The kitchen is a dangerous place. While it might look idyllic as portrayed by Carl Larsson, I have found it to be more a place where the urban myth of "did you hear about some guy who microwaved his cat, and it exploded" is tame compared to at least nine injuries I have sustained over the years.
Lest this be construed and constructed as a sexist piece, making the Swedish or Swedish-American male into an inept domestic bumbling idiot, some women no doubt have encountered the dangers of which I speak. They, too, have survived while navigating this part of the house they pay such attention to on television shows that obsessively offer tips on how to spend money on renovation. If it were up to me, a kitchen would be an annex the size of what realtors list as a half bathroom.
But back to the theme of "Danger, Will Robinson!"—the saying that entered American culture in the 1960s with "Lost in Space" and has infiltrated my international mind.
I have given the danger and first source of my pain a name: dishwasher. How many times I have bent over to empty this labor-saving device only to injure my back, even when just approaching the top rack to take out mugs and glasses that also annoyingly drip water on my hands or hold a little pool on the bottoms of the turned-upside-down containers, during an act that offers also the moral quandary of "to dry or not to dry" with a towel before putting the dishes in the cupboard.
My back even went out before deciding to take the shortcut of not wiping the upside down mugs and glasses! So this labor-saving device—the dishwasher invented in its early form by a woman named Josephine Cochrane who was annoyed by her domestic help doing hard, manual work on her china—cost me $4000 when I needed an epidural after laboring to transport just one mug out of this dishwasher. Thank you, oh foremother Josephine, for my punishment and pain. And really, if we must put on our feminist caps, as a male I well deserve to feel pain requiring an epidural, lazy that I am in the kitchen.
The Swedish word for dishwasher, "diskmaskin," is so much more appropriate, as it holds it its provenance the danger, the evil of the machine that awaits the unsuspecting man (or woman) who comes near.
My kitchen, which by the way has idyllic Carl Larsson prints framed on its walls lulling one into unsuspecting comfort, has been like an ocean with sharks prowling. One of the sharks is a kind of pan that looks very modern and has a gliding surface to which nothing sticks. When I enter to do my biannual cooking—scrambling eggs (the other would be to boil water for pasta)—I touch the handle of the pan to pour the paltry fruit of my labors onto a plate, and I scream in physical pain worthy of the mental pain of Munch's famous painting. The soft salve of the buttery eggs offers little in the way of healing. I will wear a bandage to work the next day. Kitchen men of the world, cry "unite!"
I have also known sadness near the place I have little use for when my wife cuts onions. But let me offer us all some advice: Do not complain about tears from onions or any other smell coming from the kitchen if you are not the one doing the preparing or cooking. And while cutting at the kitchen island or counter, be sure to have clean towels on hand to stop your bleeding when you try to cut, for example, a tomato. When your blood flows, you might hear, "Why didn't you use a sharp knife," and you will be able to add to your disappointment that the tomatoes somehow look as if they were sliced in the wrong direction. My tomatoes never look like the ones I see other people present for sandwiches.
Once you have stopped your bleeding after the encounter with the kitchen knife shark (and learned you should not use the good kitchen towels to do so), get ready to use costly bandages (have you checked the prices of these things lately?) and experience the inconvenience of typing while wearing these highly touted products (read the descriptions on a Band-Aid box sometime, or stay tuned for a column on this topic).
I also do not recommend hand-washing any kitchen utensils while you are wearing bandages because they will fall off or take on a texture you will not like, despite the manufacturer's claims of being water-resistant. Be careful when you enter the sudsy water, hands like flesh submarines. Of course you can burn yourself (getting the right temperature of the dishwater is not as easy as you would think), but worse is the inevitable discovery of a knife shark in the water. Time for more kitchen towels and Band-Aids.
So there you are with several fingers compromised, back hurting, standing in your Carl Larsson graphic paradise of pain and danger, no longer able to enjoy the prospect of one of the summering Larsson family members being pinched by a crayfish, because you know pain is no longer idyllic. You have become a living performance art project, and you want to banish all and everything related to the labor of kitchens to a Viking's dark hall of never neverland.
You decide you will leave this world behind, sit down and relax in your Adirondack chair on the porch, outside, away from the inferno of whatever kitchen would be called in Latin or Italian, and you pour some left over coffee into a mug, open the microwave (no exploded cat innards in yours to clean up!), put the liquid of salvation into the center of the spinning wheel, shut the door, set the timer, and what the #&@*!, stars and pings, pings and stars—you rush to shut off the microwave.
What do you know. Your mug had some tiny metallic decoration on it. Well-read (with reading glasses) that you are, you know metals and microwaves are a no-no. But reading glasses to use a mug in the kitchen? Sufficient optical assistance or not, you don't need a ping pong game going on in the microwave. That could signify real "Danger, Will Robinson!" with results as depressing as the fates of the victims and "happy" characters of a "Wallander" episode starring Krister Henriksson.
But you are happy, at least as happy as someone in Wallander Land, that no one else is in the house to witness yet another expert move in that dangerous place called a kitchen that really should be a half bathroom or converted into a permanent takeout food strategy.
You take the coffee mug and thank your lucky stars nothing bad has happened to the microwave or you, but you are paranoid that some kind of chemical reaction might have occurred that would not make the coffee good for you, so you pour it out in the sink, carefully checking that no knives are sticking up from it like stakes in an animal trap in a political animal documentary. You throw away the mug just to be safe, and then you check your coffee maker. Out of luck, no coffee left.
Very carefully you walk to your car. God it hurts to sit down, your back just can't take this, but somehow you manage to steer with one or two remaining fingers to the local Starbucks. You find the drive-thru to be unoccupied, get your tall Sumatra and drive off, savoring the thought of sitting outside in your beautiful backyard, sipping coffee and listening to birds sing and squirrels chatter—now that your fingers cannot move across the iPad very well, you must instead listen and watch—and as you turn the corner to head into traffic, "AAAAAAHHHHH!" Why does it hurt so much when hot coffee makes contact with your thigh?
Carl Larsson, take me home. There is Skåne roast at the bottom of the shelf, and I ask my wife very nicely if she will make me a cup of coffee. In return, I will tell her of my adventure in the kitchen. I will be brave.
No, I will imagine a world where wooden butter knives are my oars, the osthyvel the most dangerous object known to humankind.

By Ulf Kirchdorfer