Fifteen years ago my mother-in-law gave me a mandoline for my birthday. When I try to talk to my friends about the mandoline, they think I’m referring to an instrument in the lute family, which actually might have been a better gift for me. This device is the culinary kind. The box says it’s supposed to quickly slice, shred, crinkle cut, waffle cut and julienne my fruits and vegetables. To date, it has julienned nothing by my fingers.
When I first opened it, I was pleased that my mother-in-law thought I was the sort of person who would insist on my carrots having ridges and my potatoes being waffly. Today’s the day we take dinner up a notch, I thought. A moment later, I’d sliced my finger, fashioned a tourniquet out of paper towels and shut that box for what I hoped would be the last time.
I placed in on a high shelf. It’s a universal truth that you should just give away whatever is on the high shelf. Especially if you’re 5’3”. The moment you put it there, you’ve acknowledged the fact that you’re not going to use it again. Ever. It sits up there with the soup tureen and the Thigh Master.
But every few years I take it down and try again. I decide I’m going to take an Idaho potato and turn it into waffle fries, even though you can buy waffle fries already waffled in the freezer section of the grocery store. My kids beg me not to. They suspect the problem with the mandoline is user-related. They’ve told me a million times that I’m reckless with the cheese grater. And a million times I’ve rolled my eyes at them on my way to find the band-aids.
Years ago, when the organizing lady came to my kitchen, we spent a lot of time talking about the mandoline. To be honest, I find it sort of cathartic to talk about. She said that if I don’t use it I should give it away to someone who would. Such an easy thing to say, but the issues run deep: the guilt over not having appreciated or even successfully used this gift once; the implied failure in serving my kids potatoes shaped like, well, baked potatoes.
Finally, I tried the Japanese de-cluttering trick of holding it close to me it to see if it brought me joy. Of course I left it in the box while snuggling it to my neck. I don’t have a death wish. I found no joy in the mandoline. The object invokes terror, like Chucky from that horror movie in his innocent, but bloodstained, overalls. I looked up and saw the newly empty space on the top shelf and felt a wave of possibilities wash over me. I resigned to give it away.
If you’ll follow me a bit deeper into my madness, I’ll admit I wasn’t sure that I could actually give it away. This thing is so dangerous that I’m worried about where it’s going to end up. I worry that some young newlywed is going to see it at the Salvation Army, entertain fantasies about impressing her mother-in-law with julienned vegetables, and with one swift motion of the “safety guard,” lose all of her fingers. Not on my watch.
Which is how I found myself at the Salvation Army, very carefully placing my boxed mandoline on the counter and taking a step back as if it would detonate at any moment. I explained to the man working there that this was a very dangerous object. I regaled him with a decade of tales about my own flesh wounds. I told him about how my plumber Bob had just seen the device on my counter and remarked that his sister had lost the tips of all of the fingers on her left hand using that thing. The man said, “Then why in the world would we want this?”
“Exactly,” I replied.
I grabbed the offending box and put it back in the trunk of my car. Which is where it still is, eerily just over my shoulder at all times.