While I was peeling the apples, I flashed back to a memory from thirty years ago. I was at Girl Scout camp and I had been assigned to cooking duty. I was asked to prepare the salad. The scout leader handed me a bowl full of lettuce and assorted vegetables, a cutting board and a knife and told me to get started. I washed everything, tore the lettuce into a big bowl, cut up the tomatoes and then started to peel a cucumber.
"What are you doing? Are you trying to cut yourself?" she shrieked at me. "Who on earth taught you to peel vegetables?"
"My mom," I answered, sheepishly.
"Well, it's wrong. Hand it to me. I'll do it." She said, while my troop mates looked on uncomfortably. "You can go set the tables."
I was about twelve years old when this exchange took place, but I was not new to cooking. My mom had been letting me cook, with supervision, for two or three years by then. I had peeled more than a few vegetables and I had done it the way my mom showed me, by using a paring knife held perpendicular to the vegetable and pulling it toward my thumb. It was the she did it and the way both of my grandmothers did it. I was pretty good at it and had never cut myself.
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Maybe it wasn't as much about what she said as the way she said it. After all, when she asked who had taught me to peel vegetables, what did she think I was going to say? Had I been a little older at the time, I don't think it would have bothered me, much. I never liked her or enjoyed Girl Scouts after that.
It's probably silly that I remember that after all these years, but it really made an impact. Words are powerful, and if you're not careful, you can cut someone, even if it is unintentional.
How about you? Have you ever had a similar experience that stuck with you?