Burn, Baby, Burn!
October 31, 2002

"I got this one when I was trying to remove my quiche Lorraine from the oven. It was my first test of pâte brisée at home and I guess I was a little anxious."

"See this? That's from a particularly active caramelization -- it kept spitting at me while I whorled it on my tutti-fruitti convolutti!"

"What. Ever. This one time, at the bakery, I grabbed a pan of sticky buns with my bare hands because I forgot to tent them and they nearly burned!"

I've started to notice that my fellow students and myself are starting to compare burn marks and yarn about them as if we were involved in some sort of KitchenAid military action.

Not knife scars as much -- for some reason, those are just not the thing to flaunt. They are almost embarrassing to admit to because it means you were being a careless cutter or bumbling your brunoise. You ask a chef about the thick wad of cotton taped to their finger covered by a finger condom and, more than likely, she will confirm, in a barely audible mutter that she cut herself. She won't tell you how or why or what sort of culinary masterpiece she was involved in, she will just mutter that she cut herself, and look shifty-eyed. If you're smart, you'll back off and not ask any more questions. Incautiously using a microplane to grate cheese, ginger, or zest can bark up your knuckles pretty nastily, as well. I grated my thumb into yesterday's brioche and it still stings like a mother.

But a good burn sets you apart as being a Rock Star Chef in the kitchen, who has such a fanatical devotion to her cuisine that she places it above her own safety. If you put in your time, eventually you will develop Julia's "asbestos hands" and can grab at hot pans, spoons, and foods with little to no pain because your finger pads and hands have become callous-toughened with practice.

The scabs and scars we like to show off all look the same and are usually in the same places. They are a slightly curved slash on the skin and seem to show up on the forearm -- both topside and the soft underbelly. If you don't take care to lube them up with SPF 435 before going outside, they purple up for life. A few days ago, Chef Directrix pulled up her sleeves and let us "ooh" and "ahh" over the burns that run up and down her arms like medieval leeching marks.

I've got a ripe one just below my wrist bone that I'm dying to make up a story about.

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