In my experience, there are generally two types of cooks–those who cut themselves and those who burn themselves. I fall into the latter category, my forearms and hands speckled with scars borne from the blazing mouths of wood ovens, molten saute pan handles and smoking hot oil, and while on any given day I am likely sporting a burn at some phase in the healing process, cutting myself is a rare occurrence.
When I do cut myself, it’s typically pretty bad, but my chef’s battlefield mentality says to get back to work as quickly as possible, and most cuts are swiftly tended to by way of paper towels, plastic wrap and rubber band tourniquets.
The other day, the blade and I dueled for the first in a long time, and sadly I lost. Badly. It was a frenzied late afternoon, and I was scrambling to bring the pieces of an impromptu dinner party together. It was me, a slippery green mango and my brand new, just out of the box, Benriner mandoline. The mandoline, also known as the kitchen tool most likely to lop off a body part, is a fantastic, time saving device, when used properly and carefully, two details I regretfully overlooked. All mandolines come with a protective guard meant to hold the piece of food that you are cutting in place and to shield your unsuspecting fingers from meeting an ill fate. In my harried state, however, I hastily chose to forego using the plastic guard, and this is what lead to the swift removal of the tips of the two outer fingers on my right hand.
It happened quickly, causing me to hesitate momentarily, like an incredulous wounded cowboy in an old western film, to stare at my assailant in disbelief. Then came the blood. My fingertips, erupting like Vesuvius, began shrouding my dominant hand in a crimson glove and I had mere seconds to run to the roll of paper towels before the massive deluge. An hour and a half later, having decided to nix the green mango-fingertip salad from the menu, my fingers still bled, my trashcan looked like a crime scene and, most importantly, I was very far behind on my prep.
At some point, running low on bandaids and faint from loss of blood, but still lucid enough to get my bathroom cleaned with my good hand, I remembered having heard something about a liquid bandage and called my boyfriend, asking him to pick some up for me. Having never used it before, I wasn't sure what to expect, but figured it was my last hope.
The first application of liquid bandage is surely designed to teach one the true meaning of pain, and while I’m certain that the omission of said pain anywhere on the package is intentional, a little fine print explaining what to expect might have been nice. Minutes later, as the excruciating pain subsided, and my strident howls were decreased to just a mouthful of expletives, I became aware of a delicious numbing sensation in my fingers. It started at the tips and quickly progressed downward until I felt nothing. The bleeding had also stopped after a few applications of the bandage and I was at last able to fully function, albeit with my pinky and ring fingers pointed upward as if I were partaking in a proper cup of tea. Two and a half hours after the incident, I had total relief, a glass of wine in my hand, and dinner on the table.
So what is this miracle healing agent and why hadn’t I ever put it to the test before? Working much like superglue, and made from many of the same components, liquid bandage goes on wet, by way of spray or brush, and quickly dries to form an impenetrable seal over the wound. This seal then provides protection, keeping dirt and bacteria out as well as allowing the wound to come in contact with water without running the risk of it reopening, or losing its sheath. Most liquid bandage includes an antibacterial agent to clean the wound, as well as a much welcomed numbing agent to ease the pain of exposed nerve endings. Liquid bandage is commonly used in emergency rooms because, unlike stitches, it does not require anesthesia nor later removal, and it is even being used on soldiers wounded in battle because it is so fast and effective.
I’m not sure why I’ve never encountered liquid bandage in any of the professional kitchens I’ve worked in, perhaps because I was always too busy looking for the burn gel, but I can say for certain that it is now a permanent fixture in my home first aid kit.