebs in my oven.

My favorite thing to make for dinner is a reservation and I’m not ashamed to say it. A friend once tried to lure me over from the enlightened side by loaning me a copy of “Cooking for Dummies.” I promptly returned it but not before pencilling in a verb: “Cooking is for Dummies.” If I’m supposed to cook, why are there so many drive-thrus in my town? Wouldn’t Applebees be offended if no one used those curbside to-go spots? Am I really the only woman who is on a first name basis with the famous Mrs. Smith and the folks at Boston Market? I don’t think so.

Regardless, there is a short list of meals I throw together for my family on enough occasions that I retain my title of adoring wife, supermom, goddess and magician. At the top of that list is my spaghetti. My mom taught me how to doctor-up a jar of store-bought sauce with some special touches that send out a siren song as soon as the onions hit the skillet.

By the time spaghetti night hit the calendar, I had usually already worked to pay the grocery bill, done the shopping, and smacked my head twice on the cupboard door trying to excavate the colander. But my family always lapped it up and those 15 minutes of family fame had always been so good that I was even happy to do the dishes when the wolfing was all over. That was until The Spaghetti Pot Wars began.

The “right” way to do things stirs an eternal debate when marriage is involved and tackling dirty dishes must rank right up there as a top five domestic disputes, close to how to fold the towels and just one step above installing toilet paper. At my house I only have one rule for washing dishes: if I’m not responsible, I don’t care how you scrape and stack. If you’re leaving them for me, stay out of my sink.

I can assure you there had been a series of small dish washing skirmishes leading up to the battle now chronicled as The Spaghetti Pot Wars, but the shot heard round the neighborhood was fired on spaghetti night the instant I spied the saucepan. Despite my years of gentle coaching, someone had put the greasy saucepan in the sink, not on the counter. The skillet, ladle and colander had all been buried underneath and sprayed with a little cold water. Everything, including the dish cloth, sat immersed in the swill. Every tiny hole in my Pampered Chef colander (a gift, of course) was plugged with the residue of ground beef, vegetable bits and pasta sauce. I counted to ten.

This egregious violation of a thirty-year pact had clearly been the work of my husband who I always love but always like? Sometimes not so much. I invited him to join me in the kitchen and started in a very calm voice. I explained, again. Stacking dirty dishes in the sink and then just spraying them with water spreads grease over every surface and that makes more work for me. I held the colander up for visual reinforcement like a kindergarten teacher holds up a flash card of a cat.

Even a simple caveman “Uh huh “would have saved the night but when confronted, he chose instead to grin and say: “Well you were going to have to wash all sides of it anyway…” And with that he padded off, back to Jeopardy and his recliner. The words justifiable homicide flashed like the lights of Vegas across my brain. I saw my prison photo flash before my eyes next to the one of my husband wearing a saucepan party hat.

As he faded into the soft glow of the TV screen, I did think for just a moment about sending the whole mess skipping out the door and into the yard but that would have been childish. And besides, I rarely show my temper; my strength lies in wearing down my opponent over time. I simply took the whole greasy pile and placed it on his car hood. (Also not very adult, I know, but oh so satisfying.)

The next morning I left home before he did and fantasized all day, visualizing the homecoming with several alternate endings. I got home first and saw that he had simply set it all aside where the sidewalk joins the driveway. Not surprising. When he pulled in the driveway a few minutes later, I peeked around the kitchen door in time to watch him walk past our new pile of lawn art and lumber up the back porch steps.

That summer had been dry and weeks went by before it was time to mow the grass again so the pots began to blend in more and more. When the condition of the lawn got to be too much, I was there to watch my husband scoop up the weathered cookware as he headed up the back porch steps. I had won! I had outlasted him and victory was mine at last. I did a little dance of celebration across the kitchen floor.

It was a victory for every working woman with an oblivious husband, a milestone! It was my personal equivalent of suffragettes storming the Capitol or Coco freeing us from our waist-pinching dresses! Well, it would have been all that –except for the fact that he didn’t bring a single piece of cookware back into the house. He barely slowed down, really, as he heaped it all on our back porch bench but did pause to kiss me on his way through the kitchen.

That evening, I took the picture of cookware on the back porch bench to show my friend Cindy. I made sure to get the hydrangeas in the background for supporting visuals; she had already heard the story. I knew then there would be a time-lapse photo series of those bushes as a back drop for my cookware. There would be glorious, full heads of purple hydrangeas, October blooms as dry as paper, withered stalks as snow-covered reminders, promising buds of next year’s blossoms…Hell would be freezing over in the meantime.

I don’t know exactly when my pitted cookware disappeared but it was sometime the next springtime. I had passed it every day for nearly a year and once looked down to find a dead mouse lying in the saucepan. Our son turned out to be the hero of the story because he finally trashed it all the day he pressure-washed the porch floor.

No words had ever spoken between my husband and me about the these true events; we pantomimed the whole affair when the other’s back was turned. Our son recognized it was an incident in search of an identity and it was he who named it The Spaghetti Pot Wars so the story lives on, an instant classic. It bears all the intrigue of an urban legend and has the staying power of country lore.  And our kid retold it well enough to earn him an “A” on his sophomore year psych paper.

Now. Where’s that take-out menu???

© 2010 Mitchell Kyd. All rights reserved.



  1. Oh I have I been there – now I have a new solution to test out on this age old prob.

    • I’m here to help… 8 )

  2. Wow! For once I can’t compete on the marital discord front!! Bravo

  3. I called my husband Randy in to listen to this story and we both got a kick out of it . I just love it when i see you have a new story , keep up the good work, i cant wait for the next one.Jo

  4. I laughed so hard. I, once, saw a neighbor toss all the dishes out the back door one day and didn’t have a clue. I guess they may have been having a culinary tiff as well. I have tried things like that with laundry but never my dishes. I love it. You are so entertaining. Text or e-mail me. -Natalie

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