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  • Columns | "A Balloon In Cactus"

    Cooking With Scissors

    by Maggie Van Ostrand
    Maggie Van Ostrand

    These are not your mother's days of shiny can openers and good looking utensils. Instead, as a defense against the frustrating packaging from the supermarket, what do I take every time I go into the kitchen? A toolbelt, that's what. And that includes the most important household implement: Scissors. I can no longer open food packages without them. Some days, a flamethrower would also come in handy. Or a visit from Edward Scissorhands would be effective.

    What is the stretchy material that meat comes wrapped in anyway, some kind of terrorist revenge for knocking off bin Laden? The plastic covering doesn't tear like it used to, happily surrendering the contents for your meal. These days, it's so pliable that when you push hard on it with your finger, it just stretches indefinitely. You could use the size it stretches to as a car cover. That's just the soft stuff. What about the stiff stuff?

    Try opening a new package of batteries for your handheld mixer. Sure, you can fool with it till your hand explodes, but you'll never get the box open without a pair of scissors and, even with a pair, shards of the hard plastic covering will slash your fingers till they bleed like a victim's neck after Dracula's hoovered it. They can call this "childproofing" if they want to, but it's a lot easier on the grownups if they just put iron mittens on their kids.

    Without a pair of scissors, how could anyone open a package of cheese? Sure the label says "tear here" but you can try to tear it for ten minutes without getting anywhere. Old standbys like using your teeth to yank it open don't work either, not on this kind of packaging, not even if the manufacturers have thoughtfully added a nick in it to indicate the precise spot that's tearable. Time to reach for the pliers, one pair to hold the package and another pair to drag the top part till the veins on your forehead stand out like Mitt Romney at a Dog Lovers Convention.

    The way to tell if your chicken is done cooking is no longer squeezing it for tenderness, just make a cut in the fattest part with your trusty scissors and take a gander. If your recipe calls for parsley, no need to get out the cutting board and a sharp knife. Just hold a bunch over the pot and clip clip clip till the amount called for falls into the pot. Same with any vegetable that's easily sliceable, like stringbeans, cubing chunks of potato (not to mention the cooperative parsnip), mincing garlic, or dicing sliced onions right over the pan. Quick. Easy. And there's no cleaning up your cutting board.

    Screwdrivers are the only way to pry open stiff plastic produce lids, even when the manufacturer supplies a special strip you're supposed to pull on to successfully open the box. If the thin strip accidentally hurls itself off your hand and into the soup, just tell guests it's a thick celery string.

    Another conquered irritation is when I can't read that tiny print that tells you what you can die of if you eat the contents of the package. That list is so long, it'd be simpler just to eat the packaging itself and get it over with. Of course, we all know that the government doesn't tell us what's really inside. We must use our common sense. If your tomatoes are the same size as a pumpkin; they're probably shot up with a bunch of steroids left in the locker room by a famous athlete. Ever wonder why some produce is still fresh after a week or two in the refrigerator? Try peeling back the top layer with the side of your scissor and you may well get a skin of plastic coating. How did you think they make the veggies last so long? If the public knew the means by which a long shelf life is achieved, we'd probably get ourselves a patch of dirt somewhere and grow our own stuff.

    Hammers do the same job as a trash compactor and you can smash a recyclable can even flatter by imagining it's a member of congress.

    Don't forget that the Second Amendment gives us the right to bear arms, and nowhere do we require more armament than in our own kitchens.

    ©
    Maggie Van Ostrand, February 20, 2012 column
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