Janeen took me on a fabulous surprise outing on Wednesday night. Devo had asked me, per her request, if I would be okay leaving my family for four hours or so on a Wednesday night. And then on Wednesday afternoon, she called and told me that we were going to Newport Beach, and to dress nicely in something that might get “mussed”. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard the word “mussed” outside of a book.
On the way there, Aimee called to announce that SHE’S PREGNANT!!!! A good evening just got better. (Congratulations, Aimee!!!)
And then Janeen told me where we were going. We were going to Sur la Table to a Knife Skills class. I think I did a little happy dance in my seat. Only a truly good friend knows these secret yearnings of the heart.
We immediately dubbed ourselves “Audrey” and “Sabrina”.
We walked in a little late, obviously the hicks from beyond Orange County’s superior environs, and stationed ourselves in front of our piles of potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, and onions. With a knife. A very sharp knife.
The teacher/chef referred to his knives as “guys”. He even had a big tool box to carry them around in. With a skull and crossbones which didn’t match his prim and proper, quick chopping self. He also referred to the fruits and vegetables as “guys”. Obviously cooking does not have feminine overtones for him.
First important lesson: the honer. I got home and couldn’t remember if it was a toner, a boner, or a honer. You are supposed to use it before and after every time you use a knife. It magnetically straightens out the edge of the blade. The rotund type-A man to my right really liked his honer. Swish-swish, swish-swish. He was kind of freaking me out with his Jackie Chan moves.
Second important lesson: While keeping your non-knife hand’s fingers curled, you can use your knuckles as a guide for the blade. Here’s the kicker: tuck your thumb under and use it to push the food towards the knife. Brilliant.
Third important lesson: How to concasee a tomato. That would be peel-seed-chop. For peeling, buy a serrated peeler. It works. I bought one. I know. Now, to seed a tomato (I thought this was pretty smart)–cut it from side to side (not through the stem), squeeze and shake over a trash can and voila! No more seeds. That will come in handy this summer when turning the tomatoes from my 12 tomato plants into spaghetti sauce.
Fourth important lesson: When chopping a round vegetable such as a potato or a carrot, first cut off a little on each side so that it lays flat. No more rolling vegetables and sliced fingers!
Fifth important lesson: Onions. Peel an onion by cutting it in half from stem to root and then peeling each half. I would tell you my new favorite way to dice onions, but I lack the words, the logic. It escapes me. I apologize.
So we chopped and diced, supremed and julienned, minced and chiffonaded. And watched Flirty Girl in front of us to the left flirt with the teacher. And admired the perfect and fastidious piles of vegetables of Type-A-Jackie. (Swish, swish). And tried not to whisper and laugh too much.
We then spent a very happy half hour roaming around Sur la Table. I picked up the serrated peeler, a mortar and pestle, and wanted desperately…needed desperately…the heart-shaped pancake griddle. I resisted that particular temptation. Barely.
Janeen, I mean Audrey, found…get this…disposable crock-pot liners. Do you remember what I was saying about the insidious nature of disposable items? I stand affirmed.
We then headed back home, where our respective un-fed infants awaited us anxiously.
Audrey, it was so so so so…cool. Like, you know, like, cool. In other words, you’re a super star!
Knife skills are already changing my life! Especially as a vegetarian (plant eater!), cooking is all about chopping. Now, I need to go back for Knife Skills 2 and see if they can teach me how to chop vegetables and hold a baby at the same time.
Food Network has cool little knife skill videos. Not as fun as going to a cooking class with a good friend, but worthwhile nonetheless.
PS: Don’t google “sur la table” images when there are children or strangers around.