My Mandoline Brings Me Meditative Joy In The Form Of Effortlessly Sliced Cucumber

Oh, you still use knives to cut stuff up? How quaint.
Honestly it's life-changing
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Honestly it's life-changing

Honestly, it’s life changing is a regular series where we talk about the weird and wonderful possessions we can’t imagine life without. Think of it as an ode to the mundane, bizarre and, sometimes, wholly unnecessary products in our lives.

Remember the dark days of food preparation? Knives slicing and chopping uneven vegetables. Awful, right? Oh, you still use knives to cut stuff up? How quaint. Allow me to introduce you to the saver of time and, on occasion, robber of several layers of flesh: the mandoline.

The glamorous, romantically named mandoline is efficient and ruthless when it comes to reducing vegetables to rubble – albeit rubble that’s thinly sliced and uniform in size – at lightning speed.

Part handheld guillotine, part relaxation aid, the mandoline came into my life by accident, as most true loves tend to do. I was with my boyfriend in a well-known, deliciously uptight department store browsing their low-level bonkers kitchen gadgetry when he revealed he’d seen a recipe to make your own crisps in the oven, and wanted to give it a go.

The recipe said “slice potatoes very thinly, then bake”, so we searched for something that would give him a precise slicing solution, and came across a selection of mandolines. I’d never even hard of them until that moment, but they all seemed harmless and functional, until I spied that glinting killer steel.

OXO Good Grips Hand Held Mandoline, John Lewis, £11.99

After as much deliberation as anyone can possibly devote to a piece of plastic with a turbo-charged razor blade attached, we selected an OXO “Good Grips” one. Its handles seemed sturdy, both on the main apparatus itself, and on the appendage that sinks its teeth into your hapless veg and slides them across the blade and into sliced oblivion. It looked a safe bet. Plus it was small enough not to add much further stress to the deathless endurance test that is the wooden and steel chaos of my kitchen drawer.

“You’ll never use that more than once,” I said with, as it turned out, considerable authority. I was served those homemade crisps only once, but, for me, the acquisition of a mandoline was the start of an adventure.

I eat salads every day at lunchtime. It’s what I do. It’s become my personality; I’m a riot at parties. Before my mandoline revelation, I’d trudge to the supermarket or local greengrocer and buy radishes, peppers, cucumber, tomatoes, beetroot, and spring onions and would dread heaving it out of the fridge each afternoon, knowing it would take ages to chop. No more.

Soon I was zipping through my salad vegetables in no time. Best of all, unlike laborious chopping, it isn’t boring! It’s quite entertaining to watch the veg disappear behind the blade, to hear that satisfying swish. When sliced, the vegetables look so beautiful; I find such joy in an effortlessly sliced cucumber, gossamer-thin radish, and the elegant, curled shavings of a baby pepper.

My handheld veg assassin has three thickness settings so you can slice to your taste. I won’t lie, it took some getting used to – you soon discover its limits. Forget tomatoes, for example; they collapse on impact. Any vegetable that isn’t rock-hard but still has a little resistance, however, is fair game. The handle you slice with can be cumbersome if you don’t apply adequate force, and for a while I lived on the edge and sliced freehand. This led to the loss of two fingertips and the ceaseless hosing of claret on my worktops – it really, really stings – so I’m back using it as instructed. Safety first, people.

Initially, I had trouble pitching the mandoline to friends – mainly because for months I misdescribed it as a “mortadine”, whatever that is, so they had no idea what I was talking about. The cult is slow to grow. But trust me, whatever you call it when you’re alone, the mandoline is one of those things you don’t know you need until it’s there in your hand, changing your life one stroke at a time.

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