Young Cultivator Merit Badge: Table Talk, Intermediate Level

The adorable, always humorous MBA Jane is my way of honoring our Sisterhood Merit Badge program, now with 7,466 dues-paying members who have earned an amazing number of merit badges so far—10,836 total! Take it away, MBA Jane!!! ~MaryJane 

Wondering who I am? I’m Merit Badge Awardee Jane (MBA Jane for short). In my former life

For this week’s Farm Kitchen/Table Talk Intermediate Level Young Cultivator Merit Badge, I spoke to Andy’s parents about letting him come over once a week for a month to, uh, well, do my dishes.

I know, these badges rock, am I right?

No, in all seriousness, it is a skill that kids these days need to learn, and well, if it happened to coincide with the breaking of my dishwasher, hey, that’s just a happy coincidence. Can I get an amen?

And it’s not just a skill for girls and women, as this 1930s poster from the Illinois State Employment Service implies …

1930s poster from the Work Projects Administration Poster Collection, via Wikimedia Commons

So, each Friday evening, after my date night with Mr. Wonderful, Andy trudged over and we got to work. I now call him Mr. Wonderful-in-Training.

Dishwashers have been around oh, for a long time now. Feel free to Google how long, but it’s safe to say this generation of American kiddos have not lived without them, and while some have the chore of loading up or unloading said machine, the majority have probably never had to do a sinkful by hand.

This is where I came in, chickadees. There’s an art to hand washing dishes, if I do say so myself. And really, it’s kind of soothing and therapeutic. (Not that I want Fridays back. I’m enjoying the little respite.)

First, a little organization. Mr. Wonderful-in-Training was all set to toss (and I do mean toss; the kid has a wicked curve ball) the entire dinner’s worth of cutlery, plates, pots, and pans, into the sink together. I explained that he needed a method to his madness: like, any method. Preferably one that didn’t mix steak knives with my good china.

Jackie Cooper, 1955, NBC Television via Wikimedia Commons

So, into the bubbles went all the forks and spoons on the right side. Steak knives and any other knives into the left. (Keeping them separate cuts down on nicks and pokes. Get it? Cuts down? Ha!) Then we gently set down the plates, which of course, had been rinsed. You can scrape supper remains into your composting bin, or if your dinner has been doggy friendly, straight into your mutt’s mouth and into his tummy.

Rinsing depends on your sink, naturally. If you have two sides, one little person can wash, while the other rinses on the other side. If you’re blessed with three pint-sized servants offspring, the third can dry and put away. It’ll be a rugrat brigade!

After the plates and cutlery were finished, we added a bit more hot water and another squirt of soap, and also the pots and pans and serving dishes. I had made ribs and mashed potatoes that first Friday, so we had a lot of tough, sticky, starchy, things to work on. Mr. Wonderful-in-Training was up to the challenge though, and by the time he was done, everything was (mostly) shiny and spotless. My sponge had to be thrown out though; Andy used some serious elbow grease. Must be all those curve balls he’s been working on.

Now, if you’re going to help your whippersnapper earn this badge, I’d say there’s a magical age for it: between 4 and 11 is my bet. For the shorties, get a stool that’s sturdy. If you want to make it even more fun, add some gloves in a colorful print, some sponges, and a yummy smelling dish soap.

Voila! Clean kitchen and ever-so-moisturized children will ensue.


  1. Karlyne says:

    Atta boy, Andy! I actually enjoy doing dishes by hand – as long as there’s a window over the sink and an interesting view from it!

  2. Winnie Nielsen says:

    I remember doing this sort of badge when I was a Girl Scout in the 6th grade, which was when we all were about 11-12. We got to cook dinner and do clean-up at my house on two occasions to complete all of the requirements. My Mom loved the fact that she got two nights off from kitchen dinner duty!

    I just love that old poster which looks like it came from the WWII days. It is very inviting and cheerful for pretty hard, hot, and tiring work.

  3. Krista says:

    I agree that the next generation of children need to learn to hand wash dishes. I still hand wash about half of my dishes and I already see my almost 2 year old showing interest in helping me rinse them off. Plus it gives us some bonding time. It’s a great skill to have.

  4. Lisa Von Saunder says:

    My stepfather was a gourmet chef and my job as a teen was to wash all the dishes and the pots and pans after each complicated meal. We ate very late at nite, 9PM European style , so the washing up meant i was slaving in the kitchen scullery maid style usually until midnight. To this day I HATE doing dishes. I do have a dishwasher now but for one person it takes all week to fill it up. Also I won’t put the pots and pans in it.
    They are my mother’s Revere ware, older than me, and Im 65!! They look like new and i intend on keeping it that way.

    • Karlyne says:

      That’s why I don’t have a dishwasher anymore – the only things I’d put in there were the things I didn’t care about, so i thought it was easier to just get rid of those things. Now I can enjoy my grandmother’s silver and my pretty dishes while I’m washing them, and it gives me another reason to stare aimlessly out the window!

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