I Can’t Chop Parsnips!

76 parsnip pic4

Q: What has chopping parsnips got to do with the Alexander Technique?
A: Everything.

Q: How come?
A: Because the Alexander Technique is about making the best use of what you’ve got.

By which I don’t mean finishing up those wrinkly old potatoes in the bottom of the vegetable basket.  I mean making the most of what you have available in you; your arms, legs, head, feet, knees.  In fact, your whole body.  Taking a little minute to think about what these various bits do when you do things like chopping a parsnip.

This is the second of a mini-series looking at ways to make the best of what you’ve got.  Last week was beer.  Well, actually it was getting things down from a high shelf.  It also works for things that aren’t beer.

So back to the parsnips.

They’re a pretty tough veggie to tackle, especially that woody bit in the middle.  So take your time, and think through a checklist:

Do they chop the parsnips? (not really, they just keep you upright.  No strain, just stand)
Does hunching help chop the parsnips?  (No.  Just no.  Just leave your torso be)
Wrist or elbow?  (wrist is fast and easy, elbow has more strength.  Depends just how tough the parsnip is)
One hand or two hands? (there’s no rule that says you have to use just one hand.  You can put your ‘other’ hand on the tip of the knife and push down from both ends together.  Doubles the chopping force)
Going up? (pushing your shoulders up when you want to push the knife down is just plain contrary)
Looking or chopping? (looking at what you are doing is good, but really doesn’t need much effort. It’s the knife going through the parsnip, not your neck)

Not part of you, but still part of the job in hand.  So find yourself a chopping board, and a work surface at a decent height.  And you know that beautiful, sharp knife that has been lurking in the back of the cupboard for ever.  Get it out and use it.

Works for parsnips.  Probably works for carrots, swede, onions, turnips, potatoes, squash…
Anyone for soup?

Image courtesy of pixabay.com

CNHC and ITM registered Alexander Technique teacher.

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Posted in asking questions, everyday life, tips
3 comments on “I Can’t Chop Parsnips!
    • Hi Rosie, I loved your Great Parsnip Disaster story, thank you for sharing it. Mind you, I think I would have been tempted to throw something at the ballet instructor. I usually microwave swede for a few minutes before I try and chop it. Glad you learned something – it’s amazing the corners of life where the AT turns out to be useful. Karen

  1. Rosie Burton says:

    You couldn’t possibly have thought of a more perfect example than parsnips! Absolute genius; so very true. As well as being really impressed by your common sense and ability to apply A.T. to everyday life, I’ve been absolutely doubled over laughing because of my Great Parsnip Disaster. One night about fifteen years ago I was engaged in all-out war with a particularly bloody-minded lot of ’em. Knife ended up taking a good slice of my left thumb’s knuckle-bone. When my flat-mate came home he actually thought there’d been a break-in and that I’d had to fight off an invader! Kitchen and loo looked as if Russian royalty had paid a call. I mean that stupid thumb just would not stop bleeding. Next night I had a ballet lesson with a new class and teacher – you can imagine what a roundly bandaged thumb looks like in ballet class. Sticks out like, yes, a sore thumb! The marvelously camp teacher called out: ‘You! You with the thumb! Were you attacked?’ All I could do was stare at the floor and mumble ‘er … trying to chop parsnips …’ (This was in New York, where parsnips are basically an unknown quantity.) Camp Teacher roared ‘Oh my God, a farm girl! We’ve got a farm girl in the class!’ It was so funny I couldn’t help but love him for it. I’ve still got a scar, that knuckle really hurts and swells up in cold weather, but … I learnt to parboil or steam the buggers before chopping! So that’s why I can really appreciate the brilliance of this post. And I did actually learn quite a lot from it! Thank you!

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