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Open Secret by Justin Mitchell

“Where do you keep the can opener?” I asked C. I'd scored a rare two cans of Italian tomato paste and was beginning the prep work for a batch of pseudo spaghetti sauce, pseudo because ingredients I took for granted back home such as oregano, bay leaves and tomato paste aren’t easily found in our area of Shenzhen forcing me into a makeshift mode of substituting say, Chinese catsup and Kraft processed cheese slices for tomato paste and parmesan cheese.

C looked at me blankly, as if I'd casually asked for a 17th century coppersmith's tool. (“Fair maiden, has't thou yon stave bejoiner?”)

“The what? What?”

“Can opener, you know...” I fiddled my right hand around the rim of the can, miming what was obvious to me. “To open a can.”

She still looked uncomprehending, and sincere. "I'm sorry. I don't know what you mean."

Can openers are made in China but they don't use them. Chinese women know a better (scarier) way!

Photo courtesy of China.CN

C was serious. Then I realized that I’d been here for almost 4 years and had never seen a can opener. Plenty of cans, but, yeah, all that I'd previously opened had pull tabs. Until now. I momentarily recalled the cheap, functional hand cranked can opener I'd left in Colorado. Cost about $2.59 and it was, yes, “Made in China” as I recalled.

I described it to her. She professed sincere interest and ignorance. “You've never heard of a can opener? Never seen one? They make them here,” I said.

I paused, pondering how one of the world's oldest civilizations had bypassed the humble, utilitarian can opener. “Well, how did your family open cans in Dandong when you were a kid?” I asked. “Before you had color TV and pull tabs?”

“With one of these,” she said, reaching for a large, lethal meat cleaver. She hefted it and mimed splitting open the top of the can with the 90-degree angle of the rectangular blade.

 “But my father always did it,” she added quickly. She knows I'm as adept with sharp objects as I am piloting a space shuttle or performing a heart transplant and she had quickly deflected my next obvious question -- would she consider sacrificing one or two of her finger tips to open the tomato paste?

“Okay, I'll try it,” I said grabbing the cleaver and swinging down. “Like thi...aauuggughh! Damn!”

The next day I went online and showed her pictures of can openers, gingerly steering the mouse with my bandaged, swollen and gashed right index finger. We went can opener shopping the same day. And the day after that. And for weeks to come until she called me excitedly saying that she'd found one inexplicably and randomly stocked at the corner store. Imported from Sweden, it cost the equivalent of almost $8  -- not bad, actually, and cheaper than new fingers.
 



From: Original         Author: Justin Mitchell         Time: 3/5/2010 4:27:15 PM

 
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#2018-03-04 18:49:00 by WalkerRJ @WalkerRJ
Reply Hahahahaha This made me have a proper belly chuckle. But I do hope your fingers are ok ? Thank you :))
Personally, I always carry a army ration pack lever type can opener with me when I travel.
WalkerRJ
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