The Crisco Kid.
Growing up in a traditional 1950’s household, my mother forbade me to mess with anything in the kitchen. The kitchen was her private domain, and, for better or for worse, she was the only personage allowed to open cupboards, fiddle with dials on the stove, and mix stuff up in bowls.
I grew to resent this overbearing attitude on her part, so one day I waited for her to go down to the corner grocery for a bottle of Lysol and a can of Carnation evaporated milk and stepped into the inner sanctum to see what I could see.
My eye immediately rested on a shiny new can of Crisco vegetable shortening, sitting on the draining board of the sink, waiting to be opened. In those days you took a little key that was glued on the top of the can and carefully inserted it into a metal strip at the top of the can. You then wound the key around and around, pulling off the metal strip to remove the metal lid. This operation not only opened the can of vegetable shortening, but revealed a razor-sharp edge that was meant to cut open naughty little boy’s fingers.
Which it did. When my mother returned she found me racing around her heretofore immaculate kitchen, screaming bloody murder with a dish towel wrapped around my disemboweled digit.
The doctor put in 3 stitches. And I began to hate everything to do with opening cans.
The Swiss Army Knife.
My Victorinox was a beauty. Shiny red and chock full of blades and doo-dads. The one-page instructions that came with it (printed in French, Italian AND Spanish!) told me it included a can-opener – which I assumed was the funny-looking dingus with a bladed hook on the end.
The summer of my senior year in high school my pal Wayne and I planned a long fishing trip up to Canada. We made reservations for a campsite on the shores of a pine-fringed lake, packed the tent and equipment, and took off in my older brother’s rusty Corvette that devoured oil and spewed fumes like a volcano.
Once the tent was up at the campsite we headed into town for the REAL purpose of our expedition – to buy and consume BEER! Because in Canada you could get it when you turned 17 – or anyway they never asked any questions at the general store.
Neither Wayne nor I had much experience as drinkers, so when we got the beer cans back to the tent they were warm – and that’s when it hit us we had no way to open them, since this was long before the days of the pop top. Luckily, I told Wayne, my Swiss Army Knife contained a can opener of sorts, and we would soon be swilling suds like the hardened topers we considered ourselves to be.
But the damn thing refused to open a breach in the cans of Molson. So we had recourse to a screwdriver and hammer. By this time the warm beer had been shaken up quite a bit. When Wayne struck the first blow the agitated brew erupted like Old Faithful, soaking the canvas tent.
That smell lingered in the canvas after we packed up and came home – and both of us caught holy you-know-what when our parents sniffed out our misdemeanor.
Can opening continued to be a sore point with me.
The Electric Can Opener.
As a householder with a family, I thought it wise to invest in an electric can opener. I was wrong. Although my wife Amy could with impunity place a can under the little metal wheel and open any can in a jiffy, it was a different kettle of smelt when I tried it. The can would start to open, and then go sideways to spill all the liquid out. Or I couldn’t make the ridge of the can top catch on the blasted little wheel, and it would grind away in futility – revolving the can like a merry-go-round without ever opening it.
One frantic day when Amy was away and it was my job to feed the ravening hoard we sardonically called our lovely children, I attempted to open an oversized can of spaghetti sauce. This time the electric can opener really went cattywampus. There was red sauce on the floor, on the windows and on the ceiling – but there was none leftover to put on the noodles. So the kids ate them plain, with butter and salt and pepper. They could see the dangerous gleam in my eye that warned them to remain mum or suffer the Wrath of Khan.
When Amy returned I had most of the sauce cleaned up – but, y’know, that stuff really leaves a stain no matter how much Comet you sprinkle on it and scrub.
Amy summarily banished me from the precincts of the can opener, for life.
In my mellow old age . . .
I manage to do without a can opener entirely. I eat frozen foods and fresh foods. And if I do get a hankering for some Progresso Split Pea with Bacon or a bit of Chef Boyardee, I make sure to get the cans that have the Easy Open lid.
You just pull on the tab, and . . .
It comes off in your friggin’ finger . . .
And you throw the can away and call Dominoes.