Sunday, March 6, 2011

Chop Chop

Wooden chopping boards are full of stories.
Today I'm cutting tomatoes into eighths and feeding the pieces to my enamelled stock pot with olive oil, garlic and onions. It happens every year when the over-ripe tomatoes are getting sold as 'sauce toms'. (I always delude myself into thinking I'm making sauce for the rest of the year, when in reality, it is so yummy it lasts, oh, two weeks, at best. Curries, pizza, pasta and cheese on toast. Gone.)

I'm using my favourite, sharpest knife. I'm cutting tomatoes on my favourite board - sheoak, silky-grained and gorgeous. I bought it from the wood carver's exhibition. Before I acquired this one, I had a solid block of jarrah, bevelled edges, sanded and oiled. This is where the story really begins. Stay with me here. Before the jarrah chopping board, when my daughter was a baby, I used a piece of pine that had once served as a base for a sculpture of my naked self in an exhibition ... but that is another tale.

I was in the galley kitchen of a rented weatherboard house by the beach; the kind that inland farmers bought for a song in the sixties for their summer holidays and are now selling for a million bucks. I was chopping onions for a feast with my lover, with no idea that I would conceive a child within the next few weeks.

The argument came out of nowhere.
"Caught up with someone who's just been to Tibet and India ..." (he listed recounted Eastern spiritual connections blah blah) " ... and they said they'd like that bit of jarrah I got, for a chopping board. They said how much they liked the jarrah. I told them they could have it."
Me, chopping with my favourite, sharpest knife. "Who?"
Brain goes POP.
"Her? You are giving all your beautiful wood to her?"
It was for good reason, in that galley kitchen, in the little weatherboard house, chopping onions on a crappy piece of pine, that my head and my heart exploded. (Why don't you love me enough?) I got quite hysterical. I started shouting. Perhaps I was even shrill, dammit. The teenage surfies who were sharing the house with us stopped their chatter in the living room. I heard their quietening beneath my quickening.

To his credit, he took the knife from me and dragged me into the bedroom. I kept shouting. He bit me.
(He bit me.) He bit me.
The next morning I woke up with him holding me. I looked at him and he laughed. My eyes were quite destroyed from crying all night and I had a perfect crescent of teeth marks around each side of my nose.

We survived that; but not the tsunami of family deaths, the lack of emotional intelligence, the bikies or my warrior response to my curtailed freedom.
Weeks after the breakup, he smashed the drivers' side window into my face with his helmet as I was trying to back out of the drive.
The next day, I opened the door to him and he handed me a jarrah chopping board, bevelled edges, sanded and oiled. No apology. Just a chopping board.

It's funny. I never thought about how long he'd kept that piece of jarrah, or that he'd even kept it at all, until today whilst chopping tomatoes. I think it's lying out in the garden somewhere now.


  1. So what is it about women and wooden chopping boards? We men just chop stuff on them. Plastic will do.
    But women...
    "I bought it from the wood carver's exhibition."
    Nice ending.

  2. Most beautiful things have a good story behind them. C'mon Shark, you know that.
    Plus, wooden chopping boards are good for immune system.
    Nice to hear from you. :-)

  3. Weatherboards, surfies, biker boyfriends, sauce toms, he, she, teeth marks, helmets, a wooden chopping board and goodbye. If memory can only be as good as the experience that created it, well. . .

    It's a sunny, quiet, even lazy Sunday afternoon here. I'm hoarse from shouting my son's losing team into a place they could still be proud of. Me and a pack of other over-zealous mums 'n dads doing that vicarious sporting thing. I remember your town all too well, Sarah.

  4. My chopping boards are from the left over interior window cills, my wife uses a plastic one. Memories from past lovers are like the chinese meal sweet & sour.
    Although I do have a lovely daughter who has made me a Grandpa.
    Thank you for the repast Sarah Toa :)

  5. I'm never ever going to look at a chopping board in the same way again!

    (Curiously, perhaps, the main character does something pretty damn interesting with a chopping board...stay tuned for that)

  6. Wow ST. I retrieved our current chopping block from the skip at work. A proper one - a lovely pice of blonde, perfectly flat, probably foreign timber.

  7. Excellent...the tales of the chopping board...made me reflect on the one crafted by an ex - made from part of the old grandstand at North Fremantle - and yes felt like ditching it at his head all too often :)

  8. i don't think anything i own has so much story to it . . . but, now that i'm thinking on it, i think some of my photographs do . . . which gives me an idea for a blog . . .

    *wanders off in search of pictures and words*

  9. See Shark? See? That's what it is about women and chopping boards ...
    Thanks to the men who commented as well and Happy International Women's Day to all. X Toa

  10. Speaking of which, any word from FP about OS ??