Friday, October 16, 2009

Peeling Skin

My boyfriend told me yesterday that he bought a mandoline (pictured here*).  Upon hearing the news, I involuntarily grabbed my left index finger with my right hand and shuddered for a full ten seconds.  It is amazing how deeply childhood traumas burn into one's psyche.

When I was seven or eight years old, my mother tasked me to peel a bunch of carrots for dinner while she went to the basement to gather the laundry.  I stood over the kitchen sink holding the first carrot in my left hand and the peeler in my right.  I struggled at first.  After a couple of strokes I discovered that, if I extended my index finger alongside the carrot to support it, the peeling became easier.  The task then became quite mindless, and I lost focus and began daydreaming.

I was probably thinking about unicorns when I felt the sharp pain in my finger.  I looked down and saw that, due to my inattention, I had used the peeler on my own index finger instead of the carrot.  A single, neat strip of skin now dangled from the peeling blade.  Oh, how I wanted to scream -- I could feel the scream welling at the top of my throat like pressured steam -- but I thought better of it.  I was afraid to have my mother discover that, in the short moment she left me alone, I managed to flay my own hand with a kitchen utensil.  As much as she loved me, or perhaps because she loved me so much, my mother was unforgiving of my self-inflicted injuries.  She ascribed to the theory that coddling a child in pain encouraged the behavior leading to that pain, so each bruise or cut was met with withering reproach in addition to stinging hydrogen peroxide.

I swallowed my scream, quietly disentangled my skin from the peeler, applied a band aid, and went back to peeling the carrots -- this time, with great care.   To this day, I exercise pointed caution with my peeler and every other blade in my kitchen.  Looking back, I wonder if my mother's theory on parenting might be right: if you learn a lesson the hard way, you need it only once.

*This is a picture from a mandoline for sale at


  1. I've peeled and grated my fingers enough times that I try to delegate such responsibilities as much as possible. Box graters are as dangerous as vegetable peelers -- beware.

  2. Holy cow, if I peeled my finger more than once I'd stop cooking altogether.

  3. The scar from my mandolin accident has finally faded away. I was making potatoes au gratin. Ed happened to pass by and suggested that I use the holder that came with the mandolin instead of using my hand. Within a few seconds, I managed to slice a nice round off the pad of my palm. I screamed, immediately covered the wound with my other hand and asked Ed to look at it and tell me how bad it was. Ed, a surgeon by training who routinely performs amputations, recoiled and refused to look at it. Sigh. Mandolins are dangerous.

  4. I just spent the last minute shuddering after reading about your mandoline accident.