“Always peel away from you.” That was the advice my mother gave me in the kitchen when she was giving me tasks like peeling potatoes, or apples. It seemed so effortless to just glide the blade along the fruit, watching as coils or lengths fell into the trash.
But it was not like that next door. Next door is where the multi-generational Italian family lived. We shared a lot with them, birthdays and Christmas (theirs), block parties and baked goods. In the afternoons, when I would come home from kindergarten, I’d spend a few hours there, waiting while my family came home. And when I was lucky, the grandma was there, and she would roll cavatelli out of fresh-made pasta dough on a heavy wooden board, or talk to me while she sliced potatoes, towards her strong hand, taking time to gesticulate with the knife.
I never learned this ease with knives, preferring peelers to take off the skin of vegetables, using cutting boards and not the death-defying towards me cut.
When I moved to Chile, kitchen surprises abounded. Behold, the putty knife sandwich making, for example. One such surprise was that most people didn’t use vegetable peelers. One night on the coast, I was quickly replaced on potato-peeling detail by someone who would leave more than a dice-sized cube when it was all over. Similarly, the first time I was asked to peel a tomato with a knife, I just handed it back. We don’t usually peel tomatoes for salad in the United States. In fact, you could say I’d never seen that done before in my life, not even by our neighborhood Italian grandma.
So when a friend recently invited me over for once and started preparing the tomatoes for salad, I asked him if I could film him peeling tomatoes, knowing he’d be excellent at it. And he was.
I present to you: Peeling Tomatoes. With all the skills of an iPhone, iMovie and a few minutes of never-learned-how-to-edit editing. Enjoy!