I burned my cleavage with a meat thermometer. How was your weekend?
The stem was heated to roughly 435F, though it may have dropped a few degrees in its mid-air bobble from the grill, to my mitted fingers, down the front of my black cotton dress. "Thank goodness..." my brain stuttered in the milliseconds between the metal's contact with the moon-pale skin adjacent to my right breast and the initial ascent of pain from nerve endings to thalamus, "...that I wore a bra today."
And, moreover, thank goodness that I'd opted for a natural fiber, rather than the polyester dress I'd been wearing earlier that day. Charcoal embers, screaming hot metal and man-made clothing tend to go to war, and, in my painful experience, claim swaths of skin as collateral damage.
I burn, cut, nick and flay myself memorably, but then again, I cook a lot. I spot similar battle scars on the forearms of my fellow subway commuters in the same way I used to note the hair-free limbs of the glassblowers at the art school where I'd spent my junior year abroad. (It was Philly. I was broke.) Dedication to craft trumps attention to personal safety on occasion and, if we're lucky, we escape with momentary agony, sheepishness, at the most a few days of discomfort and a scar with a story.
I remember the origin of each one: the tip of my left little finger lightly snipped as a friend popped into my kitchen while I was chopping Napa cabbage, the savage sear of a baking sheet into my forearm as I was flurrying about my kitchen wearing heels and baking tarts too darned ambitious for the time frame I'd allotted.
Most notably, there was the deep sear into that same forearm as I was baking a lemon meringue pie - my grandmother's recipe - to distract my Dad and me, at home on a break from sitting vigil in my mother's hospital room. Distracted, I'd glanced over at the Argo cornstarch box, noted in a split second that said family recipe was lifted wholesale from the side of the box, and I flinched - right into the opened, preheated stove. That one left a mark.
My wounds are nothing, though, compared to the pan lip burns tattooing permanent crescents into the skin of line cooks, molten sugar welts on bakers' hands, and deep gashes on the knuckles of culinary students getting a full-time feel for their knives.
I'm playing dress-up. That's their uniform.
Cooks, amateur and pro, share the tales of your battle scars below. We'll share the best stories in an upcoming post.
There's nothing like a brand new knife, so sharp and shiny, that you don't even feel it cut you, you just notice that the dish you've been working on for an hour now has a neat little puddle of blood in it.
When I was in Culinary school, Asian Techniques, I cut my thumb in half to the bone while sharpening a cleaver. Neosporin and bandaids and two days later, all healed up and no worse for the wear except for the lack of feeling in my thumb tip.
About nine years ago, I was a relatively new Mom, just winding down with nursing my 13-month-old. I was chopping something in the kitchen (a really stubborn tomato, I think) and sliced off almost the entire top of my pinky, to all but a strip of skin. I tape it up tightly and keep going, fix dinner, eat, and wash up. Later on the cut really smarts, so Hubby (a paramedic) takes a look at the cut – and immediately rushes me to the emergency room, where I got a scolding from the ER doc for not coming right away, since now it's clotted and stitches won't work. He does a better job taping and gives me heavy-duty drugs and antibiotics...I had to wean my baby that very night (he took it better than I did.)
Pinky still has a weird dent, but all 3 of us survived!
Was oven-finishing a pan-seared chicken roulade (oven at 400, pan in the oven for 10 minutes). Pulled the steel saute pan out of the oven and put it on the stove. Turned around to grab the tongs, went back to grab the pan and picked it up with my bare hand. Blistered my ENTIRE hand, and spent a lovely 2 hours in the ER getting treated. The messed up part is, the oven mitt was on the hand holding the tongs!
Years ago I had my hand in a glass that I was washing,suddenly it gave way to the pressure of my hand and broke – cutting me just above my point finger. Stiches later, I learned my lesson and hubby does the dishes now.
I too have the oblong shaped scars up and down my forearms from hitting the top of the oven while putting something in/taking something out...in fact, I have a co-worker who shares the same markings, and she pointed me in the direction of this article happily exclaiming "There are more of us out there!"
One of the most painful was probably while cooking frozen ravilolis. When transfering them to a caulander that was maybe a bit too small, one on top decided to burst open and explode molten hot riccotta mixture up and down my arm...
Less cooking related but totally kitchen based, I was cutting the stems on some roses at our kitchen sink using my ultra sharp kitchen sheers, and I wound up cutting off a good sized chunk of my fingertip. Those blades were so sharp I didn't really notice until I saw the blood swirling swirling swirling down the drain...
My dad was a meatcutter. He's retired, 80 years old, and amazingly, has all his fingers. The worst injury he had was when he was boning out a roast & the knife slipped...he slashed up his forearm...missed any major veins and nerves! He was off work for about a month. Still processes deer out in the garage...
My mother, bless her, never handled hand washing sharp objects very well.
One year, I decided that she needed a food processor for a Mother's Day gift. Silly me, I should have known better than to give Mom surgical steel cutting blades!!
Her first time she used it, she decided to hand wash the blades. Didn't take but 3 seconds, and I heard her exclaim her pain (and say an unmentionable word or two!). Sure enough, she had a nice cut on her finger, where that super sharp blade had opened her up, clean as a surgeon's scalpel.
I walked her to the bathroom (aka-Mom's first aid center), and, in an ironic turn of events, washed her wound out and bandaged it up, nice as can be......in the same location that Mom had done the same for me so many times.
And then I went out to the kitchen, finished cleaning the food processor blades, and instructed Mom to use the top rack of the dish washing machine from that day forward!!
Ohh where to begin. My first job was in a kitchen, and I grew up in a family of chefs and caterers so I have more than my share of scars. My two favorites are the one on my right palm, and the one below my belly button.
The one on my stomach I just got by leaning over the stove to turn off the timer, and forgetting the sheet pan on top was fresh out of the oven. Definitely the most unusual place I've been burned.
The one on my palm is a more interesting story. Anyone who's worked in a restaurant kitchen has seen those big giant potato mashers- they're just like the ones you'd use at home only they're about three feet long and solid stainless steel. Well one evening, the sous chef was handing me our masher to put in the sink. I had seen it sitting on the stove earlier, but she was holding it with her bare hand so I assumed it was cool. HER end was. The end I grabbed was searing hot, and covered in butter. Second degree oil burn, all over the inside of my right palm. Ouch.
I burn / injure myself regularly when cooking. Depressingly regularly. Sadly, I find that the meals I injure myself most on turn out the best.
MY WIFE IS A COOK AND IF SHE DOESN'T DO SOMETHING TO HER BODY AT LEAST ONCE A SHIFT, SOMETHINGS OFF. IT'S EITHER A NEW BRUISE, BURN OR CUT SOMEWHERE.
I was tired after a long canning session. I was using a pressure canner without the weight as a bath canner. I reached over the canner to turn the stove off. I spent the next three weeks debriding the burn. Over a year later, I still have a scar about 2 inches in diameter.
NEVER reach over a boing canner. Steam burns HURT.
Most of my lasting burns are from reaching under a BBQ grill to turn off the gas. The oddest cooking injury I've inflicted on myself involved prepping some gumbo for a trip to the Great Sand Dunes National Monument. After creating the perfect chocolate roux I dumped in the vegetables. The huge temperature variance caused the roux to splatter, one particular blob landing on the top of my foot.
A 4 day vacation involving mountainous volumes of sand with a button sized second-degree burn on the top of my foot was... interesting. The gumbo tasted great though!
I was thinking about entering culinary school this fall. After reading all of these stories, I'm not so sure! Yikes!
In the mid eighties during my aprenticeship I was shelling a few hundred lobster tails when I scratched my index finger on one of the shells. I washed my hands thoroughly and never thought much of the injury. Two days later I awoke with a finger that was three times its normal size. After a week of visits to the doctor the infection cleared up. Unfortunately, each daily visit to the doc started with a local anesthetic delivered to the tip of my finger through a needle! I never knew how many nerve endings there were in one's finger. I've been VERY, VERY careful since!
Most of my superficial wounds are on the tops of my hands and fingers, from trying to lift things from my cluttered counter and accidentally injuring myself on the lower surface of the cabinets – the one that extends below the bottom shelf and happens to have a sharp little edge.
Otherwise, my worst injury is from trying to use a bread knife to slice a frozen bagel one morning. Daddy always said to cut away from myself, and I was! Unfortunately, I was holding it wrong, and years later still have a scar right under the base of my index finger.
One of my best kitchen disasters was an incident with a toaster oven (those things burn me more often than a regular oven!). I had food cooking in it and I knew I needed to add some oil to the food to make it brown nicely. So I opened the door, grabbed the can of Pam and proceeded to spray the food with the Pam, completely forgetting that spray oils contain accelerants. The toaster oven belched a giant ball of flame right at me. Luckily I was far enough away from the toaster oven that the ball of flame dissipated before it got to me, so no injury done, just a whole lot of laughing.
This is not really a "cooking" mishap, but it did involve food.
I was serving drinks and waitressing in a bar one night when I notices one of my red Lee Press On Nails was missing.I was scanning the floor for it when one of the bar patrons showed me his glass of vodka.
There was the nail, bright red, floating among the ice and vodka.
He asked me if he was going to be charged extra for the added ingredient. I gave him a free drinks the rest of the night.
I worked at a fast food restaurant in high school and got hit in the arm with a hot fry basket. Lovely waffle patterned scar from that one.
My forearms bear burn marks from my kadhai, the result of reaching across to do something on the back burners and searing my arm flesh again and again...i think people assume i am suicidal...I guess i would die for a good meal!
I occasionally get little cuts and burns from cooking – usually burns from forgetting something's still hot. I keep a tube of liquid bandage handy if I have piano performances coming up, just in case.
i really got into cooking a few years ago after getting sick of crap microwavable food. over those years, i've gotten my fair share of the knicks, cuts and burns but luckily nothing too serious in that time. however, i STILL hate using cheese graters and won't own a mandoline (every friend i know that owns one has damn near lost a finger using the thing!) and i refuse to make anything that requires a simple syrup for fear of a magma-like burn (i've had a relatively minor simple syrup burn once before, and i still content they're probably the worst kind of burn to get in the kitchen, along with hot oil. i don't deep fry for the same reason.)
oddly enough, my worst burn was when i was about eighteen and reached into the oven to get out a frozen pizza i'd just cooked, when my hand slipped and smacked the top burner. unluckily for me, this was an old oven that ONLY had a top burner (most ovens only use the top burner for broiling.) i was also only using a pot holder, since i didn't own oven mitts at the time. 450 degrees and it left a nice curvy burn that blistered instantly...the fact that it made a sizzling noise didn't help to keep me calm. fifteen years later and parts of the scar are still visible.
i do have one more story that's really good, although it happened to a friend of mine about ten years back when she worked as a meat cutter for Whole Foods. for those who don't know, the meat cutting area is kept at a temperature around 45 degrees, so it's pretty cold. it's not practical or safe for the meat cutters to run back and forth between the meat freezers and the cutting area, so the whole cutting room is basically a giant refrigerator. also, meat cutters often have to arrive early in the morning so that they can start trimming the huge pieces of meat that arrived the night before or that morning. the two key pieces of equipment they use are the meat grinder, and the giant band saw.
my friend arrived at about 5am one morning for work, very tired. about an hour into her shift, while cutting down a huge slab of beef into steaks on the band saw, she looked down. she said her first thought was "wow, that's a REALLY bloody steak..." until she realised that she'd cut almost all the way through her thumb. between being dead-tired and cold, she hadn't noticed that she'd cut herself. she ran out of the store in hysterics, trying to drive herself to the hospital. some co-workers caught her before she drove off, since she was going into shock. they called an ambulance and she was taken to the hospital.
the doctors managed to save her thumb, which works normally for the most part. but she still has one of the grossest scars i've ever seen!
I have several burn scars from touching the darn rack in the oven....why do they put them at the levels they do? No matter what level I place the racks, they never correspond to the height I am stooping to get something in or out of it. And the burns are ALWAYS in the same exact spot on my hands. I also once, cut the web part between thumb and forefinger with scissors trying to cut open a vacuum-packed bag of coffee. As soon as the air entered the bag, it started expanding, scared me and the scissors slipped. Stitched that one up myself...pretty blue thread! I guess it just comes with the territory...if you cook, you're gonna get burned, or cut, or slashed or julienned or something!
Working in a restaurant years ago, I had to push corn stick/picks into the ends of corn on the cob. The corn stick slipped, and the corn cob went flying into the air, but the corn stick went right through my finger. I stood and looked at it for a moment, surprised to see this small metal rod in my finger. It hurt more to pull it out. I washed my hands, put a bandaid on the finger, threw the corn out (it was on the floor) and kept on going. It was more funny than anything.
Who needs tattoos? My hands and wrists, they tell my story. Not my boobs, though. Ya got me there.
As a young teenager my mom asked me to bake an angel food cake for company while she was at work. I was 13 or so. I was taking the cake out of the oven in a 450 degree pan and balancing it upside down to cool when my younger brother turned on the radio and startled me. I dropped the pan on my left inner arm–a superficial 2nd degree burn from that incident, but I still love to bake:)
There was a time when cooking a Thanksgiving turkey slathered in mayo and roasted inside a brown shopping bag was the rage. My friend, Gail and I were responsible for the bird that year and we gooped up that gobbler, then one held the bag, the other wrestled with the bird and (images of a bar of wet soap," it literally shot out of Gail's arms and across the kitchen floor.
I don't use any mechanical or motorized gadgets in my home kitchen. I'm an engineer and love high-tech gadgets but some of the stuff I see used in kitchens just scares me to death. No question....food prep and cooking does take longer without the gadgets but I enjoy the tactile feeling slicing/dicing/smashing/blending/etc manually.
You mean I ain't the only one! I thought I was a succeeding as a burned, sliced, scarred, utter failure. Only to learn I'm normal. Drat. I do have a great recipe for baked asparagus. Wonderfully delicious. And I have the festering burn on my forearm to prove it.
My mother, about 30 years ago, was making jelly and spilled the hot jelly on her legs. My sister was also in the kitchen and got splattered. Luckily I was elsewhere. Both of them ended up in the emergency room. I bet it was awkward explaining third degree burns on the inner thighs...
Like mentioned in the main post, being a line cook has adorned me with the usual kitchen graffiti of burns, knife scars, and raw skin. I have two that tie for first place, and both involve our kitchen's salamander. One day during the mid shift i was hunting for a searing hot skillet to deliver out a stir fry and i just couldn't find one. The first couple i picked up weren't hot at all so i stowed one under the salamander to get it hto enough for service. As i was pulling the skillet down to plate (using tongs because it was wicked hot) i stepped in a little patch of fry oil and inadvertantly put the skillet on the left side of my face. Hot skillet + fresh skin = a horse shoe shaped scar that won't graw facial hair. The second salamander incident happened as i was replacing a hood vent filter above the rolling heat. I slipped off the ladder and on my way down cut my arm open on the top edge of the salamander. It was a pretty nifty trick though because the heat of the metal codified the cut before it really had time to bleed and all i had to do for clean up was to was the burnt flesh away. Ahh the joys of fire!
and by codified, i mean cauterized. Maybe all those little injuries have added up to brain damage too...
I left the tip of my right index finger on a motorized slicer in the small Swiss town that entertained my apprenticeship. I lifted the majority of my right palm off my hand when I grabbed a hot pan placed lethally on a pile of cold ones – a clueless fellow line cook set me up for that week of agony. Amazingly, no scar from that one as the doc on hand prescribed the miracle unguent, Silvadene cream. Dark spots and silvery lines on my hands and arms mark 34 years of culinary work. It comes with the territory, @Brian, and none of us come out unscathed. Who scorched your toast? What a bitter little comment...
1) Me + one cast iron pan full of screaming hot olive oil + one parm breaded thick cut bone-in pork chop = You do the math! That trip to the hospital and for the next month was an image for the movies.
2) Brought home 10" Wusthof all shinny and new. Took it out of the box and dropped it on my leg...4 hours in ER, some dermabond, and more then one question if I was safe at my home later. I have never felt so dumb, but it is the best knife I have ever had.
Buy the way that was a awsome pork chop!
Some of us should just eat more fast food. But we must have it delivered to avoid injury. ;- )
I feel your knife pain. I dropped a steak knife, which I was using to cut raw chicken, and it landed point down in the top of my foot. It stayed there, quivering, until I pulled it out. Yes, I have a nice scar. And a good story.
I happen to be short, with short arms and a rather large ... "shelf" on my chest (where food invariably lands when it finds the extra hole in my mouth, of course). This combination makes it quite difficult just to CLEAN the whole stove without pushing buttons.
If I'm not careful I can preheat the oven and microwave popcorn while both hands are cleaning the back burners of the stove.
That actually made me laugh loudly enough to tear up. Thank you!
No problem! When you're built like this and you're this clumsy, you HAVE to have a sense of humor!
I can totally commiserate with you on this one. I was cooking once, with shirt on, but no bra underneath. Got too close to a steaming pan (steam was pouring out the sides of the pan around the lid). Didn't realize my "shelf" had gotten too close to the steam. Felt a quick burst of pain, felt fine and kept going. Later that night I found a nasty burn in a very funny place. Least to say, wearing a bra for the next week was not easy, especially with the bandaids and burn cream :)
Owwwwieeeee! Yes, we know each other's pain. Betcha hate gravity as much as I do!
Kathrynne: I'm built the same way. Your story reminded me of the 60's when I was working on IBM key punch machines and verifying machines. We had to lean over, remove a spindle at the center back of the machine, wrap the program card around it and reinsert it into it's home. They had our machines in rows so close together that it was impossible to stand up and lean over the machine. One really had to do it from a seated position.
Everyone laughed when I changed the program cards as it generally set my machine chattering like a mad man. So I can appreciate your "multi-tasking" as you clean the stove!
I wrote a blog about this in Italy last year. Here's what I wrote (www.romeontherange.blogspot.com).
A restaurant kitchen is a dangerous milieu. There's fire, wet floors, boiling oil, razor sharp knives and ovens that are always on. Everything is exaggerated, compared to the usual home kitchen - huge, weighty pots, shanks with 20-inch blades, tongs as long as your leg and skillets 2 1/2-feet in diameter. Add exhaustion, hurry, tension and bad luck and you've either smacked, burned, dropped or cut something that's gonna hurt.
Yesterday, Guiseppe had a big red mark on top of his hand. A cut? No, a burn from the forno, oven. We started swapping kitchen war stories and I suddenly thought of the movie "Jaws."
There's a scene in Jaws when the main characters, Hopper, Quint and Brody are in the belly of Quint's boat. They're eating, drinking and gabbing. They begin to talk about their scars. Each recount becomes progressive more gruesome as each thinks the wounds before were nothing. Finally Quint tells the story or all stories.
Quint: ... Mako. Fell out of the tail rope and onto the deck. You don't get bitten by one of those bastards but twice - your first and your last."
I burned my right index finger caramelizing sugar in my freshman dorm room making Brazilian Flan. Guiseppe almost lost part of a finger in a slicer. I nearly cut off the tip of my finger just last month slicing my favorite, yet extremely dense Zingerman's dried fruit and nut bread.
Tomek, the youthful dishwasher, just then let fall a huge sauce pot. It fell right in the middle of his shin. The knot on his leg was the size of a tangerine.
Probably my most embarrassing mistake was injuring myself boiling water. I was cooking with my girlfriend and we were pressed for time, then we realized that we needed to get some water boiling with a bit of oil for the pasta. In order to speed up the process, she started boiling some water in a kettle while I warmed up the stove and tossed the oil in the pot. Once the water was up to temp we poured it in and the hot oil splashed everywhere!
Thankfully there were no scars from this incident, but try not to forget that there is a reason people say things go together "like oil and water".
When I was about 8 months pregnant with our second son, I was cooking dinner and leaned over too far to tend to what was on the back burner. Needless to say, I burned my big pregnant belly! It wasn't one of my finer moments...
just last night, transferring a supposedly cold pan from the hot stove to a counter – when the stove gets hot, so does a metal pan with a metal handle. Only took a couple seconds for my mind to register that my hand was being cooked but there was no way I was dropping those potatoes on the ground. I made it to the counter grunting the whole way.
One of the best things about the Pixar movie "Ratatouille" was the unmistakable-yet-subtle presence of those telltale oval burns on the inside of all the cooks' wrists. Every cook I know has burn scars there, and they got even that little detail right.
I have the usual scars from cooking burns, and I add to my collection on a weekly basis, but that's OK. My real nemesis is flour! I should not be allowed around flour without a chaperon. You can really hurt yourself with flour, in addition to ungodly messes! Or perhaps I'm just gifted in this area :)
How do you hurt yourself with flour? (We're talking ground wheat here, right?)
My chef left a roast in the oven and went home. He called in a panic, telling me to get the roast out of the oven and into the freezer to fast cool it. (that doesn't work) Anyway, I grabbed the baking sheet and put it on an empty shelf in the deep freezer. A box on an adjacent shelf was about to fall and I pushed it back in place. As I did that, my neck came in contact with the hot baking sheet. Skin cauterized and ripped. Needless to say, 3 years later and I still look like I have the hickey from hell.
I, as the author is, am an avid cook/baker. I started baking at age 11 and cooking casseroles soon after that. Although I have 8 years of home economics under my belt, I have the scars to prove I try my best. In addition to nicks, cut, bruises, and burns (I even burned the top of my hand on the fridge bulb once), I have also started many a fire in the kitchen. Luckily, they have all been small and manageable. Mostly the fires have been started by my potholder touching the flame or burner on the stove or in the oven. However, I actually started a grease fire in my oven once. Boy, the kids thought that was fun – black smoke pouring out of the sides of the oven door! I've made it this far, though, (I'm 51 now) and a great cook.
Brian, you missed the point. It's not an actual news article. It's to get people to share their stories for another post. This is just to get things going. Sometimes a little lightheartedness is a good thing. Not everything has to be an in-depth important news story. Lighten up, people. Have some fun.
OH, my balls!
congrats. i see how little effort was put into this article much like your cooking. hence the burns.
Please. Some people are just clumsy and even if you're not, if you cook often enough chances are you're going to hurt yourself at some point.
Wow. What's YOUR problem? I was laughing loud enough to shake the house at the lead sentence. So was my husband, because he knows either of us could have written something similar, except he lacks the cleavage.
I plan to read it again while doing a "Jaws"-esque comparison of scars and bruises.
Brian: Frankly, I appreciated the levity during a day filled with heavy news and work. Nobody made you read it. Obviously you don't cook very often or you too would have a story to share. Both my grandmother's had bad scars from the oven, etc., and they remembered the incident related to each one.
Obviously you let someone else cook for you (and accumulate those scars). Again - nobody made you read this!
A few months ago, I was using our new mandolin slicer. Every thing was going so well, until I felt myself "nick" the top of my finger (important note: I was NOT using the guard). Upon closer inspection, I realized that I had not nicked but rather sliced off about half of my finger nail! After I almost passed out, we headed out to the emergency department but not before tossing the mandolin in the trash.
There are two catagories of people who use a mandolin (or V slicer) without using the guard, professional cooks and people with hand injuries. Alway, always use the guard.
Kevlar glove. Like the oyster shuckers have. Not awkward like that silly guard, and you are still safe from the blade.
Funny you mentioned the mandolin! I sliced of a lttle bit of my palm this Sunday, had to go to the ER and get some stitches . I didn't use the guard because it kept onion kept slipping off. Oh well, live and learn!
Alton Brown would be SO disappointed in you!
It's okay, my best friend was using a mandolin slicer (older and slightly less-sharp) it got caught on "something" and she couldn't seem to get the potato through.... so she forced it... *cringe* . Turns out that something was the tip of her ring finger. Thank the culinary iron-chef gods (minus Bobby Flay, screw him) that I'm not squeamish anymore. It's mostly normal-looking again, just slightly less-rounded at the top like her other fingers. :)
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