Oberlin Blogs

Chop chop

March 2, 2009

Megan Emberton ’12

I like to cut up vegetables. It is something I look forward to and relish. This is not something I discovered until I came to Oberlin. I knew that college was supposed to be full of life-changing realizations, but I'm not sure I could have prepared myself for this. I have put in an hour a week of kitchen prep (KP) time as part of my co-op hours since the beginning of first semester, and the job continues to grow on me. I never knew I would find something so calming and enjoyable about a big knife and lots of produce. I never knew the satisfaction there was to be had in hacking away at roots, fruits, stalks and florets. Few things please me more than lining up containers of colorful pieces and cubes. Why did I never agree more often to help my mother before dinner? I mourn all the missed cutting opportunities I gave up in my foolish, younger years.

My favorite vegetable to chop is the onion. Actually, I have spent my entire life avoiding onions because they sting my eyes like CRAZY - seriously, the sting stays with me for way too long after I'm done cutting. That is, until last week. The other Monday dinner KP and I have been experimenting with ways to cut down on the stinging problem. We have tried chilling the onions before cutting, rinsing the onions before cutting, and I think we have stumbled upon the best solution: Chill (I have yet to determine if this is really necessary), then submerge all the onion halves you will be cutting in water. I still experience mild stinging, but I diced twenty onions today and only had to walk away from the cutting board once. This is a beautiful thing. Onions are so fun to cut when your eyeballs aren't smarting and tears aren't streaming down your face. Really! Try it!

KPing is wonderful because it's not homework and it's not practicing and no matter how much of that stuff I have to do, it's a scheduled hour in my co-op. I am obligated to stand in the kitchen for an hour every Monday afternoon, getting veggies ready for dinner... It's an hour to think about life and things, to let my mind wander (but not too far! - piano major + knife in close proximity to fingers + known aptitude for daydreaming = enormous potential for catastrophe and swearing). Even though it's not academic or musical in any way, co-oping is as much a part of my Oberlin experience as classes or lessons or any of that. It may be that I'm hopelessly domestic, but time in the kitchen grounds me and helps me get through the week. It's not the same as being in the kitchen at home, but it does the trick. Mincing, cubing, dicing, and slicing... it's nice.

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