Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Finger

Cooking with Stupid
The secret ingredient is Terror!

I don't know if you've been in many car wrecks, and more specifically, if you've been the cause of most of them. I have, due to poor depth perception and a late-blooming ability to compensate for it, rammed the front of my car into the back of another car at least four separate times in my driving life. I've hit an El Camino, the back of a Chevy van, and the bumper of my aunt's mother-in-law's Cadillac. There were others, but they're kind of a blur. Today, if you look in your rearview mirror and see a silver Volkswagen stopped a good fifty yards behind you, and you turn to shout "You know you could move up a car length or five, dipshit...", well, hello friend! That's me back there. Compensating.

The thing about those car wrecks is that there was a moment, very brief, where it was obvious that there wasn't a way to avoid them. A moment where the inevitability of the situation became perfectly clear. "Huh. Well, O.K. Here we go." I wasn't panicky or scared. I was just there, calm in that moment, watching, waiting for the impact.

I thought about that reaction the other day while I was working in the kitchen, trying to slice through a sweet potato with my chef's knife. The sweet potato wasn't cooperating with me, and it rocked under the knife, slipping toward the sink. I reached out to stop it from falling down the disposer, wrapping my hand around both the vegetable and the knife. I knew what I'd done before my fingers had finished curling into the grasp, but too late to pull them away. "Huh. Well, O.K." Three of my fingers started to sting. I put the knife and the potato, still fused together, on the counter and looked at my hand. As implausible as it seemed, nothing was bleeding. Maybe I'd just brushed the fingers without actually slicing into them. A second later, a thin, pink line appeared on my middle finger, and a second after that, blood.

I ran my finger under water for a couple of seconds, tried to see how deep the cut was, but at that point it was bleeding freely. "What am I supposed to do about this, again? Direct pressure for ten minutes? But then how am I going to finish dinner?" I needed to keep working, so I concluded that a really tight Bandaid would work just as well as me sitting there with a Kleenex pressed against my finger.

Really tight Bandaid in place, I went back into the kitchen to continue making soup, red pepper with sweet potato. At this point, I was irrationally angry with the root vegetable. "F*&king unsliceable sweet potato. F*&king bruisy tips of the f*&king unsliceable sweet potato. Down the disposer with you!" I pressed the disposer button and heard the satisfying growl of the blades as they chopped the potato ends. I threw in the section surrounding the knife as well, in case it had residual bits of my finger on it. "Ha HA! Screw you, tuber!" As I watched, water backed up out of the disposer and into the sink. It did not drain back down.

I may be foolhardy in the kitchen, but there's one thing I don't ever mess around with, and that's a plugged in garbage disposer. I reached under the sink and unplugged it. I have no problem whatsoever messing around with an unplugged disposer. My left hand out of contention because of the cut, I shoved my uninjured right hand directly into the watery disposer barrel and felt around for any obstructions. I couldn't feel anything in there except the grinding blades and a half gallon of starchy water.

"Maybe it just needs to run for a few seconds more", I thought. I don't know why I thought this. If there's nothing in there to pulverize, why would it need to run? Anyway, I plugged it back in, stared down into the black maw, and pressed the button. Bits of sweet potato shot up in a fountain of starchy water, covering the counter, the floor, and my face. "Good thing I'm wearing this Bandaid. I'd hate to get whatever was in the water in that cut." That was the first thing I thought, not that I'd just covered my kitchen with makeshift paste, or that I'd somehow clogged the plumbing, or that I still hadn't made much progress on dinner. I picked the tiny pieces of sweet potato out of my hair and paused for a moment, thinking about my next move.

"Oh, that's right. Dinner. I should finish the soup before I do much else." Here's why I thought that. If I could get the soup on the stove, I could put the lid on the stock pot and then I wouldn't have to worry about fallout from another eruption from the roiling Kitchenaid caldera. I know myself, which is how I knew that I wouldn't be able to stop myself from trying to run the disposer again, even though it didn't work the last time I tried it. There would be splatter.

The thing that makes red pepper soup especially good is the addition of a couple of hot peppers, usually red jalapenos, which are easy to seed with a little spoon. But Safeway didn't have red jalapenos that day. They didn't have much at all in the way of spicy peppers. I happened to have a couple of pepper plants in the back yard, but their tags had long since been broken and blown away. "At least they're red. I guess about six of these equals one jalapeno. They're probably not that hot."

But these peppers are tiny, and have to be seeded by hand instead of with a spoon. Apparently, while sloshing around in the disposer, I made tiny slashes all over my right hand. Moments into cutting and seeding the peppers, my skin started to burn...

Read the second half of our exciting story, "Cooking with Stupid: Blender of the Damned", later this week.

1 comment:

Batty said...

I have no depth perception either, with similar results.

A couple of days before we left for North Carolina, I stabbed my finger while trying to open the plastic cover on a new thing of cinnamon. It got infected and prevented me from knitting for the 6 days that included 34 hours in the car! Knitting! Noooo!

You're not the only klutz around. There are many of us!