Tales from the Kitchen: Using a Mandoline

It was the perfect Christmas morning: Presents were all unwrapped, everyone was joyful with their new bounty, and it was now time to start thinking about the family dinner. With a mimosa in hand, we were off to the kitchen.

I begin working on my assigned dish. a Spanish Potato Tortilla. While it is a dish with a number of steps, nothing is overly complicated. Essentially the steps are slice potatoes, fry potatoes, saute garlic & onion, combine everything with eggs, and cook in a pan.

Fast forward about 10 minutes later, and I’m running my newly shortened thumb under cold water, with the hopes that maybe, just maybe, the bleeding will stop. For you see, on this fine Christmas morning I decided to use a mandoline.

Mandoline Slicer

For those not familiar with a kitchen mandoline, it is essentially a plank with a blade in the surface. By offsetting the blade, you can make uniform slices of food very quickly by sliding the food back & forth on the surface. In order for the device to work well, the blade needs to be sharp. Very sharp.¬†Every time I’ve seen one used on a cooking show, the host always cautions “be careful of your fingers”.

I always felt that this warning was only met for kitchen plebeians, surely not for me. Turns out, it was meant for me.

On my second potato, I wanted to make sure I was getting every last slice. That last slice happened to also include my thumb.¬†Because of the nature of the cut and the location, it was a bleeder. Thankfully the local urgent care center was open, and an hour later I was back in the kitchen finishing the dish. On a quick aside: every nurse commented “I’ve seen so many of these cuts, I won’t touch those things.”

Mandoline Thumb Injury

Thumbs-up!

The moral of the story: as much as you love cooking, you are not a professional cook. You do not have the hundreds or thousands of hours in the kitchen that create the muscle memory that keeps you from getting injured. If you ever meet a professional cook or chef, look at their hands – they’re mangled. Their paws are covered in scars, burn marks, and typically will be missing a tip or two.

So, when you’re stepping into the kitchen, don’t be a hero. Use the guard. Take your time chopping. Be wary of hot oil.