Slattern in the city
I don’t claim to have cornered the market on slattern-dom, and I certainly didn’t invent it. I have, however, done my level best to elevate the art form over the past twenty years or so, and as I look back on the cluttered landscape of middling meals, drunken dinner parties and neglected housekeeping that has been my life, it occurs to me that none of this could have been so easily accomplished outside the urban jungle. Let me explain.
First of all, the urban environment is easy on the domestic tippler. Let’s say it’s five o’clock and you and a couple of pals have been having a friendly chat over a bottle of vodka for the past few hours. You realize you were supposed to pick up your kids from soccer practice, but getting behind the wheel is no longer an option. No need to endanger the driving public, disturb your better half or give up your parking space — just call a livery service and send a car to pick them up. After three or four instances of this, most city teens will learn to take a twenty from your purse before leaving the house, store the car service number in their phones and call the ride themselves after waiting around for an hour or so. Kids these days!
On those festive evenings out, there’s no need to drive at all because even if you could con someone into being a designated driver, you’d never be able to park. All you really have to worry about is making sure somebody in your group can still raise an arm long enough to hail a cab and that the likely puker gets seated by the window and dropped off first. After a few misfires, this practice becomes almost second nature. We live and we learn, and if we don’t, we simply frequent the corner bar and stumble home without vehicular support instead.
On the meal front, let’s say you get engrossed in your work, or (hypothetically) a Magnum PI marathon, and forget to go (or perhaps have been prohibited from going) to the grocery store. If your family’s like mine, they draw the line at more than three consecutive days of cereal for dinner. No problem. Just open up the urban cookbook (aka the takeout menu drawer) and dial up a savory and delicious meal. It won’t be long before you get very good at dissembling, or as I like to think of it, embroidering the dinner story. “Oh, didn’t I mention I’d taken a vindaloo cooking course? — It may be rare for me to clean up as I cook, but I think unheard of is a bit strong! — I’m fairly sure I discussed my recipe for Peking duck with the Wing Hua chef several years ago, and that’s why theirs tastes so similar to mine.” You get the idea.
In the city, there’s almost nothing you can’t get delivered: groceries, meals, prescription pharmaceuticals, flowers, wine…there are probably other things, but this pretty well covers my shopping list. For those who either don’t drive or have been legally prohibited from doing so, the delivery option is a real life saver.
Urban living spaces are also slattern friendly. There’s nothing like a kitchen the size of a French WC to lower mealtime expectations. With so little space, anything beyond beverage service requires three days’ lead time, a trip to the storage unit and a portal to an alternate universe. You can either keep food on hand or utensils at the ready, but not both, and that’s fine by me.
Similarly, our tiny bathrooms make home grooming next to impossible, and anyway why would you do your own nails when the salon on the corner offers a paralysis-inducing range of polishes to choose from and the full mani-pedi is twenty bucks plus tip? Of course if your clever soccer playing offspring have cleaned out your wallet, coming up with this sum can occasionally be problematic, but these days Mr. VISA is universally accepted and always ready to extricate you from this type of potentially embarrassing situation.
Likewise, taxis now take plastic, so unless you’ve redlined your card buying rounds of Singapore slings at the Tiki Lounge, you can always manage to get home. I have found that cabbies are often more than willing to call your mate to get the correct address once you’re in the cab.
Because our apartments are so small, it’s very simple to control your family’s expectations of cleanliness or order, which is one task the slattern is generally happy to take on. After all, lower expectations mean less time with the toilet brush and more time with the swizzle stick. In fact, most city homes are too small to store a vacuum cleaner at all and it would be pushing the envelope on storage capacity to keep both a broom AND a dustpan. When you’ve got an entire room devoted to laundry and cleaning supplies, as I’m told is the norm in less populous areas, it’s hard to find an excuse for not using it, though I’m sure the industrious slattern will find a way. It’s a lifestyle choice, folks.
Posted on February 29, 2012, in Cocktails!, Cooking, Drudgery, Good to know, The easy way and tagged Cook, Cooking, Grocery store, Home, Humor/Commentary, Life, Magnum PI, Shopping, Singapore, Slattern, Thoughts. Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.
You are so much fun. Makes me want to go visit my daughter in NYC and clean her kitchen.
Oh do go, but don’t clean the kitchen. Take her out for dinner and call me to meet you for drinks! So much more fun.
That picture of the kitchen looks like mine right now. (Embarrassed!) ha!
We’ve all been there. Some of us more often than others.
I’m following your blog. Anybody who could grace their blog with Patsy and Edina is all right by me. Martha boils my ass too. What happened to cooking good food and getting to the table without having to dodge napkins folded like chickens and a centerpiece that’s made out of various objects found in your back yard while you were digging your own heirloom potatoes.
Damned if I know, but if Martha ever confides in me, you’ll be the first to find out. Thanks for following — I always enjoy looking in on your site.
hahaha! this is fantastic. i can totally relate as my kitchen is only large enough to store 1 bottle of vodka, and 1 tray of ice. 🙂
Then it is big enough. Some (like me) might even say that’s the perfect size kitchen.
Every time you say lowered expectations all I can think of is the Lowered Expectations Dating Service from MadTV and singing “Lowered expectaaaaaationnnnnssss.” I keep trying to convince DH to let me be a suburban slattern and get stuff like groceries delivered. And our laundry done. And our house cleaned. And our yard mowed. And a butler named Jones who graduated from the British Butler Institute (it’s real) who will bring me pretentious drinks like a gimlet. Sadly, I don’t think it’s working.
Start mixing those gimlets a little earlier in the day and you won’t care what gets done. Trust me.
Nah, I just watch Hoarders when I need to feel better about my cleaning skills.
This right here makes me want to find the tiniest apartment and join the ranks for fabulous slatterns everywhere!
From cocktails at lunch, it’s a pretty short trip I can assure you.
I’m sooooooooooo jealous. I wanna live in a real city. Now. Right now! This is hysterical, btw. Love it!
I’m sure you are quite slatternly in your own environment. Be proud of having risen to the challenge.
But no one delivers vodka here. Damn!
Now THAT is a problem.
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