When I was a kid, maybe 8-10 years old, I had a folding pocketknife and a block of balsa wood and I was very excited about transforming the wood into some sort of a creative figure. It was not long before I sliced into the base of my left index finger and was required to get 4 stitches. When the bandage finally came off I was as shocked to see those 4 thread loops attached to my flesh as I might have been while looking at Frankenstein’s monster’s brain transplant scar. It felt like a really big deal. I remember getting them clipped off too and being surprised at how low-impact that procedure was. That scar, its sensitivity, and the visible needle-hole scars were show-n-tell material and also key toward my learning “left” and “right”. I just had to remember scar = left and I could sense my left hand without looking.
Another thing I remember about that experience was my dad telling me how now that I had cut myself pretty good, I would forever come to respect sharp blades and could be trusted to not cut myself that way again. It did work for a while but as of yesterday, I now have a total of 4 scars on my left hand, three of them from knives.
Back to the cheese. I had just returned from some white-knuckle freeway snow driving which gave me plenty of time to think up what I would be cooking for dinner: Macaroni and cheese with broccoli. We were all pretty hungry and so I engaged my special skill in high speed, multi-tasking cooking. The water was on the boil seconds after I arrived in the kitchen and this bought me time to do the prep for the cheese sauce. The roux was bubbling shortly after on the second burner. I like a multi-cheese, cheese sauce and I had already imagined the 3 cheeses that would be going into this one. The sharp cheddar was easy. Cheddar is a crowd pleaser that shreds easily in our hand-cranked cheese shredder. I soon had a generous mound. The dried pasta went into the now boiling water.
The second cheese would be this delicious French cheese that had started off as a large soft wedge and now was a smaller, hardened wedge; not so appealing any more for crackers but I knew it would melt nicely in a sauce. Feeling the magic happening, I grabbed a bottle of IPA that was beckoning, mere inches from the cheese drawer and popped the top and took one swallow. I figured I’d drink half with dinner and save the other half for later when the stomachache from over-eating had passed.
I was thinking about the third cheese, which would be just a dash of a stinky cheese, a Stilton, for a little contrast. I picked up the French wedge and realized I’d need to trim it a bit to fit in the rotary grater. By shaving off some of the hard corners, it should just fit. I grabbed a small kitchen knife that had been lying on the counter since this morning when I had sharpened it and then cut up an apple into eighths for time-lapse snacking. As I brandished it against the cheese, all of a sudden I felt a zing in my thumb and had the now familiar “oops” sensation that is frequently accompanied by the, “Can we roll back time for just a minute” fantasy. A glance confirmed that it was pretty deep. I wrapped a paper towel around my thumb and held pressure on it with my grip.
I called for Mary but she had already heard the shouted expletive and was on her way. I informed her that I might need stitches but in the mean time, could she hunt down a few Bandaids. My pasta water, meanwhile, was ready for the broccoli and the white sauce was ready for the cheese. Part of my speed cooking for this recipe is cooking the greens with the pasta. I sliced the broccoli florets right into the water as if I was whittling a stick. Mary came back with a couple of bandages but took one look at the blood-saturated paper towel and decided this dike leak needed a bigger thumb, so to speak. I had her grate the French cheese in the rotary grater while I pounded the rest of the bottle of beer. I figured that would be about my stomach capacity and the Mac-n-cheese could be warmed up later.
I strained and stirred together the pasta/broccoli mixture with the cheese sauce and called Marlee for dinner. Meanwhile, Mary asked Siri about the closest Urgent Care facility. Siri suggested that the closest one was on Leonard Street near the East Beltline. We had not heard of that one but Siri was willing to dial the number to find out how busy they were. Despite the snowstorm, they were pretty slow. So Mary pulled on her boots while I located some gauze sponges to rewrap my thumb.
We arrived to find no line and a nurse came right out to assess the damage. He ascertained that it was probably worth a few stitches and so we filled out paperwork while they prepared an examination room. One of the questions was, “Do you have any concerns about your injury affecting your critical day-to-day activities?” Mary suggested that hitchhiking might be affected so we put that one down.
I was feeling pretty happy from my hastily consumed 7.5% alcohol brew on an empty stomach. And you can kind of see that in this picture.
A wonderful Physicians Assistant named Lara came in and made conversation with Mary and I while her assistants readied for the procedure. P.A.s are the best. They always seem to be good communicators with great skills to back them up. The first step was to numb my entire thumb. She did not want me cringing and pulling away while she sutured. She informed me that this numbing procedure was the worst part and that it would hurt a lot. Yeah, it hurt; three deep pokes with a burn. But her prep warning made me expect and prepare for the worst, but it was all tolerable in the big scheme. I did not feel a thing while she was sewing. We think she used 4 stitches but I wasn't about to watch.
No shoveling snow or dishwashing for a week… well that is a big pain in the butt. But the good news is that the warmed up Mac-n-cheese + broccoli was delicious; maybe my best batch ever. And actually, this bandaged thumb may work out great for hitchhiking.