Sunday, August 1, 2010


My Gloomy, Streak-Prone Granite Counter Tops

"I hate granite counters," I erupted as it took out one of my favorite mixing bowls. The cream-colored British-made bowl with rounded fluted sides and green piping around it's outer rim slipped off its precarious perch in my dish drain, landing top-side-down. At first it looked fine, until I picked up and saw a large, irregular v-shaped wedge of broken crockery left on that mean hard counter top. I love bowls and this beauty had been given to me by a friend many years ago. I am bereft over the loss of this beautiful vessel.

I loathe granite because its surface, like so many others in modern kitchens these days is unforgivably hard. This is the first home I've lived in with these heavy, implacable counters. I might be more tolerant of the broken wine glasses if the color of this particular granite wasn't so dark and gloomy. But it is and it has gleefully claimed a plate, a breakfast bowl, and a storage glass. I'm well aware of its' lack of kindness, and it's not like I have a heavy hand in the kitchen. Worse, it shows the most appalling streaks. I can clean with a hot sponge, wet paper towel, using Windex, a special product formulated for granite, and dry it immediately, only to watch the light reveal wet marks and cloudy streaks as if to say, "you call this clean?"

I read recently that granite has become THE material of choice in kitchens in America having recently achieved something like 67% of the market in kitchen remodels and new construction. I watch in dismay as young couples buying homes on many HGTV programs whine at the lack of granite and stainless steel in the kitchens of the houses they are considering. The building industry in league with designers has convinced consumers that granite and stainless steel are the very best (and most costly) and therefore, most status conscious of materials for the American kitchen. Along with my third and fourth least-liked kitchen surfaces--porcelain sinks and ceramic or stone floors--I'm feeling decidedly old school.

I've thought about replacing my granite counters, but that seems to be an awfully costly fix and I can't imagine how to recycle the stuff.

In my New York apartment kitchen, I had a stainless steel sink that I could dribble Baccarat crystal on and be reasonably assured it would survive. It shined up beautifully and I could stack all manner of dishes as precariously as I liked and never worry that if something toppled over, it would survive. My counter tops were a beautiful marble patterned Formica, which was as durable as it was handsome. When I sold the apartment thirteen years later, it was without a scratch and as attractive as the day it was installed. It had a matte finish, and cleaned easily with no streaks. You could roll out pastry on it as well as its harder cousins. The marketing folks tell us granite is superior because it handles heat well, but who in their right mind ever put down a hot pot without a trivet or a pot holder to act as a buffer between pot and counter top? Because I treated my Formica well, it rewarded me with long-lasting efficiency.

My New York kitchen floor was covered with linoleum tiles--and I can well imagine the shudders from people reading this. In my previous apartment, I put down gorgeous ceramic tiles in my kitchen. Big mistake. If you are doing a lot of cooking for a dinner party or baking during the holidays, those hard floors will kill your legs. Linoleum (which also comes in lots of handsome colors and pleasing patterns) is much more forgiving and you can stand comfortably on it for hours. Think of what's it's like to go to a museum and wander around on its marble floors for an hour or so, and you'll understand what I mean. Here in Portland, the only agreeable surface in my kitchen are my oak floors, which like linoleum or the recently elevated cork, make long work in the kitchen comfortable underfoot.

I took something of a beating on the sale of my apartment. My real estate agent told me too many times that my lack of an updated kitchen was hurting its sales potential. I could never understand why I should have to renovate a kitchen I was perfectly happy with and one that produced outstanding meals for me and my guests. And why shouldn't the person buying the apartment put in the kitchen of their choice, rather than be stuck, like me, with a kitchen that I like the layout of but not the choice of material (the alder wood cabinets and drawers are beautiful)? And don't get me started on my dishwasher--a poorly designed model that holds little, has a weird door storage for silverware, and has broken more than its fair share of glasses.

And yet the trend for the future is for more granite, more stainless steel appliances and more porcelain sinks (which are also harder to clean than stainless steel) and more tile on the floors. The one good trend that I've noticed is the gradual popularity of the armoire-style refrigerator over the side-by-side models, which are shallow in depth and lack adequate storage (try storing a wide platter in the refrigerator or freezing a half-sheet full of strawberries or homemade gnocchi in the even-narrower freezer side).

Please don't respond with argumentative opinions otherwise. I'm set in my ways, and not likely to change my opinions about these things. You get to be old school after years of experience.

This dishwasher deserves a special place in appliance hell and I often find myself praying for its demise--soon!

Not even the addition of this "old lady" drain from the Oxo Good Grips folks,
make my sink safer for dishes.

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