The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

A Bad Day In The Test Kitchen or Where's The Band Aid?

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hanseata's picture
hanseata

A Bad Day In The Test Kitchen or Where's The Band Aid?

There are happy testing days and there are less happy ones. This was definitely one of the latter! I decided to use the mandolin my husband bought a while ago. I never trusted that thing and usually take the box grater. But having to grate a lot of potatoes I didn't listen to my better instincts, put the mandolin together and started with the first potato. When the potato was two thirds grated the tool to hold it wouldn't let me chop off any more. I didn't want to end up with one third of the potatoes ungrated - and the other two thirds not enough for the recipe.


So I took the potato in my hand and - nearly chopped off the tip of my finger. Hands, as most valuable human tools, are well supplied with blood, and my index finger was living proof of it. I yelled for my husband and sucked my poor finger to keep it from dripping all over the place while he was looking for the Band-Aid (fortunately we have an emergency supply in a kitchen drawer).


When I was bandaged, my husband took over with some friendly comments about clumsy people who don't know how to work with something as simple as a mandolin. OUCH - there was another victim of the nasty thing, this time with a neatly delivered double cut. Our kitchen sink looked like a butcher's bowl when I finished wrapping Band-Aids around my husband's thumb.


Mixing the potato shreds that had nearly cost the lives of two innocent people with the other ingredients I started wondering whether there was something wrong with the recipe. How should a mixture rise with so little flour and so much vegetable mass in it? And, of course, it didn't. It sat there, in its baking pan, and did nothing but slowly oozing more onion and potato juice, so that it got wetter and wetter.


With deep misgivings I put it into the oven (what good is steaming something so wet, anyway?). It came out looking just like a gratin, nice, crisp and brown on top. But the mass under the crust was a disappointment, cooked potatoes without any special taste but a lot of salt.


The sacrifice of two healthy fingertips on the altar of culinary experiment had been in vain....


 


 

Comments

Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A

Hi Karin,


Ouch!! Sorry to hear about your twin accidents.


Don't get me started on mandolins! There is a David Bowie cover song where he sings, 'I hear the sound of mandolins'. Well the sound of mandolins in our kitchen is 'cut, cut, cut, AARGH!!'. Or at least it is when my accident-prone husband, who has sworn he is perfectly good to go with the thing, cuts slices off the tips of two fingers. Mercifully his family has spectactularly quick-healing skin and the mandolin gives a good, clean cut. However I subsequently hid the mandolin at the back of the cupboard and it was there for a good couple of years!


I really only use the mandolin for gratins and dauphinoise potatoes. Just this last couple of weeks I have had a breakthrough on the mandolin replacement front, having bought a Kuhn Rikon tomato knife. The blade is only 10cm. long so it will not cut large vegetables. However it is incredibly sharp and precise. When preparing beetroot, smaller potatoes and kohl rabi for a root veg. gratin I found I could slice as thinly as I could with the mandolin while keeping my fingers in a safer claw or bridge hold.


One of the problems with our mandolin I think, which was adequate but not top of the range, was that the safety protector was laughable, so that the longer you sliced the closer your fingers came to the mechanism. Oh, can't bear to think about it....Only this last week my husband grazed his finger on the new Victorinox bread knife despite being aware of its sharpness. Shall hide the mandolin again I think...


Hope you both recover soon!  Kind regards, Daisy_A

SylviaH's picture
SylviaH

Your lucky no finger tips were removed.  It can be very scary how fast they cut.  I can just imagine how you felt.   A few years ago I nearly removed the tip of my finger.  Now I always use a little holder that shoves into the fruit or veggie for protection.  I went to the doctor anyway to make sure I didn't need a  stitch or two as the tiny tip of my finger was just holding on by such a small piece...all turned out fine and no stitches no scar...but the doctor did give me a tetanus shot..I think he thought better safe than sorry.  Speedy recovery and stay safe.


Oh,yes my SILaw keeps his knives sharper than razor blades.  I nearly found out the hard way.  I have never seen knives so sharp... I didn't know you could get a knife that shape.  My knives are so dull...I think I like them that way!


Sylvia


 

ejm's picture
ejm

Augh!!! That's horrible, Hanseata, to add the insult of dull potatoes to the injuries!! My fingers are cringing in sympathy.


Unlike you, Sylvia, I prefer the knives to be razor sharp. Last summer, on holiday, I was trying to cut hard cheese with a very dull (allegedly sharp) knife in the house we were staying in. Result: a LOT of cursing, a desperate attempt to bandage, a makeshift sling to keep the hand raised and then a trip to emergency. 5 stitches later and my left thumb was virtually unusable for about a month. I now NEVER use anything but sharp knives (very very carefully).


As for our mandolin, it scares the pants off me. I use it only for slicing pears to be dried in the oven. It takes me ages. (Why on earth is the mandolin guard so tiny?)


-Elizabeth

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

which I tagged with a warning.  It is so very very sharp. 


Time for a kitchen machine to shread stuff.   I have a girlfriend who splits pieces of wood to get her wood fires started.  One day she slipped with the axe and you guessed it, cut her left hand, badly.  Her BIL decided to demonstrate the proper technique and also slipped and another trip to the emergency room, same injury, almost identical, same doctor.  The bazzare thing is that he brought her first to the hosp. and then the next day, she brought him.   


I bought her a Nomex/Kevlar glove.  I recommend you get one if you don't use the guard.  Use the mandoline with the guard and set the end pieces to the side.  When done with the pile of veggies, cut the ends smaller with a knife.  I have a small food processor that takes care of the slicing/grating when I need more than two portions. I still have to cut up the little end pieces, but easier than cutting up everything by hand.


Kartoffel Puffer?  Take the grated potatoes and soak them in some cold water, remove from the water and press out to remove as much as possible.  Let the water stand and pour off the water slowly to save the starch at the bottom of the bowl.  There is something about removing it and then adding it to the liquids that fluff up the potatoes.  Grate a good sized block of cheese and crush some garlic, salt pepper and a few eggs and then make individual pancakes or one large one.  Brown well. 


Mini

hanseata's picture
hanseata

Those freak accidents are the reason we have a supply of Band-Aids in our kitchen drawer! My husband has a fully set up frame shop in the basement and the glass and mat cutter are very sharp - as are the glass edges.


I'm famous for trying to cut hard old bread butts with a knife (a very sharp one). A little distraction, a hasty movement, and the inevitable happens - again. (Who said you learn from your mistakes, by the way?)


The potato grating action was for one of the NYBakers test recipes. But, alas, I have to say that regular Kartoffelpuffer, like you said, Mini, are way better.


Karin


 


 

bnom's picture
bnom

I just walked into the kitchen where the lid of my weekly CSA produce container was lying on the floor. It might as well have been a skateboard. Wham!! I went down hard (harder than I would have before I started test baking for the NYBakers cookbook).


But back to the fingers...so sorry about the bloodbath!  I remember carving Thanksgiving turkey with an exceptionally sharp knife and I kept slicing my fingers and hollering while the poor folks in the dining room were turned a pale shade of green...

amauer's picture
amauer

for Christmas one year and I actually ran my finger along the blade after he had told me "Be careful, it's very sharp!" I had a minor neat slice, but we also decided I should never have a mandolin either, as I am very klutzy. I noticed this is especially with knives I am not well familiar and then I tend to slip and cut.


This reminds me of a story told by a Minneapolis Newsman Don Shelby. His mother was a horrible cook and the only thing he and his brothers liked was her cole slaw. One day they came  home and found a bowl of coleslaw in the kitchen and happily ate it. The their Mom arrived home with her hand bandaged. Turns out she had cut the tip of her finger off making the cole slaw. They asked her where her finger was and she said, "I don't know, I never did find it."

holds99's picture
holds99

Karin,


Sorry to hear about your unfall.  Hope it heals quickly.  I have it from a reliable source that the original mandolin was simply a modified version of the guillotine, designed by the Marquis de Sade during his lengthy stay at the Charenton asylum.  Rumor has it that the Marquis lost most of the fingers on his right hand (along with those of his cell mate) during frantic, final testing of Model No. 1.


I also have one and it hasn't seen the light of day since I stored it in the kitchen cabinet after a similar mishap a half dozen years ago.


Hang in there,


Howard

hanseata's picture
hanseata

I always wondered who designed this devilish instrument! That explains everything! Thanks for bringing this obviously little known fact to light, Howard.


Karin

hanseata's picture
hanseata

When I worked in the surgical department on weekends, we could always predict the kinds of little accidents we would have to deal with. On sunny days people came with insect bites, sun strokes and barbecues burns. On rainy weekends they came with cuts from wielding kitchen knives, scissors, home improvement tools or broken bones from falling off ladders.


Homes and especially kitchens are dangerous environments...


Karin

Ruralidle's picture
Ruralidle

Sorry to hear about the accidents with mandolines.  I have one and am VERY careful when I use it - generally for dauphinoise or apples/pears.  I recently diversified from baking bread to include making my own bacon, ham and smoked fish to top the bread with.  I found it difficult to hand slice the bacon to the thickness I wanted so I took advice from a forum to buy a Graef slicer.


 


The Graef Master 188 I bought is a great machine, it slices bacon quite well and the other day I tried it with my first dry-cured hams.  There were 7 of us in the kitchen and as I worked my way through a piece of ham I started using the guard to press the ham against the blade.  There were 7 of us in the kitchen preparing our ham and cheese lunch - with various types of bread that I had made - when I was distracted by someone behind me.  Well, I'm sure you can guess the rest - I got a piece of my index finger with the ham!  Not quite like a scene from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre - but there was more than enough of my blood in the kitchen sink!  The good news is that the ham was worth it and we all enjoyed the lunch.  The problem is that my usual 2-finger typing is reduced to 1-finger typing at the moment!

hanseata's picture
hanseata

My right index finger is bandaged to prevent a split nail from snagging everywhere, and my husband cannot play his guitar for a while...


But great to be able to cure your own ham! I'm missing the smoked Katenschinken (Kate = smoke house) from Germany that has a wonderful taste but is not salty (if it's good quality).


Karin

Ruralidle's picture
Ruralidle

Hi Karen


The friends that were with us at the time of the slicer accident (the couple who had raised the pig that I had turned into ham) joked that it was a goodjob that I had adjusted the slicing thickness to wafer thin just before a sliced my finger!


 


The forum that I use for information on curing and sausage making have had some topics that have included discussions about schinken.  Ham and bacon curing is not too difficult so I will include some links, if you are interested, in another post.

hanseata's picture
hanseata

I always intended to make Nuernberger or Thueringer Wuerstchen myself, but even though I had a cookbook written by a German butcher "for housewives" I never got to do it. Ham would be probably out of my league - and we are only two people - but it would be nice if you could post the link to that forum you mentioned.


Thanks, Karin

holds99's picture
holds99

If case you aren't aware of the book, there's a great book by Rytek Kutas: "Great Sausage Recipes and Meat Curing" which covers nearly every aspect of meat curing and sausage making (503 pages).  It has a huge number of recipes for nearly every kind of sausage imaginable.  I purchased my copy about 15 years ago and periodically make bratwurst (about as close to Nurnburg bratwurst as you'll get outside Nurnberg) and Italian sausage, from this book.  Both recipes are outstanding. 


Incidentally, sausage making seems to be a diminishing art in Germany these days.  I read an article in the Smithsonian magazine recently about the plight of German butchers.  Seems that the number of German butchers is shrinking fast.


Re: Kutas book.  Craig Claiborne, who used to be the food editor for the N.Y Times and cookbook author says: "It is one of the most definitive manuals on sausage-making in the English language."


Anyway, just thought I would pass this information on.


Howard 

hanseata's picture
hanseata

I will check that out.


Karin

EvaB's picture
EvaB

devils, one quite literally small but it has the best holder for the veggies, and that was bought at a trade fair, one of those ubiquitous salesmen with the piles of nicely cut veggies, however it does work well, it is sharp but the little hat works fine to hold the things being cut and keep your fingers out of the way.


The other is a large wooden slab with the knife embedded and a square of wood for the holder, it is intended to slice cabbage for sourkraut, and has never been used. It may never get used and then again it might be used later this fall. This is not a job a food processor would do well. Even a small crock of sourkraut takes a lot of sliced cabbage and the food processor would die before it was done.


The only thing is don't use sharp items without knowing what in the hell they do (CUT) and don't try to use them if something else is distracting you.


The absolute worst cut I ever got was from a dull knife, they work much better sharp, and you are less likely to have the slip from the object being cut and slice yourself.


And like a previous poster, my nephew managed to chop his hand very badly with an ax doing kindling for a fire! And this boy bought every knife he ever saw (got a real bargain this one was only $40, for a knife I could get elsewhere for 20) and had learned to sharpen them. But had absolutely no sense on cutting safely!


Sorry about the fingers, and yes the kitchen is a bad spot for cuts and falls. I have 4 knife blocks with knives in my kitchen, and two with paring knives and steak knives, but am most careful of them all. Been there and done that with the bandaids. I tend to burn myself more but have cut myself too!


The sacrifices we make to feed people and ourselves are many and varied, and a lot of the time painful!

hanseata's picture
hanseata

You nearly bleed to death slaving to provide for your starving family - and what do you get? Compassion? Understanding? All you get are sly remarks about certain incurable klutzes - and the famous David Sedaris quote: "If you're looking for sympathy, you'll find it between "shit" and "syphilis" in the dictionary"...


Just kidding, of course,


Karin