Girlfriend Using Food Prep Devices to Clean Fish Tank
February 21, 2010 11:02 PM   Subscribe

Am I wrong to be annoyed? My girlfriend used my best wire strainer to rinse fish poop out of the gravel.

I like to cook. And so I have a set of tools that I like to keep really clean. One of the hardest to keep clean is the wire screen strainer. I use it for things like sauces or gravy or for fruit extracts.

Anyway, my love decided to clean out the small plastic tank that her Betta fish lives in. I was very happy about this, until I found the strainer in the sink with gravel in it.

I don't know how many of you cook. But it takes forever to even get tomato seeds out of the mesh.

As well, there is a place under the metal wrapped around the top that occasionally coughs up a tomato seed or a raspberry seed.

So I'm thinking, this now belongs to the fish.

Am I being anal? Or just careful?
posted by Splunge to Human Relations (32 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

Your lady owes you a new strainer.
posted by biddeford at 11:04 PM on February 21, 2010 [8 favorites]

You need a new strainer. Don't let it ruin the relationship.
posted by dfriedman at 11:05 PM on February 21, 2010 [8 favorites]

That's gross. She should get you a new strainer.
posted by pecknpah at 11:05 PM on February 21, 2010

Best answer: The idea of using a culinary item to clean up animal crap is pretty nasty. Buying a cheap strainer for this job would have been the right move, especially as it was a non-urgent job (ie time to go and get one).

I'd be pissed, and yes the strainer would now be a fish strainer to me. I'd have to let it go, though, as it has to have been a clueless act on her part - ask her if she'd like to have her dinner prepared with that strainer now, if she doesn't understand why you are annoyed.

But, mind you, you only get to be annoyed in perspective. Your only gripe is that you now need to find the money to buy a new strainer. That's it. Don't make this bigger than it is and start attaching any other significance to it.
posted by Brockles at 11:09 PM on February 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: That was kind of thoughtless of her to do but it isn't worth getting too peeved up about. You could either boil the strainer to clean it out or get a new one. But yeah, I'd be chapped too.
posted by fenriq at 11:09 PM on February 21, 2010

Best answer: You are definitely not being anal. Especially because it is a mesh strainer - those things are pretty much impossible to get 100% clean.
posted by needs more cowbell at 11:14 PM on February 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Yeah, I understand about not getting bent out of shape about this. I'm not, really. Although I was for a moment when I first saw it.

She's asleep now. And so I won't go in and make a big deal about it. Nor will I tomorrow.

I will mention it though.

And give her the gift of a new gravel strainer.

Thanks for the replies.
posted by Splunge at 11:15 PM on February 21, 2010

Maybe she thinks you need probiotic therapy.

OK, jokes aside, it's natural to find this a bit icky, and I definitely agree that it was inconsiderate of her.

But no need to freak out, city slicker, it's just shit. Just give it a good boil (deep fry it in oil if you want to be thorough) and it'll be as good as new.
posted by randomstriker at 11:23 PM on February 21, 2010

might be a good time for a conversation about what things you consider "nice" and will be a little more touchy about. buy her a strainer and you a new one of yours (although, i agree that in all fairness that she totally owes you a new strainer - not worth fighting over, really).
posted by nadawi at 11:25 PM on February 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

for a lot of kitchen stuff, i'd probably just boil it - for a wire mesh strainer...not so much. they are just really, really hard to clean well. even if it were silly, i'd think of fish poop every time i used it and that would lessen my enjoyment of cooking with it and i'd probably never use it again.
posted by nadawi at 11:26 PM on February 21, 2010 [3 favorites]

In my house, that strainer would now be "over the line" and not used for cooking any more.

Ms. Flabdablet would put it over the line because it's been used to strain fish poo.

I'd not be worried about the fish poo (a dishwasher is a mighty disinfection engine) but I'd put it over the line because I'm always the one whose teeth end up finding the bones in the fish fillets, the shell bits in the scrambled eggs, and the toenails in the apple pie; and gravel is hard.
posted by flabdablet at 11:28 PM on February 21, 2010

Splunge: “Am I wrong to be annoyed?”

Of course not. Annoyance is a feeling. Feelings can't be wrong. Only actions are within the moral sphere. There is no conceivable situation in which you could possibly be wrong for being annoyed – or delighted, or saddened, or angered, et cetera.

You only run the risk of being wrong when you act. In this case, you might be wrong if you expressed your annoyance to her in the wrong way. But even here, morality is best augmented by a certain practical rationality. Things like this – minor household annoyances – aren't difficult, but they require a delicate balance. It's really hardly ever beneficial to get visibly annoyed and loudly express displeasure in a relationship; but at the same time it's also not beneficial to hide your feelings.

Maybe she 'should have' understood your particularity regarding your clean cooking utensils. (By the way, I'm the same way with cooking gear, so I know what you mean.) But regardless of culpability, if you've gotten to the point of posting this question over it, she's clearly come to understand how you tend to feel, and she probably won't do it again. So I don't think you should go around blaming her for anything, since everybody has to learn things about their partner as time goes on, and since as hard lessons go this was a pretty light one.

If she offers, I guess you could let her buy a new one, but I wouldn't push it too much. It pays to be forgiving. Just stop worrying about whether it's 'okay' or not to be annoyed - you can feel however you like, so long as you control how you act on that feeling.
posted by koeselitz at 11:29 PM on February 21, 2010 [3 favorites]

Splunge: “I will mention it though. ¶ And give her the gift of a new gravel strainer.”

See - you're already way ahead of me. Great idea.
posted by koeselitz at 11:32 PM on February 21, 2010

No. Don't give her a new strainer. Give her the old fishy one for tank-cleaning, and get a nice new one for cooking.

(I'd wrap the old one in sea-themed toilet paper - the stuff with dolphins or fish or islands on it - and then solemnly present it to her as though it was the Taj Mahal itself. If I was your girlfriend, that would make me laugh while reminding me that I did this minor thoughtless thing that a lesser man would go ballistic about, and you turned it into a sweet/funny/in-joke part of our relationship.)
posted by malibustacey9999 at 1:17 AM on February 22, 2010 [4 favorites]

My ex once took one of my photo-developing trays for mixing latex paint. It was a non-communicable issue, because for her, it simply was a tray, and the argument that these were special, in terms of chemical cleanness and no scratches and dust, didn't register in any other way than that I was being peculiar.
Your story makes me think that there might be an issue of "things are not so important" involved, along the line of "it's only a strainer." Or, phrased otherwise, it is sometimes difficult for a precise guy to defend his kitchenware.

I could be completely wrong, of course, just saying. If you like your girlfriend a lot, tread lightly.
posted by Namlit at 1:29 AM on February 22, 2010

I guess all you can do now is hope that this was the first time.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 3:02 AM on February 22, 2010 [30 favorites]

Some people are grossly ignorant about things having dedicated purposes. They just "don't get it" when it comes to taking care about how things are used. If this bothers you then RUN. You'll be facing an endless series of screwups like this. Honestly, using a FOOD utensil for cleaning up SHIT should not be a miraculous leap for someone to understand why it's a BAD IDEA.

As for the strainer, just boil the hell out of if. Considering the number of vile things that you come into contact with each day (like already on your 'fresh' vegetables) this will make it more than clean enough to use again.
posted by wkearney99 at 5:31 AM on February 22, 2010

Clearly you and her have different boundaries for the use of food prep stuff. Wonder what she's done with your other stuff when you weren't around.
posted by smackfu at 5:43 AM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think I'm with koeselitz on this one. You're certainly well within your rights to be annoyed, but following the advice of Brokles will move you toward mansplainer territory.

Someone told me once, never assume that the other person has anything but the best intentions. That might help this (relatively minor) incident from causing permanent relationship damage.

(I myself would by a new strainer, though — no amount of boiling will wash away the memory of fish poop.)
posted by stargazer360 at 6:02 AM on February 22, 2010

I'm not squicked out by all the nasties that stuff in the sink comes into contact with. It's part of life.

But, there's nasty and then there's intentional fish poop in what I consider one of my most essential cooking tools. She owes you a new strainer, and she better not be putting the fish in one of your good saucepans while she cleans the bowl.
posted by azpenguin at 6:06 AM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

It's a frickin strainer. Buy a new one and tell her not to use it.
posted by bunny hugger at 6:18 AM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

You are not wrong to be annoyed. You are not wrong to feel any way at all. Emotions themselves have no moral value attached to them. Your reactions do, though.

As others have suggested above, I agree it would be a good idea to be firm but gentle about the matter. XYZ statements are perfect for addressing these little annoyances.

I might also try to work in a little bit of humor by suggesting her act of "transubstatiation" has transformed this culinary instrument permanently into a fish poop strainer. Maybe make a cute little label (of a fish pooping?) for the handle so that it might never find it's way back to touch your food again.

I would also suggest that it would be improper to not say anything and just let it go. If you wish to be in a long term loving relationship, then you need to practice resolving conflict. If this is the first such annoyance, prepare yourself for hundreds more of these, which all must be dealt with gently but firmly. It's when you let these annoyances build up that they grow into relationship-breaking "irreconcilable differences."
posted by cross_impact at 6:21 AM on February 22, 2010

Just reuse it. Boil it in vinegar, rinse it in bleach, etc. If you're really concerned, use some BLC which will remove pretty much all biological material. It's fine.

Do you use your strainer on meat or egg based things? Then it's already come in contact with stuff that's potentially got deadly bacteria in it.

I'd still make her get you a new one, though. Having two is a great luxury. :)
posted by paanta at 6:35 AM on February 22, 2010

Yep, to me it's a fish strainer now. Buy a new one for cooking, and clearly and unmistakeably mark the fish-poop one as the fish-poop one so she won't get confused over which is which. I'm not kidding.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 6:44 AM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

That type of strainer isn't removing squat anyway. She needs to get a real fish pooper scooper

She tried helping but picked the wrong thing. I would be annoyed too and not use it for food--sanitized or not.
posted by stormpooper at 7:21 AM on February 22, 2010

Buying a new, expensive strainer seems very wasteful as you can easily disinfect the one you already have. On the other hand, buying a inexpensive fish-shit strainer sounds like a worthwhile investment. She too should have proper tools for her (equally important) hobby. When she no longer needs to borrow yours, you'll benefit as well.
posted by Orchestra at 7:32 AM on February 22, 2010

There are a fair amount of unpleasant things you can catch from fish tanks (including a non-respiratory form of TB). You could probably boil and bleach it and be plenty safe, but why mess with it over something that inexpensive?

Use a permanent marker to write "Fish" or "Aquarium" on the handle, and use this as an excuse to go get a nice new one for the kitchen (preferably one with a different colored handle or something to prevent confusion).

Also, next time you want to get her an inexpensive and useful gift, consider a good quality fish net about the size of your strainer with a tough but fairly open mesh -- much easier to rinse gravel with (you can massage the gravel with one hand while holding the net under the water with the other).
posted by nonliteral at 8:29 AM on February 22, 2010

A bit late to the party here, but my father once gave me some good advice on situations like this: "If money can solve it, it's not really a problem." That's not to say that you shouldn't let her know that it wasn't cool. You should definitely get a new strainer. So long as you can afford a new one, it's not really a problem.
posted by Alterscape at 9:39 AM on February 22, 2010 [7 favorites]

buy a new one and give the fish poop one to her. Explain that you don't wash your ass with her toothbrush, and she should not clean fish shit with kitchen utensils.
posted by WeekendJen at 9:47 AM on February 22, 2010

I would be furious, and I think the important question is the one that smackfu raised; What other possessions do you own that she has just used any way she thought handy without telling you? She didn't tell you that she used your wire strainer - you only found out because there was gravel in it! If she has ever watched you cook and paid an ounce of attention she would probably observe how much you appreciate your tools.
posted by winna at 9:50 AM on February 22, 2010

To people suggesting boiling or bleach: with a mesh strainer, bits of things get stuck in between the wires, where they overlap. Bleach or water might not even get between the wires (not the holes/spaces, but the place where one wire goes across the other perpendicularly.) Even if the thing has been sterilized, bits of debris may well be stuck in it. The debris will have been sterilized, but that's cold comfort. I don't want sterilized fish poop or gravel anywhere near my food, and I'm pretty sure I'm not unique or unusual in that desire.
posted by needs more cowbell at 2:57 PM on February 22, 2010

I don't know that "money can solve" this problem. Yes obviously a new strainer is not a big deal. But who knows whether she did this before? Or did this with other things? Where is the line between this and your toothbrush scrubbing the toilet, or your washcloth wiping her ass, or your nailbrush cleaning out the bottom of her shoes, or your spatula scooping up dog poop?

You need to make sure that going forward, you and she have the same understanding about what is normal use for an object and what is absolutely revoltingly barbaric.

People who don't really know about cleaning don't seem to get thing "washing" something doesn't remove all traces of what was on it. She probably just thought that soap and water would make this safe for food again.

If I were you, I wouldn't treat this like an isolated incident.
posted by thebazilist at 2:57 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

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