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Tin-openers and marital discord

PUBLISHED: 12:58 10 June 2006 | UPDATED: 10:59 22 October 2010

I know that, in the scheme of things, this is an extremely minor issue but it's the sort of thing that niggles away. It can even cause discord in marital relations.

I know that, in the scheme of things, this is an extremely minor issue but it's the sort of thing that niggles away. It can even cause discord in marital relations. Well, it has at Fortress H; but then Mrs H and I can grumble at each other over the most trivial of things.

This particular bone of contention is the humble tin opener. We do seem to have trouble finding one that is both easy to use and efficient. We have managed to graduate from those wretched ones where the tin has to be stabbed and then you saw round it, spilling half the contents on the way.

In the past we have bought the most expensive, superduper, stainless steel, de luxe can openers. They work all right to start with but after a few weeks they cease to cut their way through the lid. I know when it's past its open-by date because Mrs H will summon me.

“Neeyul! Come and open this tin will you? Damn can opener's packed up already.”

I have no idea why she thinks I will do any better than her. With a red face and bulging eyes I concentrate every ounce of my strength into squeezing the two handles together and crank furiously as if I'm trying to wind up Big Ben. But it makes barely a dent; it just skids round the lid. Sometimes I'll manage to open half the tin. Or worse still, if its feeling really bloody minded it will miss a bit half way round and the lid will be attached either side of the tin. Many a probing finger has been lacerated on the sharp edge trying to open one or the other side.

Once again recently we reached the stage where gaining entry to a tin pf peaches was a major exercise. Off we went to the hardware store, the supermarket, the market stall; anywhere that sold can openers. We spotted one that hinted that it opened cans like “magic”. Could this be the one that would bring smooth can opening to the Fortress kitchen? Ever the optimist, I was all for buying I but the equally cautious Mrs H was more hesitant. She listened to past experience which told her that there was no such thing as the perfect tin opener. Finally she authorised the purchase.

Now, I do like this particular can opener, sit it flat on the top of the tin, squeeze the jaws, turn the winder and what it does is remove not just the lid but the very top of the tin. The result is no razor-like lid, and as a bonus, the rim of the tin is not so lethal and sharp.

I am happy; it's a bit like trying on a pair of trousers which fit and feel comfortable. Here was something that, when Mrs H is in the middle of preparing an aubergine bake and barks: “Open the chopped tomatoes,” I can respond with confidence, knowing that I can have the tin opened and ready for inclusion in the recipe without the usual: “Hang on, can't get it open. Oh for goodness sake, now I've shot them on the floor!”

But there had to be a downside, didn't there? Mrs H can't get on with it. If she tries to open a tin she huffs and puffs as if she is attempting to prize a pound coin out of Brat Minor's hand.

“Neeyul! I can't use this damned opener!”

With a heavy sigh of patient suffering, I go to her aid and usually open the can without difficulty. But the other day, when she was having difficulty, she refused to be beaten. I stood there watching as the end of her tether approached with alarming speed. She gritted her teeth in that determined way of hers and appeared to be making headway. Suddenly she yelped.

“Aaahhh! I've cut myself. You reckon the can opener is the best we've had, I told you it was useless. I hate it!”

With that she charged off to the bathroom. Now, as she administered first aid to herself, I did feel that she was going out of her way to make a point.

“It's bleeding like anything,” she wailed. “Bring me some more tissue to mop up the blood.”

I hastened to her aid only to be told: “It's no good; I can't get a plaster to stick.”

Eventually she returned to the kitchen. Judging by the amount of tissue, it looked as though an Andrex puppy had done several circuits of her finger. She carried on cooking while muttering thoroughly disparaging comments about can openers and all those who make them. Meanwhile I completed the extrication of the chopped tomatoes from their metal home without, I have to say, too much difficulty.

The Magic can opener remains at the forefront of Fortress cooking. I am experiencing a bit of the feel-good factor knowing that I have a skill that eludes Mrs H.

But if anyone knows of the perfect tin opener, please let me know. I'll happily sacrifice my moment of one-upmanship to have one less kitchen duty.


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