Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Can't-Opener

I'm not exactly sure why it is we have such trouble with can openers.

Cans have been around a long, long time. The modern canning process is roughly 200 years old. You'd think, then, since society has had so much time to perfect the art of packaging things up in all these cans, someone would have perfected an extraordinarily efficient and durable device for extricating said things from said cans. That way, when all I'm trying to prepare for dinner is a quick pasta with tomato sauce, I can easily get the sauce out of the can and into the pot.

But, by the time the pasta is well beyond al dente, I'm still fighting to get the battery-operated, self-rotating can opener to run long enough to make one full pass around the top of the can. After repositioning the demonic device for the twelfth time, it occurs to me I could have achieved faster results if I had taken the can outside and banged it against a rock, or a tree, or the driveway, or my head. Sure, a little sauce might have splattered here or there in the process, but at least it would no longer be in the can. Instead, I end up with an unopened can with three inch-long gashes at the top, none of which is large enough to allow sauce to pour out.

When it becomes clear the battery-operated, hand-held can opener will not live up to its name, I resort to the trusty manual can opener hiding in the back of the utensil drawer next to the meat pounder, just behind the micro-grater. I clamp the device to the top of the can and begin turning. Not only doesn't it open the can, the can itself isn't even moving. The blade is spinning in place, creating a slight indentation in the metal directly beneath it. So, I reposition the can opener, ensuring a firm metal-on-metal connection before wasting any more energy.

The pasta is now floating limply in its starchy broth and all I've managed to do so far is dent the top of the can and cut three hairline gashes along the outer edge of it with the electric device. Eventually, through herculian efforts involving massive amounts of denial, swearing, and a bloodied index finger, I manage to manipulate the manual can opener sufficiently to cause the top of the can to be in a state of what I will refer to as "mostly open."

I can see the sauce peeking at me. It's possible I could shake the can enough times to get most of the sauce out of the mostly open can, but I am a scraper. I'm not satisfied with the sauce retrieval process unless I can scrape the inner walls of the can with a spoon to ensure I leave no sauce behind.

One spot on the lid shows promise of giving way if I can twist the metal back and forth enough times to weaken it. I twist and turn, curse and mutter, cut another finger on the jagged edges left by the manual can opener, and with a final effort I manage to break the lid away. Sauce flies in all directions as I end up fist deep in the can. Countertop and backsplash are well-coated with pureed tomatoes, as am I.

Nevertheless, the can is open! I celebrate, hooting and hollering in the kitchen, declaring my caveman-like victory over the modern technology of the 19th Century, scraping gleefully with my spoon to retrieve every last drop of the precious puree. But we are entertaining guests, the pot on the stovetop is deep, and the sauce does not come close to filling it.

Only when I finish my scraping do I glance sideways. I take a deep breath, wipe the sauce from my wounds, and steel myself for the ensuing battle with the second can of sauce.

© 2012 Mark Feggeler


  1. You "steel" yourself for the ensuing battle? No pun intended?

  2. I couldn't very well tin myself, now could I?