Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Battle wounds

by student blogger Emilio

I am now past the half-way point of my Fundamentals class and have managed to get through unscathed apart from a few minor nicks here and there. That is until yesterday.

Ironically, out of all of the days in Fundamentals I have had up-to this point, I probably used my knife the least yesterday. We were making fresh fettuccine and ravioli and apart from a little slicing and chopping for the sauces (a tomato and cream sauce with oyster, shiitake and crimini mushrooms for the fettuccine and a brown butter, sage and walnut sauce for the ravioli – they were both as delicious as they sound) and the mushroom and ricotta filling for the ravioli, my knives were mostly put away and my hands focused on mixing, kneading and rolling out the dough. 

Wrapped cut, courtesy of the health room
At the end of the production portion of the class, I was cleaning my recently sharpened chef knife when a classmate of mine asked me a question. In the 1.5 seconds it took me to look up and respond I felt it bite into the tip of my index finger. “Pouring” would be an accurate verb to describe the blood coming out of the cut. Generally speaking I have a pretty high tolerance for pain so I just put a couple of band-aids on followed by a finger cot and then a glove and got back to cleaning. Being almost done with cleaning the kitchen, I was more worried about finishing as much as possible before going to dinner. About 25 minutes later, getting ready to take our dinner break I realized that the finger cot was actually ballooning with blood. It took quite a few paper towels to clean up the mess I made.

Anyways, after class I went to the medical room to get it cleaned and wrapped up and the very nice nurse who took care of it said it was a close call on whether I needed stitches but thankfully she decided some “steri-stips” would work, keeping my record of stitches down to zero.


So now the moral of the story. We use knives everyday. We strive to keep our knives as sharp as possible. A sharper knife is actually safer since a dull knife is harder to control and more likely to slip – I don’t think I would have agreed yesterday, but it is true! Even though we are in school learning how to cook and eventually be chefs, we are constantly working in dangerous situations. Whether it is a razor-sharp knife, a steam kettle of simmering stock or a 450˚F oven there are always ways to hurt yourself. Some people will say it is too dangerous or that it isn’t appropriate to put young (and older) students in this scenarios but wouldn’t you rather learn how to deal with these things in a more controlled environment, where you have someone that is going to bandage your cut or burn? I definitely would. The point is that you can’t, and shouldn’t, be afraid of getting hurt – mistakes happen. At some point while you are here (and probably more than once) you will accidently cut or burn yourself. Someone else might even inadvertently burn you. Don’t let this dissuade you. But you have to always be on your toes. Always focused. There is a fine line between a mistake and incompetence.

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