Monday, June 7, 2010


So I discovered a couple of days ago that in all my 29 years of life, I have not, in fact, ever independently opened a wine bottle. This fact is not really all that shocking when you consider the following: I don’t drink wine by myself, and on all previous wine-drinking occasions, someone more alcoholic than I has always been around to do the bottle opening. What with my aversion to liquids of any kind, pretty much any non-Mormon fulfills the above criteria.

However, the risotto recipe I was preparing for dinner required a cup of wine, the Pitt was still at work, and the cheap Trader Joe’s vintage I had purchased for this purpose was sadly not so cheap as to have a screw top.

“Hmm,” I said to myself as took out the bottle. “I’ve seen people do this a hundred times, how hard could it be?” The answer, in case anyone is still wondering, is: surprisingly difficult for a person with a PhD.

I took out the corkscrew, idly wondered what the metal thingie on the end was for, and then proceeded to ignore it as I put the corkscrew in the cork. Step one successfully accomplished, I then pulled the corkscrew out of the cork by reversing my twisting action in the opposite direction. Anyone with bottle opening experience is already laughing, as of course this left a hole in the cork, but did not actually move it out of the bottle even a tiny bit. Perhaps, it belatedly occurred to me, I was supposed to pull without twisting the corkscrew out. I reinserted the screw, and then tried again. The cork very firmly did not budge.

As I considered the situation, it became clear that I was out of ideas. It was time to consult the Internets. So I pulled up Google, and typed in “how to use a corkscrew.” I was only mildly ashamed of myself at this point. Unfortunately, the eHow article I opened was incredibly useless, telling me to basically repeat what I had just done. So I tugged on the corkscrew a little more, but it was obvious that I had to take other measures, or The Pit would come home to an uncooked meal, not to mention a wine bottle shattered all over the kitchen floor in frustration.

So I bit the bullet and consulted my friend Eric, who was not only immanently qualified by virtue of being an alcohol-consuming male, but also getting ready to defend his PhD in physics. I figured he’d had plenty of practice explaining incredibly complicated things to dimwitted undergraduates, and thus should have no trouble with the particular instructional task I was about to present him.

Turns out I was right…he correctly treated me like the retard that I was, and first asked me if my corkscrew had a lever. This is of course the equivalent of asking your grandmother if she has pressed the ON button when she calls to complain that the computer screen is all dark. So naturally that little metal thingie I’d been ignoring had turned out to be crucial to the whole enterprise. It is invariably the case that when I'm being an idiot, it is because I'm blithely ignoring something obvious right in front of my face. Eric showed me the following picture, and instructed me on the magical properties of lever fulcrums. Physics to the rescue!

The wine bottle opening successfully accomplished, I proceeded to make my very first risotto. In case anyone was wondering, I was using this recipe with shrimp...despite the rave reviews on the website, we found the finished product kind of bland, and had to add significant amounts of parmesan and asiago cheese. However, sweet sweet cheese combined with sweet sweet physics eventually made this meal a success.


  1. Acutally, the "does it have a lever" question was not meant to be trivial. There are several different types of corkscrews and they are all operated differently. I did not condescend to the "dimwitted undergrad" level (aka "full retard") until I asked you if you were trying to take out the cork by unscrewing the corkscrew.

    Posting anonymously in case some undergrad I've taught comes across this. None of you are dimwitted or retarded. Only unique and beautiful.

  2. Fortunately, I'd already figured the unscrewing part out by myself. Guess I'm only a half retard.