Sunday, March 6, 2011

Cutting Words

My husband and I were watching a cooking show the other day and one of the dishes the chef prepared was oatmeal layered with sauteed apples.  It looked good and since I have some apples that are starting to get a little soft, I thought I would make it for Sunday brunch.

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.

Courtesy of Google Images
I was upset about it, at the time.  The scout leader managed to make me feel stupid, embarrassed and insulted with her comment.  Most of all, I felt like she was insulting my mother by suggesting that she was incompetent and had taught me something dangerous.  I hadn't been enjoying camp much up to that point, but after that I was downright miserable.  I couldn't wait to go home.

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?



Tins and Treasures said...

Good Morning,
Oh, yes, I'm sure we all can recall a time when someone in authority responded like this. Your leader should have been more thoughtful...

I am glad she stopped you. I had a friend who was preparing cucumbers this way and cut way into the pad of her thumb...had to go to the emergency room. I wonder if that batch of pickles was ever finished?!

We are getting more snow. I hope you are safe and warm. Enjoy the rest of the weekend. ~Natalie

5thsister said...

There were too many times to remember. Let's suffice it to say that I never lived up to the ideals of "perfection" set forth by the people whose love and acceptance were most important to me growing up.

Jenn Erickson said...

Sounds like that scout leader was lacking some basic communication skills. You're right, it was the way it was said; If she was concerned about safety, which any adult supervising children in the kitchen should be, she could have simply acted like a proper scout leader and used the opportunity to say, "Here, let me show you the 'Girl Scout' way to cut vegetables." She could have made the experience a positive one.

Up until a few years ago, when celebrity chef shows became all the rage, I'm pretty sure that most Americans learned their knife skills from their parents -- passed down from generation to generation. Even still, I'd bet that the technique that you learned as a child is still the way that a majority of people peel veggies.

Secretly, that scout leader was probably jealous that you were an adept kitchen knife wielder, and wanted to knock you down a peg.

Purple Flowers said...

Your scout leader should have had more patience and been alot nice to you,even if she disagreed with the way you were originally taught. She was out of place in how she handled the situation.

I had a bad experience with a Lifeguard swim lessons when I was about seven years old. I never forgot that time, and to this day, I panic if someone attempts to push my head underwater as in kidding around. She impatience for my timidness somewhat scarred me for underwater swimming.

Purple Flowers said...

Excuse my poor grammar. I didn't re-read it before pressing the "publish" button.

Matty said...

Unfortunately, I've been on both ends. I have said something with the intention of making a compliment, only to have it come out the wrong way and hurting feelings. Dang. And yes, I've been hurt by how others spoke to me. Many times.

Raoulysgirl said...

Unfortunately, I must ditto Polly. I'm trying to learn to change that now, though. :D

lisleman said...

I've been chewed out by a drill sergeant in boot camp. It was not pleasant.
I can understand the cutting away versus toward you problem. That doesn't justify the harsh treatment. I still have a scare on a finger I sliced really bad as a kid. I was modifying a plastic toy with a knife - dumb.
Hey how did the recipe turn out?

Liz in Virginia said...

It happened to me enough as a kid that as a parent it's my biggest fear.

I bought this postcard once that says, "You never know when you are making a memory." I think it was supposed to be very uplifting, reminding us that we don't need to create "big" moments for our kids to remember -- that the fun "little" moments are just as special. Well. Yeah. But that phrase scares the crap out of me -- I always wonder which offhanded comment I have made will be my kids' "Oprah moment" -- the hurtful thing that will scar them forever. Aagh!

Holly said...

All too familiar...I have always felt like there is someone right there telling me how to do it "better." Trying to realize I need to tell them all to go blow steam somewhere else.

Jenny said...

I peel small things toward my thumb but larger things away.

Shame on that scout leader, though. I had a mean one, too, once. I bit her when we were playing a game in the dark.

OK, yeah. I'm kinda/sorta ashamed of it, but really ... I was just a little kid...and she totally deserved it.