It’s likely that no one has ever actually done that thing in so many cartoons and commercials where you—and the “you” in this scenario is a very serious businessman in a suit—rotate your wrist to check your watch while holding a mug of piping hot coffee, thus dumping its steaming contents all over your lap. But we’ve all probably come close, and maybe some of us have done a whole lot worse, while dabbling in home cooking. At its best, the home kitchen is an inviting, cheerful place, one that beckons with its bounty and encourages you to experiment within its nonjudgmental walls (who’s seeing your failures but you?). At its worst, it’s nothing short of a death trap that rewards your inattention with scrapes, burns, scalds, and pokes. Be vigilant out there, folks, and invest in some cut-resistant gloves.
Here’s a question for the not-so-squeamish among you: What’s the dumbest cooking injury you’ve ever managed to sustain? Grazing a piping-hot skillet or burning one’s mouth while testing a sauce are occupational hazards for any home cook, but have you ever thought amid a yelp of pain or surprise, how could I possibly have done this to myself?
A few years ago I was rooting around in a lower cabinet beside the oven, searching for the right saucepan to start my project. Since I was about to start a recipe that would keep me hovering over the stove for quite some time (I was making an 11-tiered boozy Jell-O ring that requires a solid four hours of stirring and layering), I thought it would be smart to tie my hair back. Way back—a super high ponytail would do the trick. So I did a single, dramatic overhead hair flip, like a solitary headbang, to get the hair all gathered for my elastic band. I whipped my forehead straight into the open cabinet door. On the corner. I didn’t stand upright again for at least three minutes, taking stock of how my head was feeling and wondering if I had really managed to concuss myself in a way that was so stupid so as to seem voluntary. Luckily, I ended up fine, and the bruise turned to a faint green after a few days (then hung around that way for at least a week). I was lucky, and have only come close to doing the exact same thing a few times since (I know). If anyone can top this prime example of witless incompetence with their own mishap, I eagerly anticipate being dethroned.