Recently I’ve had an abundance of time at home, as the result of a shake-up at my agency and a subsequent layoff. Interviewing has kept me busy and I'm eager to get back to work, but I’m taking full advantage of my impromptu vacation until I find out what's next for me. That means you’ll probably find me in the kitchen.
On this particular morning I woke up wanting to make cheesesteaks and some sort of duck fat potato dish. I almost abandoned my plans for the potato dish when I realized what I would need to do.
I do just so happen to have a gallon of duck fat in the fridge, that's convenient
We meet again, nemesis
I would need to use the mandoline. When we moved, I considered getting rid of the thing. To understand why I felt the inclination, I’m going to have to tell you about what we refer to as The Great Mandoline Incident of 2013.
Last year in July, David and I planned to make pork belly banh mi for dinner. We’d been out for a bit at City Cellars and had played a few rounds of Mario Kart. David beats me every damn time, and he claimed I needed to learn the “art of the drift”. We decided we simply had to watch the quality Fast and Furious franchise film Tokyo Drift when we returned home.
Once we were back, David set about renting the movie while I used the mandoline to slice some cucumbers for sandwiches. Because I had gotten cocky, I decided to use neither the steel cut-resistant glove we have, or the mandoline’s plastic guard. I turned to ask David a question, and that’s when it happened.
Fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders. The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly less well known is this: Not using the guard on your mandoline.
I slammed my fingers into the mandoline’s blade while slicing the cucumber. I immediately knew on a deep level I had done some major damage. I must have involuntarily made some sort of uh-oh sound, because David called suspiciously from the other room. “Did you just cut yourself?”
“Nooooo.” I said unconvincingly. Maybe it’s not that bad.
David, grumbling under his breath, went to get the bandages and neosporin while I ran my hand under cold water. “Um...I don’t think those are going to work this time. I did a really good job.” I said meekly.
“What? Christ. Let me see!” Once David took a look at my fingers, he got really quiet, which was particularly alarming. The shock had worn off and my fingers were starting to really hurt. Yep, it’s that bad.
“I’m trying to figure out if we need to take you to the hospital. I think you need stitches.”
So off we went after wrapping my hand in a paper towel and shoving it in a bag of ice. I did indeed need stitches in my pinky, but there was no helping my ring finger. I had lopped the top right off.
Four hours later, I was out of the hospital and we were on our way home. We never did get to make the banh mi. We went to McDonalds for dinner, and I clumsily tried to eat a Big Mac one-handed.
It took a good two months before I didn’t have to wear any bandages, my ring finger is still shaped funny, and I’ve avoided the mandoline ever since. I’ve even been skittish about using the Global chef and paring knives. But you can’t run scared forever, and the onions and potatoes I wanted to prep would be much easier if I used the tool. Still I debated with myself.
David’s not home. Who would drive you to the hospital?
Do you really, really want the potatoes? You could just make mashed potatoes, you know.
Just putting this out there: You don’t have health insurance right now.
Putting on the cut-resistant glove and grabbing the guard (I wasn’t making that mistake again), I approached the mandoline like you would some sort of poisonous viper. Half an hour later I had some nicely sliced vegetables--and some unsliced, intact fingers.
Sometimes you just have to get back out there, whether it’s using the kitchen equipment that maimed you previously, looking for a new job after getting let go, or getting rejected for a position you really want.
It’s uncomfortable and scary to try again when you’re feeling bruised and broken, but once it’s over, you can look back and be proud of yourself for how far you’ve come...even if in this case it was simply a bowl of sliced potatoes.
small victories are still victories
So how were the cheesesteaks? Amazing in the ways that cheesesteaks usually are, especially when you use the traditional Cheez Whiz. We decided to be efficient and use the large cast iron pizza pan as a flat top grill with the power plus burner, and we made duck fat and butter Pommes Anna derived from this recipe, which we will surely be experimenting with again.
Why do we fall sir? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up. And then enjoy a cheesesteak sandwich.