Never Make Cutting Remarks About a Present

At ten paces I can tell that a package is from my mom. There are tell-tale signs – it’s sealed with address labels and there are hearts doodled on the front and back – but the give-away is its shape. My mom’s packages are lumpy. Inside is a jumble of newspaper – stories of cute animals, recipes, and laugh-out-loud comics – an important document or two, and a surprise. The surprise might be chocolate, a keychain, or a post card sent to my parents from a vacationing relative. Whatever it is, it’s unexpected and delightful.

A month ago the surprise, between recipes for ice cream sandwiches and a gift of serving forks and spoons, was a cutting board. I might have groaned when I saw it. A white cutting board, its edges curved to prevent spillage and a rubbed-grip handle was not something on my shopping list. There were already five cutting boards in the apartment and I couldn’t figure out what I was going to do with a sixth. So, I put it back in the box, and resolved to deal with it another day. Meanwhile I called and thanked my parents for sending the present.

Two weeks later my mom, having raved about the same cutting board – she’d bought one for each of us – asked how I liked it.

“It’s nice,” I said easily. Worried there might be questions, I amended my statement “…I haven’t really used it yet.” I sensed a pause on the other end of the line, and rushed on; “It’s just that there’s not a lot of room in the apartment.”

“But you have enough room for a food processor?” mom queried, referencing the much heralded birthday present. My cover had failed, but I tried to maintain it.

“Well, the cutting boards are Ellen’s and I need to talk her…sigh…it’s a complicated situation,” I finished up.

My mom moved the conversation onward.

The next day I pulled out the new cutting board, determined not to disappoint my mom in her gift-giving goals. While Ellen was occupied with an important phone call, I mimed replacing the old cutting board with the new one. She looked baffled, but was unable to break away from her conversation. I repeated the gestures again until she nodded, the only way to get rid of me. Satisfied, I dumped the old cutting board, piled the new on top of the other four, and walked away in peace.

Later that day, I made soup. I chopped the onion, and no pieces fell off the board. The slopped sides kept everything together – without interfering with my slicing and dicing. Impressive.

As the oil heated in the pan, I minced some garlic. Then, in one smooth movement, I lifted the cutting board and slid all of it into the awaiting pan.  No maneuvering, no falling chunks, no awkwardly angled knife trying to scrap those last stubborn bits into the pan. It was seamless – exactly as it ought to be.  

As soon as the dishes were washed and dried, I called and thanked my mom. I should have remembered – surprises are the best part of a package.

This is the soup the cutting board made possible:

Tangy Split Pea Soup based on a true recipe

dollop of oil

1 onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

7 c vegetable stock/water

2 c split pea (mix of green and yellow, and/or red lentils)

2 tsp cumin

2 tsp mustard seed

1/2 brick of frozen spinach

salt, as desired

2 tbsp lemon juice

Sautee onion and garlic until nearly translucent, add cumin and mustard seed, cook until fully translucent. Add stock/water, split peas/lentils, and spinach. Cook 1 – 3 hours, or more if desired. Add lemon juice before serving.

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