The average kitchen is full of potentially lethal sharp objects, including knives, graters, peelers, skewers, and jagged-edged boxes of plastic wrap. But the scariest implement in my mother’s kitchen was the carrot cutter.
This thing had a six-inch rippled blade, with a handle above it so the user could press down and whack carrots and other crisp veggies into attractive wavy-edged slices or sticks. Much like a guillotine, actually. Madame Defarge probably had one in her kitchen.
I don’t think my mother had hers when I was a child, but when I was a young adult it struck terror into my heart. Partly because my mother used it to cut carrots into halves and quarters—the long way. Which involved holding the round carrot with one hand so it wouldn’t roll out from under the blade she was wielding with her other hand.
Seeing her do this was bad enough. But even worse, my mother would allow my children—my small, precious children, with their dainty and vulnerable fingers—to use this dangerous object. I couldn’t bear to watch. Sometimes I would have to leave the kitchen, or at least turn my back and stir the gravy.
When my parents downsized, a cautious person might have seen clearing out the kitchen as a perfect opportunity to quietly get rid of the carrot cutter. Oh, no. It was passed on—to my daughter. By then she had two small children of her own.
Children who spend time at my house. Where one of them, at age four, rummaging in my silverware drawer, discovered the grapefruit spoons.
I have four of these spoons, obtained by chance through a household merger and hardly ever used. On the rare occasions when I buy grapefruit, I cut around the segments with a paring knife, because that’s the way my mother always did it. Besides, the grapefruit spoons have pointy tips and serrated edges. I’m not getting near my mouth with anything that sharp.
But the grandkid who found them wanted to know what they were. Rising above my first instinct to grab the one he held out of his grubby little fingers, I explained the function and purpose of a grapefruit spoon.
At that point in his young life, I don’t think he had ever eaten a grapefruit. But he did eat grapes. He knew grapes were fruit. Clearly, then, in his bright and logical mind, a grapefruit spoon was meant for eating grapes.
Or at least for cutting grapes in half. Which involved holding the round, slippery grape in place on his plate with one hand while using the other hand to chop at it with the sharp edge of the spoon.
Why, you may ask, didn’t I take it away from him? Good question. Maybe I was channeling my mother and her carrot cutter. Maybe I simply wasn’t brave enough to confront a determined, focused four-year-old armed with cuteness and a sharp object.
This child is now five. His motor skills and technique have improved with time and practice. The other day, at my house for lunch, he spotted grapes on his plate and promptly went to rummage in the silverware drawer for a “sawheaded spoon.” Instead of hacking grapes in two with the sharp pointy spoon, he now uses it to stab them and convey them to his mouth.
I haven’t abandoned all grandmotherly common sense, though. I did remind him to be careful. “Keep the grapes on your plate when you stab them,” I said. “That sharp spoon might scratch the table.”
My mother would be proud.