Public Service Announcement

This photo has nothing to do with the post, I just like it.

It was about twenty years ago when I first became aware of cooking shows on tv. Of course I grew up with Julia Child and the Galloping Gourmet, but food-related shows were few and far between.

The Food Network was the actual first food channel I think – jumping on the culinary bandwagon to satisfy our love of learning about cooking and various cuisines.

There were so many formats back then to the shows. There was Bobby Flay barbequeing on his NYC rooftop, everything from chicken to pigs, along with a special pitcher of margaritas made with grilled peaches. There were occasional shots of his beautiful model wife carrying in baskets of jalapeños or tomatoes. (We all know how that ended.)

There was Emeril LaGasse, with his talk-show style cooking show complete with a live audience and jazz band, like a daytime foodie version of Johnny Carson. And his Bam! that he yelled every time he threw something in a pan caught on throughout the country. It actually annoyed me, so I didn’t watch him.

There was Ina Garten, cooking from her Hampton home, with field trips to her personal florist in a nearby quaint town and to her seafood monger by the sea, so that she could put on pretty parties. She managed to do her whole show in a monotone voice, all while smiling, with sneak peaks at her poor husband, who obviously didn’t want to be filmed, forcing the fact that they really still get along after 50 years of marriage. We believe you, Ina!

There was Iron Chef, the original Japanese version with “Chairman” Kaga, who ordered two contestants to a cook-off focusing on one ingredient. The “battle” took place in a giant stadium, overseen by the chairman, who seriously looked like he was ready to go to war, with a saber strapped to his uniform. There was color commentary from a man on the ground bouncing between contestants. There were Japanese judges, usually including a geisha who only managed to giggle throughout the show and, mind you, this was all dubbed in English. Even the giggling.

Then there was Sandra Lee. Enough said.

I bring all of this up because for many of us, myself included, this was our first glimpse inside restaurant kitchens and inside the minds of chefs, revealing their creativity And culinary skills. As impressive as they all were, and are, it actually inhibited a lot of home cooks because they felt they couldn’t perform like tv chefs.

During that same period of time I did a lot of cooking demonstrations and gave talks about cooking, encouraging people to get into the kitchen. (After all, I always say, “we have to eat!”) I constantly attempted to convince people that what tv chefs or restaurant chefs do, is nothing like what we do as home cooks.

I think what’s most intimidating to people is the way a chef can dice an onion in one second flat while talking to the tv camera. Well if I have a guest in my home who comes at me with a timer, they’re getting kicked out of my house. It’s just not about speed or showing off.

I know we’ve all experienced great messes on our stove when we’ve tried to flip over a skillet of vegetables like they do on tv and half of the veggies don’t make it back into the pan. Does that make us bad cooks? Of course not!

Following is my public service announcement. It involves a knife. Any knife – sharp or dull. Anything that is done with a knife can potentially be dangerous. Like cutting or stabbing.

Years ago I decided to de-pit an avocado like they do on tv. Yes, I was much younger then. (I have since come to the conclusion that Bobby Flay uses a stunt double.)

I opened up the avocado lengthwise, held the half with the pit in my left hand, and just like on tv, slammed my sharp chef knife into the pit with my right hand. All it takes is a little twist of the knife and the pit can easily be removed.

_MG_0596

Well, except when the knife doesn’t make contact with the pit and instead slips off the avocado and lands across your hand. Fortunately I didn’t have to go to the emergency room but let me tell you – I never did this again.

And definitely don’t think you can stab the damn pit.

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As long as I’m discussing lessons learned, a mandoline is also a very dangerous kitchen tool. A couple of years ago I posted a photo of my finger dripping blood after going just a bit too far slicing a potato with my mandoline. You just always think there’s a little more there than there actually is!

My friend Richard recommended a kevlar glove, and it is a lifesaver. Perhaps literally. Even if I want to slice one little carrot, I put on my glove! I will alway be thankful for Richard’s recommendation, and to this day my fingertips are intact.

Happy safe cooking!

131 thoughts on “Public Service Announcement

  • Great tips. I have only cut myself once and that was peeling potatoes. As for the mandolin-that is yet to be determined but all signed point to ‘its only a matter of time’. I have the awful habit of placing my index finger along the top of a knife when chopping-working on correcting that. Great post :)

  • First of all, you totally crack me up – second, I feel as if we have been separated from birth. When I was a cooking teacher, I remember one time when I was teaching in a school on the Maine Coast, and the assistants kept saying, you are so clean! (translation: you clean up after yourself) and I would say, that’s because I’m a cooking teacher teaching HOME COOKS not a chef with a staff! I keep meaning to buy a Kevlar glove, thanks for the PSA!!!
    I don’t get to write comments often, but I love reading your blog, especially now that I haven’t been writing my own because I am busy with our Airbnb rentals in the White Mountains — still cooking, but not writing, maybe I will again soon! Cheers Mimi!

    • When I saw your face I immediately remembered your blog and thought that once again WordPress had dropped me from following you. Good to know things are going well. Yes, chefs are not home cooks, and in my bio, I actually say something about comparing what we have learned from cooking for families for umpteen years vs. what chef’s learn in chef’s school. I’m not saying I have culinary school experience, but I have many years of feeding a family with different tastes, needs, day after day, sometimes on an extreme budget!!!

  • In that case, Spirited Cook and Mimi, we must be triplets! I once put the blood into a blood orange gin. I haven’t seen half of those shows, being a Brit, but you still made me laugh. Did you ever see our late lamented Fanny Cradock? She cooked in a ball gown and had a cowed husband called Johnny who famously once ended a show on doughnuts by intoning ‘If you try that recipe at home, I hope your doughnuts turn out like Fanny’s’. Bear in mind fannies on this side of the Atlantic refer to – er – front bottoms. Lx

  • I enjoyed going down memory lane with you as I remember and love many of those chefs today. I’m pretty careful getting the pit out of an avocado but a mandoline scares me. Never had an accident probably because I rarely, if ever, use it!

  • Some good tips and insightful points about cooking shows. I learned a lot from the shows, but never have tried to adopt “cheffy” knife skills and have only taken in what I thought I could manage. That being said, I know it is true that people love to watch the shows, but can be intimidated by cooking a bit more from the watching of the pros. While I’ve not yet (she says knocking on wood and with fingers crossed and intact) sliced my hand from hacking a pit in an avocado, I do use that technique, cautiously. I have a mandolin but kind of avoid it not only for fear of slicing my hand while using it but also while cleaning it. I like the idea of the kevlar glove and wonder if you can use it while washing the thing, lol! Another item to be cautious about is the blade on a food processor. I always give it wide berth when assembling, disassembling and cleaning it. Thoughtful post, thanks!

  • I used to watch Julia Child as a kid, and between her example and that of A. J. McClane (Field and Stream Magazine angling editor and renowned seafood/fish chef who also studied the culinary arts in France) I dreamed of one day attending a top culinary institution. It never worked out… But, a few years ago Barbra and I stumbled onto The Great Courses where Bill Briwa, Executive Chef of the American Culinary Institute, has DVD’s/online videos that provide excellent instruction. So, thanks to the remarkable times in which we live, in a way I finally did get to study with a master chef. By the way, we, too, are huge fans of Shun knives – though, no, neither of us can slice an onion like the pros. Thanks as always Chef for an interesting post. JD

  • Since my middle name is “klutz” (really it’s Grace and that’s an oxymoron) I have always put the avocado on a cutting board and whacked it that way. I don’t trust slinging a knife towards my hand. AND my mandoline has a finger cutting guard. It’s a cheap $10 mandoline but no chance of slicing off my fingertip. I was addicted to Yan Can Cook and the Frugal Gourmet back in the 80s. I also watched an Italian cooking show but don’t remember the name of it, but the host was female. Maybe it was Ina Garten? Anyways, great PSA for all!

  • Some of the cooking shows used to be good for techniques and inspiration but now all they seem to show are silly game shows…no knowledge to be gained. Your public service announcement is a good one. I seem to be like you with burns on my arms because I’m so short.

  • I think we’ve all done it but that’s because we are all tryers who want to be in the kitchen. My regular injury is on the outside of my forearms whilst chasing something in the oven. I’m not up to a mandoline, the cheap one I bought was a death trap!

  • I’m a bad boy! I still pick my avocados that way, and I never use a glove or the feeder apparatus when I slice on my mandoline. Luckily, I haven’t been struck down yet. However, using my CUTCO bread knife, I did manage to get seven stitches in my thumb because I wasn’t paying attention while slicing. They say football is dangerous…

  • Hahaaa my sweet, sweet friend! Well said, and “amen”! I truly believe you nailed it on the head when you said they “inspired” us and “dampened” our culinary spirits at the same time. I have learned so much, will continue to improve my “home cook” skills as well. I’m nowhere near their caliber obviously, but I’m fine with that!

  • What a crazy way to get the pit out of an avocado. You are right to warn against it. Also not good: cutting a ‘petit pan’ (single serving french bread) in half while holding it in your hand. I guess cutting yourself is part of cooking (either professionally or at home), but it helps to be sensible! Great post, Mimi.

    • What’s really challenging is trying to cook while wearing a bandaid! There will be more accidents in my future, although I get more burns than cuts, but you’re right. Be sensible!

  • Oh no! I was really lucky – the knife just drew a line of blood, but it wasn’t serious. When my son-in-law did this the knife went through his hand, so I know for sure he was stabbing at the pit. I didn’t want to give him a hard time about it because it was so painful!

  • Very good advice Mimi. I actually had advice to never have too sharp knives, as if you have contact it’ll be an instant cut. If they are slightly blunt you’ll probably not cut yourself. I see his point, but then I thought if I do have a super sharp knife, it’ll be a painless clean cut!

  • Hey Mimi – I thought you wrote a post on choosing a name for your blog, and why nowadays you might not choose Chef MImi? But I could be wrong I cannot find it here. Also funnily enough, the public service announcement title was so off-putting ( I thought it was really a public service: this blog is on hold for a bit or some such thing, that I almost didn’t click it, and then when I did I realised how fun it was. just a bit of feedback which I hope is ok. I agree that I also get frustrated when I see a proper chef chop an onion in 2 seconds flat most frustrating…

    • You are right. I think it is on my “about Mimi” page. First, I’m not a chef, it’s just always been a nickname, so I was worried that people might think I really think I’m a chef. Secondly, when I started, I didn’t know blogs were supposed to have cute names. Mine today would be Culinary Madness! I hope you’re still around!

  • Hi Mimi! Can you repost your chili recipe made with beef short ribs? I can’t seem to locate it. This PSA is great! I recently attended a cooking class presented by Sara Moulton. She has been working with the California Avocado Commission to educate people on this issue. Thank you. Carrie Shreck >

  • I really miss those shows and the early days of Food Network. Some of shows, one specifically filmed in Oklahoma, may be the most insipid thing I have ever seen….(and I only watched it twice…no more!) Anywhoo, thanks for the safety tips!!!!!!

    • You definitely should! Somehow I’ve never really gotten into cooking shows, even though there are some really good ones out there now.

  • LOL! Love this post! I always cringe when I see a chef on tv whack the 10-inch chef’s knife into the avocado, and then remove it with a quick flick the fingers. I’ve managed to whack it, but removing the stuck pit from the knife takes more time than just cutting the avocado into fourths and picking off the pit and skins with your fingers!

    • Oh, that’s too bad. I’ve seen Avec Eric, The Chef Show, and Samin Nosrat’s shows, but just maybe one episode each. They were all good, but for some reason I prefer movies if I’m going to sit down and watch something!

  • “Then there was Sandra Lee. Enough said.” LOL Loved and empathized with your comments. :)
    Despite my experience as a professional restaurant chef, I always promote the importance of home cooking. it’s not about fancy techniques or show off. Just the opposite.

    • Oh good for you. It’s important to eat as well. I wouldn’t know what to do in a chef’s kitchen, but I love being a home cook. I hope you know that chef mimi was a nickname my sister gave me years ago. I definitely never pretend to be a real chef! But I do really respect them.

      • It’s a cute nickname, which I’m sure was given because of your culinary talents.
        Restaurant kitchens are a completely different system: the volume of production, noise level (even in the smallest restaurant), the insane hours (always working when everyone is having time off) and more. Nowadays, when I only do small private events, I question my sanity for ever being part of it! But then again, I also remember how fun and energizing it was and still miss a lot of it. It’s definitely not for everyone… :)

      • It probably helped to be younger, back when you were a part of a restaurant kitchen? I can’t even believe some of the catering I did. Not the same, but definitely standing for three days at a time!

  • Chef Mimi, I LOVED your PSA! Thanks for taking the guilt — and pain — out of chopping onions as fast as Julia did in that scene from “Julie & Julia” (bearing in mind it was a MOVIE) and for promoting slicing safety. I’m especially wary of knives and sharp things in regard to my piano-playin’ fingers, but I still get the job done. :) I’ve also been known to binge watch re-runs of “Chopped” and all the good ol’ FN shows in hotel rooms until 3:00 a.m. when I have the chance. (We have limited TV signal here and I’d be a foodie show junkie if we did, lol!) Some things — like LIFE and slicing vegetables or de-pitting avocados in particular — are better at a slower pace. Your Kevlar glove sounded great, too.

    • Were you ever a concert pianist? I love the piano, but i hated lessons so much i quit in 6th grade. I can still read music, but my fingers just don’t move the same way!

    • Ooops, I hit the sent button. If you use a mandoline, definitely get the glove. It’s fun to TRY to slice your fingers. Impossible. I don’t know why I’m not attracted to food shows. I did love Nigella… what’s not to love?! Chopped was weird to me, cause if you watch top chef or master chef, the “chefs” have a tough time making a dish with normal ingredients, so I don’t get why it has to be fruit lupes, sweet potato, and black pudding….

      • Sorry to barge into the conversation, but I noticed your comment about Chopped, in which I participated back in 2012. I wanted to challenge myself and to see how it was produced. It was an interesting experience, but I could not produce the “drama” they push for. At least I ended up as the runner-up and didn’t do anything too humiliating. Though in a hindsight, I would definitely do things differently. Well, that goes for so many things in life… :)

      • Well I can’t even imagine the pressure! Which is why I’ve never been on any kind of show. Or in any contest. If someone asks me what kind of food I like to prepare I go totally blank. Like all of a sudden having to take an important test! Runner up is good! That’s impressive to me!

      • I’m not into competitions either, and I wouldn’t even try for anything that is more than one episode. But I’m used to working under pressure, so wanted to see if I’m up to the challenge. On the whole, it was an interesting experience, and I’m glad I at least made it to the last round! :)

  • TV is nothing like real life. I have been filmed professionally and I never want to repeat that again! I do the avo trick of slashing the knife into the pip – thankfully I have never had the knife slip – but I shall be more aware in future. Love the mandolin tip – they can be quite scary. I firmly believe that knives need to be sharp as blunt knives cause more cuts from slippage than sharp ones do.

    • That’s actually a fact – I think with blunt knives it’s also about pushing harder to cut something. I was featured on a local tv show for a while. It was awful. I was awful. I will always stay behind the camera!

  • I’ve seen these gloves but I haven’t invested in one yet, will give it some thought. I generally place the avocado half on the counter and slam my knife into it, works like a charm without the drama.
    I loved those early cooking shows, they were real and you had the feeling you really got to know the chefs.

    • The glove is incredible, and they can be washed. I’ve had mine now for years. And I love not being scared of my mandoline any more!

    • It’s soft and very comfortable, but you can’t slice through it! Get one! It’s nice to use my mandoline once again!!!

  • I use one of those gloves whenever I get the mandolin out, too! Those things are crazy. Excellent reminder that sometimes what we see on tv isn’t the same as real life. Also, I totally laughed out loud at your summary of Sandra Lee. I couldn’t agree more!!

    • Yeah, I thought she was a bit over the top. Once she had Bobby Flay on as a guest and she flirted with him mercifully and it was so embarrassing. I thought we would start licking him. Glad you have the glove. I love it so much I get excited to use the mandoline!

  • I had a new, very sharp bread knife slip into my thumb and forefinger when I was cutting bread for a starter – I had guests waiting at the dinner table, and they insisted we all go to the hospital together… I was going to throw away the new bread knife but someone said I mustn’t be afraid of it. So I ended up in hospital a second time a year later; this time the knife had to go. Friends were joking they’d give me an oyster glove but your kevlar glove is a great idea!

    I also have a lot of respect for those mandolines and always use the spiky attachment that spears the veg and saves your fingers.

    Love the new website layout!

    • Thank you. I don’t love it, but I had to change it after someone told me my old theme didn’t allow proper viewing on iPhones. I guess it only worked on computers. Those spiky attachments have never worked for me – they always slip. This glove works wonders. Very soft, washable, and you can’t slice it if you tried!

    • I forgot to comment on how awful that must have been to get cut that severely. Twice! Sheesh, I would have buried that knife!

  • Like the new look of your blog. And we use those kevlar gloves! Particularly when using the mandoline — those things scare me. After Julia Child, the best TV cook I’ve seen is Jacques Pepin — he really knows his stuff, and explain it so well. The rest? Meh — I went through a period when I did watch them, but not these days.

    • I loved when Jacques and Julia cooked together. I know there are good shows now, but I just have never been much of a “watcher” of tv. the only reason I knew about Sandra Lee is that for a period of time I had a trainer, and while she’d force me to walk/run on the treadmill, I’d watch cooking shows for my only entertainment. I also watched Mario Batali and he seemed to be the really passionate and more knowledgeable one of all. I guess he’s disappeared!

  • Nice piece of writing, Chef. I shared this with Barbra hoping your experience & words of wisdom might settle an ongoing debate we have been having these past many years… Alas, she’s still not convinced. However, I draw the line when she grabs one of our Shun knives to perform this daredevil act! For my own part, I’ve never had any problem simply applying a spoon to the seed. Happy cooking!

    • Thank you! I actually published it after my son-in-law had to go get stitches after an avocado accident. But it’s worth sharing. The glove is wonderful! As far as avocados go, I have enough accidents without trying to stab myself!!!

  • Great pubic service announcement Mimi. I used to speed slice and chop, but after taking the tip of my finger off and having to have surgery I slowed way down. Your point on the avocado is so valid and not just with home cooks. My son is in the restaurant business and he’d be the first to tell you that in his area the number one kitchen accident is removing the pit from an avocado. Second one is injuries that occur from shucking oysters. As for the glove they are a wonderful safety item for any kitchen.

    • Thank you! I wrote this back when my son-in-law had to go get stitches after his last avocado incident. Hopefully the last. I have never been able to speed chop – although I have to say it’s impressive to watch! I’ve always said that I don’t allow anyone in my house who’s going to measure the size of my mirepoix…I’m just not a perfectionist in that area. I’ve never shucked an oyster but it does indeed look scary. Glad you have the glove as well. Such a lifesaver.

    • Oh thanks! Eva Taylor (damn her!) informed me that my theme format doesn’t work on iPhones, and indeed, I discovered that the older ones didn’t function to format to different devices. It’s been a harrowing 5 days now, but I’m getting there! I miss having a colorful background, which isn’t an option, cause I always do the snowflakes in December!

  • I think we all have a knife or a burn war story! I didn’t grow up eating fresh avocados so I never taught to use a knife to pull the pit out. whew. But I do have plenty of other silly ways I have cut myself. LOL

  • It is amazing how dangerous knives can be. I was once chopping away at some carrots, and chopped of a slice of my thumb! It turned out to be OK, but man did it bleed. You know what, though? I do take pits out of avocados exactly as you describe, and I eat a lot of avocados! Maybe I should rethink that.

  • I still do my avocados that way and (fingers crossed) have never slipped. It doesn’t mean that I haven’t done stupid things, though. Like using a super sharp serrated bread knife to slice a homemade boule. I was too lazy to get a cutting board yet was trying not to mar the counter. I put the bread on end… and 8 stitches later, I still have a working thumb. (The smarmy little jerk at the Urgent Care said to me as I was leaving, “You DO know they make pre-sliced bread, don’t you?”) I love the kevlar glove trick, because i have taken off a fingertip or two (I can’t stand the guard that comes with the mandoline…) Thanks for the PSA. Oh, and a special thanks for: “Then there was Sandra Lee. Enough said.”

    Oh, dear – as this all seemed familiar, I just looked and see that I said almost the same thing four years ago (at least I am consistent!) … but I am going to leave my comment here because I didn’t mention the smarmy kid at the Urgent Care. That was the highlight of the story!

    • Definitely smarmy! Yes, I wrote this post back when my son-in-law had to go get stitches. There was a really good and well-liked blogger named Richard, from REM Cooks, who told me about the glove. I really enjoy using it, and have never been able to cope with the pronged metal thingys that you’re supposed to use with the mandoline. By the way, I dreamt the other night that you and your husband visited us! Well, if you’re ever driving through Oklahoma….. (people’s eyes usually roll into the backs of their heads when I say that) but you’re always welcome!

      • That is so sweet. Who knows — I have fun memories of my visits to Oklahoma. Maybe we will get there! (I spent 2 days in Bartlesville and 2 days in Tulsa – I was on a tour with the Youth Symphony of the United States! Bartlesville was our first stop on the tour after 3 weeks rehearsing in Houston. And, I ordered the glove. Nearly took my fingers yesterday slicing apples.

      • Sheesh. It’s interesting that at your advanced age (but younger than I) that you had to learn this the hard way! You will LOVE the glove.

  • The kevlar glove is so smart for the mandoline. And I’m with you. I was working on my knife skills once and cut off the tip of my finger and couldn’t do anything for about 10 days. Yeah, I realized I was good with being totally pokey in the kitchen! Glad the avocado mishap wasn’t worse!

    • I’ve never had a major knife mishap, but even little cuts are such a pain in the ass, cause it’s impossible to cook with bandaids on hour fingers! The avocado thing happened to my son in law years ago, which is why I wrote the post. So many of you have lost tips of fingers. Yikes!!!

  • I greatly appreciate your endorsement of the Kevlar glove. I have one and use it every time I use my small mandolin. I had one very minor incident and that was enough to convince me to be cautious.

    And I agree on the competition/showmanship aspect. It really doesn’t matter how you accomplish the tasks so much as that you enjoy the process and the final result.

    • Oh thanks! Someone told me that they couldn’t see my blog on their iphone, so I needed to update the theme. I’m still working on it, as all of the formatting didn’t transfer. Good thing to do during a pandemic.

    • I have stripes of burns. The guy who put in my stove thought it would look better a little higher. He’s 6’4” I use a step stool.

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