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How dumb I am – was?

     Took me seventy-nine years to figure out the right way to cut with a knife. Well, maybe we could not count the first five or ten years. Anyway, I'm not going to tell you the right way—you'll have to figure that out by yourself, but you probably already know it anyway, so no harm done. But I will tell you how I was doing it wrong and how I awoke to the right way.

     Picture a lumberjack sawing through a three-foot diameter tree trunk. Back and forth, back and forth. That's me, sawing through a piece of toast, a cucumber, a piece of meat. Back and forth, back and forth. No wonder I never liked cooking breakfast and dinner with all those veggies you have to cut and chop into pieces.

     Desserts it was for me! Plunk a bunch of ingredients in a bowl and stir them all up and pour them into a baking pan and check for done-ness, cool and best of all—eat!  Plus you got to scrape the bowl and eat all the yummy sweet stuff left on the sides. I didn't even mind mixing the butter and sugar together, bashing the sugar into the butter until they were all one piece, although I admit that wasn't my favorite part.

     So the other day, I was sawing through a cheese sandwich—starting to—and somewhere in the dim recesses of my memory I recalled a chef on TV chopping some vegetable or other and I remembered that he was chop-chop-chopping with the tip of the knife. . . Oh! I wasn't going to tell you the right way to use a knife so I'll stop right there because there's something else I've been dumb about.

     None of this is anything important, not in the least. But sometimes it's amazing when you realize how much easier life could have been in its smaller moments. We're moving on to microwave dinners now, so I've only been dumb about them—how could anyone be dumb about microwave dinners, you're asking!—anyway, I've only been dumb about them for the past five or ten years, not seventy-nine.

     With this pandemic keeping us home, the Lean Cuisines in the freezer have become a staple, with their "slit film, cook on high 3 minutes; remove film, stir, replace film; cook on high 2 minutes; let stand 1 minute" easy to follow instructions.

     Last week I was smothering a yelp from almost burning my fingers taking the baked chicken dinner out of the microwave, when I —master fixer that I consider myself to be—wondered why they didn't make the edge a little wider at each end so you could take the tray out without burning your fingers on the steam from the meal.

     A few days later when I was reading the instructions again—you have to make sure they want you to split the film because sometimes they don't—my eyes lingered on the "let stand 1 minute" part of the instructions. I always did that after I took the incredibly hot tray out of the microwave—ever so cautiously so as not to burn my fingers.

     The light dawned! Oh! They want you to let it stand in the microwave so it will have time to cool!!! So you won't burn your fingers taking it out?

     I've had another revelation recently—about joy versus happiness but that's for another time and it's not about being dumb. Meanwhile I'm enjoying the new smarter me, as I slice efficiently through tomatoes and sandwiches and coolly slip Lean Cuisine dinner trays out of the microwave—after they've waited a minute for me.

     Small things. But hey, isn't life made mostly of small things?

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