Thursday, July 26, 2007


10 years ago, on the second day of work at one of my first restaurant jobs ever, I cut my finger. I was hired as a prep cook, pretty much the bottom of the food chain, and I had minimal experience. I was 23 years old and I wanted to be a chef and I had to start somewhere. So there I was, chopping potatoes for the clam chowder…with a long serrated knife.
(not the optimal tool for this job)

I was nervous that day, walking into the kitchen, the only female in a sea of testosterone, tattoos and death metal. My immediate superior was a guy named Adam, who I learned that day, was into S&M and Satan.

Did I mention that I was nervous? I really wanted to show these seasoned pros that I could chop and dice as quick as the rest of ‘em, so I was trying my hardest to go go go. Then, it slipped. My knife. Across the flesh of my left thumb. My first thought, besides, ‘shit’…was, ‘can I let this go undetected, slip away to the first aid kit and reappear as if nothing happened?’ It was too late. I think my gasp and my quick instinct to run to the hand sink gave me away, not to mention the blood on my cutting board.

When I found the courage to take the pressure off my thumb and look at it, I was shocked at what I saw. A deep cut, really deep, queasy-deep. A crowd of cooks slowly surrounded me and confirmed my findings..yeah, it was deep.
4 stitches later and bound up with gauze, I returned to work. Instantly, on my second day of work where just that morning, I had been essentially anonymous, I was now a celebrity in that kitchen, the butt of all ‘rubber knife’ jokes.

Yesterday, I found myself initiated once again. Even though I have been with my current job for a few years, the most suffering I encounter on a weekly basis is a burn here, a burn there. I rarely cut myself. I will admit that I am not the best when it comes to sharpening my knives, so I am used to the slightly dull feel of them, day after day. Yesterday, I decided that it was time though, to sharpen my knives..and so I did. All day I was pretty impressed with my honing job, pretty impressed that I could actually get my knife THAT sharp. Wow.

It is funny because I was pretty much finished for the day, and I realized that I still needed to steep some cream overnight with fresh ginger. It was kind of an afterthought, so I quickly grabbed my knife and started chopping. It happened so fast. So clean. So sharp. As I had done 10 years earlier, I headed briskly towards the hand sink, thought ‘shit,’ and wondered whether I could be nonchalant about the whole thing. I looked at my finger, and again was shocked at what I saw…or, what I didn’t see…what came out of my mouth next was a bit surreal. I asked my coworker to look on my cutting board to see if my fingertip was still sitting where I left it. Her scream followed by ‘eww!, eww!, eww!’ was all I needed to know. I would be heading to the hospital that afternoon.

Before yesterday, I hadn’t heard the many battle stories of those before me, who had severed their fingertips. But, today, when I headed into work, thick gauze bandage and all, my co workers came out of the woodwork showing me their ‘amputation’ scars, proudly telling me how they too, had cut off their finger tips once, even twice. I feel as if I have been initiated once again. 10 years ago, I was welcomed into the kitchen with stitches, and now, 10 years later and a little more seasoned, perhaps I have reached a new level?
Or, perhaps I have just another good war story to tell..

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