For a while, my husband and I had a subscription to one of those meal-kit services that send you at regular intervals a box containing ingredients and a recipe. The ingredients always seemed to be eggplants and the recipes were clearly written by people who are not familiar with the tiny kitchens in New York City apartments.
“Cut 4 eggplants longwise and slice into thin ribbons so that each piece is mostly thick skin that tastes like plastic,” the recipes would advise. “Meanwhile, boil 1 cauldron of water and let 2 tablespoons of olive oil simmer in a paella pan equal in diameter to R2-D2.”
We’d be like, What do you think this is, the Bon Appétit Test Kitchen? Give us a recipe that can be made with 1 square inch of counter space and a toaster.
Eventually, we let our membership lapse, not only because our kitchen wasn’t up to the job but also because we kept falling behind on making the meals sent to us. The relentless boxes kept coming anyway, though, and then we’d have to scramble to finish the recipes before the ingredients went bad.
And I don’t need a subscription to make me feel inadequate because I can’t keep up. After all, that’s what I have my stack of unread issues of The New Yorker for.
It was during the era of the meal-kit subscription that our red plastic cutting board acquired many of the scars and scratches that now mar its surface. That was a time of frequent chopping. Up to then, the board had remained relatively smooth due to our tendency to forgo cooking at home in favor of eating out or ordering in.
We still do a lot of that now. I have friends who seem to regard such behavior as decadent to a degree not seen since the days of Emperor Nero. There must be a chapter in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire on burrito bowls from Chipotle.
My mother also thinks I should cook more. She bought me the red cutting board, as a matter of fact—though not to encourage me to do more chopping. Or not only to encourage me to do more chopping.
I was moving into an apartment building where the landlord was very particular about protecting the various surfaces in his units—hardwood floors, counters, and so on. That meant he wanted adhesive pads on chair legs, contact paper on kitchen shelves, and cutting boards for any food prep involving knives.
My mother, who had come up from Arkansas to help me move, was eager to ensure that I complied with all these regulations, lest I get evicted and have to live on the streets with the vagrants, dope fiends, and people whose mothers never taught them the right way to fold a fitted sheet.
So Mom bought me the required cutting board because I didn’t have one, even though I was midway through my 20s at that point. She would have tried to purchase the Hope Diamond if it had been on that landlord’s list.
The red cutting board isn’t the only one we have, and it so happens that the other has an Arkansas connection as well. That board is a thick block of wood that’s been carved to resemble my home state, right down to the squiggly eastern border representing the Mississippi River and the little divot near Jonesboro to accommodate the tail of Missouri.
Somebody gave me the Arkansas cutting board as a gift. Thank goodness I come from one of the squarish states. A board shaped like, say, Florida would be hard to stack in the cabinet and wouldn’t be good for chopping anything but misshapen zucchinis.
I’d have to order in.