Cans and can’ts

Pub date June 25, 2008
WriterL.E. Leone
SectionCheap EatsSectionFood & Drink


CHEAP EATS There’s a reason you don’t see electric can openers anymore. They’re completely idiotic. But maybe you have arthritis, or a wrist-related disability. With you (and lots and lots of money) in mind, some cat in Hong Kong invented the One-Touch can opener, which runs on batteries. I came across one in an able-bodied young friend’s kitchen drawer. To her credit, the battery was dead, or MIA. Ergo, I couldn’t figure out how to work it.

Which wasn’t, by the way (and speaking of idiocy), for lack of effort on my part. In fact, we got into a bit of a brawl, me and this nifty, innovative, as-seen-on-TV assemblage of plastic and metal parts. It won. After about an hour and a half — bloodied, bruised, and fuming — I swallowed my pride, along with four teeth, and asked my friend in different words how the goddamn fucking piece of shit bastard worked.

She was in the other room, nursing the baby. "Oh, that?" Someone had given it to her as a present, she said, as embarrassed as I was (to her credit). It needed a battery. There should be a "real" can opener somewhere in the same drawer, she said.


I limped back to the kitchen, found the familiar, trusty, stalwart hand-crank Swing-A-Way, and the feel of it in my hands was like mother’s milk to the tongue. I was so soothed and content I fell asleep. On my feet. At the counter. On the clock. So to speak. Next to the refrigerator.

Through no fault of my own, dinner was late. Modern technology was to blame. Anyone who can’t see that is even dumber than me. Some things can’t be improved upon, and the classic model rotary can opener is one of them. Anyone who tries … I hate them.

I love cooking in other people’s kitchens, but I’m going to have to start traveling with my own can opener — ideally, for effect, in a holster. Just one week after being humiliated by a device designed for senior citizens, I was in another friend’s kitchen, helping out eatswise before a party, and I had another run-in with yet another kind of can opener that wasn’t your standard Swing-A-Way rotary opener, and therefore didn’t work.

Technically it wasn’t my run-in so much as my friend Kizzer’s. At least initially. We were working side-by-side, me chopping up stuff for the coleslaw, and she opening cans for the bean salad. Trying to open cans, I should say. But this particular new, improved, innovative state-of-the-art can opener had different ideas, which included Kizzer almost having to go to the emergency room and me pretty much smelling and feeling like bean juice for the rest of the day.

Ironically, the idea behind this alleged improvement on perfection is to cut the lid down below, on the can side of the seam, rather than the top, so that you don’t end up with that ragged and dangerous lid to dispose of. You end up with a ragged and dangerous can.

Not to mention it took three people with graduate degrees, a couple of knives (without), and about 15 minutes to finish the job that my old $2 opener would have finished in less than 10 seconds (I checked). And the mangled can, afterward, looked very much like a weapon.

So I verbally abused our lovely and gracious hostess for keeping such a thing in a house with small children, and she said it was the only kind they had at Rainbow Grocery.

Ah. Leave it to my favorite kind of people, vegetarian hippies, to turn can opening into a bloody, beany battlefield, and in the interest of what? Safety? Ergonomics? The environment?

Look, if they don’t have a $2 can opener down at your local thrift store, you can order one brand new online for $6. I’m sure of it. I really did check: eight wrist-twists and five seconds opens a standard-size can. And if that sounds too exhausting, too time-consuming, or somehow dangerous to you, get the hell out of the kitchen please. I’ll cook. *

My new favorite restaurant is Puerto Alegre. I was eating something brunchy there with Earl Butter, my brother, and my nephew when it occurred to me that I’ve been eating here pretty consistently for longer than I’ve been pretty consistently eating anywhere else around here. So it must be good. It’s not the best Mexican food in the Mission District, but I love the atmosphere. And if you show up right at 11 a.m., even on weekends, you can sit right down.


546 Valencia, SF

(415) 255-8201

Mon., 11 a.m.–10 p.m.; Tues.–Sun., 11 a.m.–11 p.m.

Full bar