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."
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.