Grits and Purls

Spinning yarns about the grit of life

Kitchen utensils

I stood in the kitchen preparing dinner, thawing the chicken in the microwave, crushing the cornflake and oat breading, when in walks my daughter. She opens the flatware drawer on the counter to my right, effectively pinning me between the counter top where I was working and the drawer that she had opened.

“Mommy, what’s this?”

I gingerly turn around and see her holding up a pair of silver nutcrackers much like the Statue of Liberty holds her torch.

“Those are called nutcrackers. You put a nut between them to break open the hard shell.”

“Nutcrackers.” She said as if trying to commit the name to memory.

“What’s this?”

“Oh, those are little picks for getting all of the good-to-eat parts of the nut out of the shell after you crack it open.”

“Picks.” She repeated. “What’s this?”

She holds up another kitchen notion, which I reach over and take from her.

“This is a chocolate shaver, and it has very sharp edge that could cut you, so you should never pick it up.” (I make a mental note it needs to live a different drawer now.)

At the word “chocolate”, her chocolate eyes lit up. I had her. “Chocolate shaver?”

“Yes, a chocolate shaver. For making chocolate shavings to put on top of cakes and cupcakes. Some people might call it a potato peeler, but in this family, we call it a chocolate shaver.”


“Well, when I was a growing up, my momma didn’t use one of these. When she peeled vegetables, like potatoes, she used a knife, which as far as she was concerned worked just fine. But when she peeled potatoes with a knife, the peelings were really thick. Everyone, from daddy to my brother to the next door neighbor, was always commenting on how thick her potato peels were. People would say ‘you’re wasting half the potato’ or ‘you know, they make potato peelers for that’. The more people told my momma that her potato peelings were too thick, the more determined she was to continue peeling potatoes with a knife (and the thicker the potato peelings got).

One time my mom’s sister came for a visit, and she too commented on my mom’s potato peeling prowess. And of course, the comments fell on my mom’s thin-skinned, potato peel-sensitized ears, and the peels only got thicker as my mom continued to hack at the potatoes with her knife.

Later that year, my mom’s sister sent my mom a package for her birthday. One of the things in it was one of these (I held up the chocolate shaver). Mom was absolutely torn. She was determined to write a nice thank you note, but she absolutely didn’t want to say thank you for a potato peeler.

I was home from college and pointed out to my mom that I had one of these in my dorm room, and I never used it to peel potatoes, or any other vegetable for that matter. I used it to make chocolate shavings. So, I suggested that Mom write a very nice note thanking her sister for the chocolate shaver, which, I am pleased to say, Mom did.

Since that time no one in this family has ever dared to refer to this (I held it up again) as a potato peeler. It’s a chocolate shaver…that also happens to work really well for peeling potatoes. But you didn’t hear me say that.”

“And carrots.” My daughter added.

“And carrots.” I agreed.

© 2010 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.

4 thoughts on “Kitchen Notions

  1. Dad says:

    A couple of times I tried to demonstrate to your mother how to properly peal a spud (a skill I learned in the Guard) she said I took to long. Besides I think she may have been playing Huck Finn with me.

    1. Michele says:

      So Dad, can you get the entire peel off in one long strip?

  2. Love this post! I admire your mom’s tenacity, sticking with a knife and thick potato peels rather than giving in to convention. Yay for moms!

    1. Michele says:

      Hi Sylvia,
      Oh, Mom wasn’t ever going to give in. The potato peels just kept getting thicker and thicker.


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