Skip to main content
This post is part of my 2022 Word Project. You can read what that’s about here.

Friday, April 14, 2023

Word of the day: stab.

It’s what I did repeatedly to the top of the tomato can when it decided it was too good for something as pedestrian as a can opener.

I was in a hurry. The clock was ticking and dinner was supposed to be a simple matter of chopping a couple things, throwing them into a pot and simmering. From “Where’s the garlic?” to “Mm. Good.” was supposed to be all of a half hour.

Except for the tomato can.

No matter how I tried to clamp it in the can opener it refused. Not a dent. My garlic was burning. The clock, I think, actually laughed and skipped ahead four minutes.

So I grabbed a steak knife and stabbed the can. Then sawed it around the edge. Then pried it open. Then saved dinner and shot a withering look at the can opener.

I have an unhealthy frustration with inanimate objects sometimes.

I suppose there was another solution to getting the can open besides stabbing. I considered calling Ralph for a moment, because he would have reengineered both can and opener on the spot until it worked. But the garlic would have been unsalvageable.

I think I do have one of those campfire type openers somewhere but that would have required opening another drawer and I had already reached my limit of drawer opening for the day.

And stabbing it felt good.

It also brought my grandmother to mind. I don’t think she ever stabbed a can in her life. I thought of her because I often do when I’m having a tantrum and need to bring myself back to center. I think of her because she was a powerhouse of getting things done and making things happen and never tiring and never complaining, except for that one time when I cut my hair into bangs and she hated it.

I think of her because she had a lot less to work with than I do. Her can openers didn’t even have a crank. I think later in life she was eventually treated to an electric can opener, probably as a Christmas gift, but her kitchen tools amounted to a spatula, a potato masher, a stock pot, a percolator, a CorningWare or two (the white ones with the blue flowers), a very manual can opener, and a wooden spoon.

The wooden spoon was also good for threatening a spanking if the small humans in her life got too rambunctious.

I don’t even know if she owned a whisk. She used to scramble my eggs with a fork until the day she died.

She didn’t have a car. Didn’t even drive. Didn’t have Whole Foods home delivery. She didn’t work at home ensconced in a beanbag, but got up early every morning to drive with my grandfather into the city where she worked in their flower factory all day and came home to cook dinner at night.

Her kitchen was never covered in flour and stray peas.

I never saw her lose her temper with a dish towel that rudely fell to the floor. I never saw her kick the refrigerator door because it wouldn’t stay open long enough for her to get both the milk and the eggs out.

She opened cans, chopped onions, boiled pasta, washed dishes, served ten people, cleaned up, and never once stabbed anything.

So when I’m mad at the cabinet because it’s too narrow to fit my stock pot and I keep having to turn it sideways, I remind myself that my grandmother somehow survived cabinets.

When there’s hollandaise in my ear and the potato rolls onto the floor, I remind myself that somehow my grandmother managed to walk to the grocer, buy her potatoes, carry them home, peel, wash, cook and serve them without complaint.

It puts things in perspective, which you need sometimes when every inanimate object is against you.

Still, stabbing that can felt really good.

Photo: the stabbed can next to the uncooperative can opener. I rebuke both of them!