I am not a professional. Don’t pretend to be one, no real aspirations to be one.
Those who cook for a living impress me. The hours, the conditions, the repetition — and the hazards.
About a year ago I came across this piece on nasty injuries in pro kitchens. Yikes.
I’ve nicked myself with knives, sliced off a wafer of finger here and there, gotten the occasional blister from popping oil or a light burn now and again from a hot oven rack. Some even left scars. Cool, right?
But nothing like those folks. I have health insurance, should the need arise. And perhaps more importantly, if I hurt myself, I can simply stop cooking.
Or so I thought.
I got up on Saturday a couple weeks ago determined at first to do nothing more adventurous than drive into Lawrenceville to pick up some pastries for breakfast. Joint was closed, so no dice.
I got home, looked around my kitchen and had a grand idea. Diced red peppers and Asian long peppers, onion, potatoes seared in duck fat, cheddar cheese, eggs. One big-ass pile o’ breakfast.
Something like this:
My folks had gotten me some new knives for Christmas. It was a solid if not world-changing set of Wusthofs. Which means, like everything else in my life, I can blame them for this. (Kidding.)
I started dicing the peppers and got lazy with my left thumb. I know where it was supposed to be to stay safe. Wasn’t.
I felt the pinch of the knife and it took a second for the blood to start rushing where some of my fingernail and tip of my thumb had been.
First stop: sink. Cold running water, make sure no bits of food or anything else were in the wound. Then: pressure. Paper towels were close. Grabbed a few and squeezed. The throbbing moved all the way up my arm. And damn if those paper towels didn’t saturate quickly. That can’t be good. I secured some new paper towels with band-aids for a little extra absorbency.
My wife was a couple blocks away getting coffee. I texted her something like, “I just sliced of a hunk of my thumb. How you doin’?”
I tweeted something about it, too — I had to distract myself a little bit — which brought back notes of sympathy and advice and my friend Hart, who works in the business, calling me “cupcake” and telling me to suck it up.
My wife came home and checked on me, asked if I wanted to go to the hospital.
No, not really. Nothing for them to do. Clean cut, but broad, not deep, so stitches or even butterfly bandages wouldn’t do anything. The bleeding wouldn’t stop, but that was more a matter of pressure and time than anything else.
She went to a pharmacy nearby. Gauze, Neosporin, sterile pads, the whole nine.
While she was gone I looked around the kitchen. I found the bit of my thumb on the cutting board but it hadn’t gotten into the peppers. There was no blood there either.
And, man, was I still hungry.
Back to dicing. Which is really hard when you can’t use your thumb at all.
She got home and walked in the kitchen and just stared at me. A combination of No! and What the hell? and How stupid are you? and But doesn’t that hurt, baby?
I smiled and shrugged and asked her if she wanted to see the chunk of thumb I sliced off, because I kept it. No idea why, but I did. Not like I was proud of it. (She didn’t. It got thrown away.)
We wrapped up my thumb more appropriately. Something like this:
And I went back into the kitchen. She helped me peel the potatoes and I did the rest.
It didn’t make me feel like a pro. Please. I’m just an idiot who still wanted breakfast and figured continuing to cook it was the quickest way to make that happen. How do you think I got that first picture?
But it did make me think about those who feel like they cannot stop cooking when such a thing happens. There’s work to do, a shift to finish.
I respect the hell out of those people.