Friday, April 27, 2012

Life is a Bagel

Nico was skeptical of today's topic: how I cut my bagels. Yet I insisted. There is a lot to learn from the way I cut my bagels. Cutting bagels is dangerous. Injuries from bagel cutting is the top cause of emergency room visits in the US ["at least according to some source... what is your source... ok ok... maybe not THE top, but a common cause?"]. Why do we cut ourselves? The knife cuts through the bagel with more force than we anticipated and ends up in our hand. So what is my technique to avoid this? It has three key elements:

1) Rather than doing a few strokes with plenty of force in each, I do lots of strokes with very little force in each. I move the knife back and forth rapidly but gently. When the knife finally cuts through the bagel it barely moves much further. I would generalize this as substituting brute force with finesse. Or, like we say in Venezuela "Mas vale maña que fuerza". Similar to when you need to losen something and wiggling back and forth works much better than a single application of all your strength in a one direction. Nico remains skeptical about the value of this lesson... Nico: this works even with people! Say you want to teach someone how to swim. Most teachers wouldn't drop their pupil at one end of a long pool and try to get them to swim all the way across. Instead, they get very close to the soon-to-be swimmer and get them to swim a few inches, then a few more inches, and little by little the distance gets longer until, almost without realizing it, the person swims across a long pool.

2) Back to bagels... I make sure to use an adequate knife. If I try to cut a bagel with a steak knife instead of a bread knife I have to use more force  - not to mention steak knifes have pointier and sharper ends. Simple life lesson: use the right tool for the job.

3) Finally, I make the final third of the cutting away from my hand. So even if the knife flies away it doe so into the air, not my hand. Ale said he does something similar by holding the bagel with a kitchen towel. Life lesson: leave yourself margin for error.

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