It's damn easy, if not necessary, to make a mess when cooking. Even if you're the clean-up-as-you-go type, messiness still exists in those moments before you start cleaning up. Egg shells, carrot peelings, spilled flour, splattered gravy, a pile of greasy pots and pans. It's gonna happen.
I think it's important to be tidy because we live in a shared world. No one wants to be confronted with someone else's mess, whether it's a spilling-over garbage can in the alley or a major oil spill on the ocean. Cleaning up after yourself is a basic courtesy. Tidiness promotes simplicity and clarity and helps us feel like we're exercising a bit of control in the middle of the chaos of life.
However, while I deeply respect neatness, I still want to put in a plug for messiness. Why? Because there is something wild and creative about making messes. Tidiness can often be about anxiety where as messiness has an organic, reckless quality that's exciting. It smoothes the shiny edges of neatness and allows the unexpected to come forward.
Life is chaotic and unpredictable. So when we throw a little flour around, or use every pot and pan in the house to make an amazing dinner, we're dancing with chaos instead of fighting it. I don't know about you, but I'd rather be dancing.
So, as usual, it's neither one or the other. It's both. Go ahead and make a mess, even a REALLY BIG mess. Just be sure you are willing (and able) to clean it up. And that's my recommendation for harmony in the kitchen, in the household and, frankly, in the world: don't make a mess so big that you can't clean it up. And don't walk away and leave it for others to do.
What's your relationship to messiness/neatness and can you, do you even want to, keep it under control?
PS I was inspired to think about messiness when I stumbled on the photo above by Alicia Lynne Carrier from bread and honey fame. It was Alicia who first discovered the scary faces in broccoli but her wonderful blog that she shares with her good friend Summer is also an amazing resource for good recipes done in a punky, yet homey, way. Thanks, Alicia!