Tag Archives: grandmother

Slicing bananas like a Fucking Ninja

My grandmother could slice up a banana over a bowl of cereal like a fucking ninja!

As kids, my two older brothers and I would be sitting at her large dining room table. The same table that now sits in my dining room. We’d pour the Rice Krispies from the box. We’d pour the milk from an old ceramic pitcher.


Then my grandmother would walk in dressed in a 1960’s house-dress, uncomfortable shoes, panty-hose rolled down to just under her knees, a helmet full of bobbie-pins, a razor-sharp knife in one hand and a bunch of bananas in the other.

She’d walk up and stand next to you, pull out a banana… you didn’t have a fucking choice… you didn’t want a banana on your cereal? TOUGH SHIT… you were getting a banana on your cereal.

Then all you saw were flashes of silver blade and flying disks of perfectly sliced bananas and within a few bananoseconds you had a bowl full of Rice Krispies covered in bananas.

This story doesn’t really have anything to do with bananas.

Or Ninjas.

But it does have to do with peeling potatoes.

The other night I walked into the kitchen and my wife was peeling potatoes to make mashed potatoes for dinner. I watched carefully as she held the potato, her thumb on the top side, then she’d… GASP… DRAW THE BLADE TOWARDS HER BODY!!


Granted she was using a vegetable peeler with a large rubber safety grip handle and covered by a few dozen OSHA regulations… but you can never be too cautious.

I quickly programmed 911 into my speed dial and waited for that catastrophic moment when she might slip and slice open her entire forearm or possibly slice off her hand or accidentally slip and jam the potato peeler into her heart.

I questioned her methodology of drawing the blade toward her body rather than away from herself as I had learned from all my hunter-gatherer friends that had trained me in my limited outdoor skills and blade-wielding techniques. While I pontificated, she continued peeling the potatoes. Rather eloquently I might add, with each piece of peel landing in a nice little organized pile in the sink.

I asked my daughter, who was standing nearby, how she peeled potatoes. “Do you pull the blade toward you or push it away from you?”

“I usually pull it towards me” she said, “but I do it both ways, I guess.”


I’ve peeled more potatoes in my life than a boot-camp marine. But I peel potatoes like an elementary school age Cub Scout on the first day of summer camp, who has just earned his right to carry a pocket knife. Give that kid a knife and within an hour or two of slicing and dicing and little shards of flying wood, he will have carved a few dozen sticks into pencil shapes and a few logs into spears.

With any luck you’ll have only gone through a few band aids and no trips to the emergency room.

That’s how I peel a potato… like a Cub Scout on the first day of summer camp!

Pick up the potato, hold it out in front of you, and start swiping the peeler AWAY FROM YOU. Hunks of peel fly off the potato in all directions, similar to when you are cutting your fingernails in a hotel room.

Gross… I don’t really do that.

But that’s how I peel a potato. I’d never think of drawing the blade TOWARD ME.

That must be how the pros do it. Or how women do it. Or how professional chefs do it. Or how Ninjas do it.

Come to think it of it, that’s how my grandmother used to slice the bananas.

Like a fucking ninja!

Maybe this post really was about bananas.


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An Empty Well

I sit here late at night, a glass of wine and a flickering candle by my side. The room is pitch black other than the light from my laptop screen and the orange glow from the fire in the wood stove. A blanket of fresh white snow covers the ground outside, the remnants of yesterday evening’s snowfall, the first of many as we head into the chilling months of a long Michigan winter.  I sit here quietly, alternating between tapping on my keyboard, and admiring the silence and the peacefulness and the crackling of burning wood. The warmth of the fire engulfs me and the desire to wrap up in the thick blankets of my bed is overwhelming.  Its moments like this that make me feel content, as if there is a truer and more existential existence than the chaotic lifestyles we have all accepted as normal.

I sit here tonight trying to write, but I have nothing to write about.  I try to be funny, but nothing makes me laugh. I try to be poetic but the words are not rhyming. I try to write anything, but the proverbial well is empty.  I crank the bucket all the way down, inch by creaky inch, and at the very bottom, the bucket hits the dry ground.  But why is it empty?  Isn’t this when writing should be spectacular, in these moments when all of the situational stimuli are in perfect harmony? This is my romantic vision of “the writing life. ” Shouldn’t the words be flowing like an open tap?

But what is “the writing life” when you are only a blogger?  Many of you have written before about that moment when you were finally able to call yourself a “writer.” I have not reached that point and I’m not sure I ever will. I’m not really even sure what that means, to call oneself a writer.  Sure, I sit here in my idyllic environment with my crackling fire and I tap keys on a keyboard… and words appear… and it makes me happy… and it satisfies some internal creative drive that I have.

But am I a writer? I don’t know…

My grandmother, who has long since passed away, was an art teacher and a significant creative influence in my life.  She was an amazing artist, able to sketch pencil drawings and paint beautiful watercolor paintings. She handcrafted porcelain dolls out of clay and hand cut and hand sewed the clothing they wore. She saw things differently than other people and she taught me how to see the world through the eyes of an artist, through the lenses of creativity.  Long ago she gave me a copy of the classic Annie Dillard book “The Writing Life” which I have mentioned in previous posts.

For a short time during her later years, my grandmother wrote a column for a local newspaper.  She wrote about personal topics and simple anecdotes about life.  She wrote columns that readers connected with.  I guess it was like blogging before the internet was around to allow us all to write our own personal blogs.  But I’ve often wondered if she ever considered herself “a writer” and what that word meant to her…

…and if she ever cranked her bucket all the way down to the dry ground of an empty well.



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