"In this sticky web that we're all in, behaving decently is no small task." -- Novelist Stacey D'Erasmo

Saturday, February 8, 2014

"Honey, Can You Open This for Me?"

     This is just a short post . . . short because I'm basically admitting what a wimp I am.

     B has a little arthritis in her hands, so every once in a while she'll call me into the kitchen and ask me to open up a jar or a bottle for her -- unscrew the cap from a particularly difficult container.

     But I have a little arthritis is my hands as well, and I'm not as strong as I used to be (not that I was ever that strong). And so sometimes neither one of us can manage to twist off the top of a bottle.

     The other day we spent a good 20 minutes wrestling with a small jar of artichoke hearts. She tried to open it; then I tried to open it. No luck. I got out our little rubber twisty thing that's supposed to give you a better grip. Didn't work. Then I tapped the lid of the jar with the back of a kitchen knife -- an old trick I learned from my mother. No luck.

The offending bottle cap
     Finally, I ran the jar under some warm water for about a minute, then using the little rubber twisty thing I gave it my all . . . and finally the cap moved a bit and then I opened the artichoke hearts, like I was cracking open a rusty old treasure chest.

     So last night I was sitting at the computer when B called. "Tom, can you come here a minute?"

     I got up and went to the kitchen. B had a bottle of vinegar in her hands. She looked at me sweetly and asked, "Can you open this for me?"

     "I'll try," I said. But the top was pretty small, so it was hard to get a grip. I strained and struggled. I tried the twisty thing; I tried banging it with the knife; I tried the hot water. I tried everything.

     Nothing worked. So finally, instead of making our own salad dressing, we gave up and served a bottle of Kraft's Italian.

     I guess we'll have to wait until B's son comes by -- he's supposed to be here on Sunday. Maybe he, with his 20-something-year-old hands, can crack open that bottle of vinegar. But, why oh why, do these packaged food companies have to twist those caps on so damn tight?


Anonymous said...

Use a bottle opener - the one with a little hook that fits under the lid - and push up around the lid. Works every time.

Anonymous said...

Gigi beat me to it. Failing being able to break the vacuum by lifting around the edges of the lid, poke a hole in the lid with an awl or the pointy end of a church key.

For a video, by Millie, on "I Can't Open It!", go to http://youtu.be/bY_RTajnMeQ.

Cop Car

Anonymous said...

I'm with you. Who dreams up the awful caps anyway? Dianne

Rosaria Williams said...

There is an opportunity for some fine intrepid people to re=brand all caps and make them easier to open, but still tamper-proof.

Friko said...

Have you never tried pliers? That’s what we do with bottles.
With jars I use a narrow tool to push under the rim until the swoosh of escaping air is heard.

The best tool I have for opening narrow openings is a nutcracker (works like pliers) which I hold tight round the top and twist. Works every time.

Feeble hands make acute brains.

Dick Klade said...

My problem, exactly. And Gigi and Friko just solved it!

Tom said...

Thanks all! I got it open with pliers. I was afraid to use a bottle opener for fear of breaking the cap, and I don't want an open bottle of vinegar sitting around for the next two months waiting to get spilled ... although I guess I could top it off with a wine stopper.

Still and all, why do they have to tighten the cap so hard you'd think they're trying to hold back radioactive materials that would melt down my kitchen?

June said...

You need this:
My childhood household had one and I have one now. Foolproof.

Kirk said...

For stubborn jars I use a rubber strap wrench normally intended for auto oil filters.

Alan G said...

I’m a ‘banger’ myself although in the case of the bottle in your photo that might not be the safest approach, especially if you’re using the banging technique but you are easily frustrated. Nevertheless, grabbing the bottom of the jar and then slowly rotating it around as I bang it against the kitchen counter usually works. But again, it obviously won’t pass any OSHA standards.

My second choice if banging doesn’t work – the old channel lock pliers but then that solution is usually just as aggravating because the next challenge is trying to remember where you last left those darn things!

Jono said...

If it wasn't for stuck lids and things out of reach I don't know if she would even keep me around. And I'm not as strong as I used to be either.

Tom said...

June, Thanks. I took a look at that link ... but I have no idea what it is or what it does. Looks like an instrument somebody might have found at Abu Ghraib. And Juno, I know what you mean. At least I still have some height on her -- but then I'm shrinking in my old age. I used to be able to claim 6 feet. Now I'm exaggerating to say I'm 5' 11"!

Douglas said...

I have always used the method Gigi and Friko spoke of. It is, all too often, a vacuum seal created at the bottler's and you just need enough pressure t to break that seal. You will hear it "pop" when the seal breaks and the air gets in, the caps come right off after that. I admit that this works best on large lids like pickle jars and such but it also works on the smaller ones... you just have to be a little more careful.

Anonymous said...

Friko--"...until the swoosh of escaping air is heard."

If you hear escaping air, throw the food away. If you hear an intake of air, you are good to go.

Tom--On jars/bottles, at least, it is often the vacuum that snugs the cap, making the friction between cap and jar/bottle quite high.
Cop Car

Linda Myers said...

So far I can still open the jars and bottles. But I have trouble reading the tiny, tiny print on prescription bottles. I think they should use a bigger font.

b+ (Retire In Style Blog) said...

Oh dear, you had me laughing like crazy...my husband has very strong hands but I am as stubborn as an ox so I will struggle on forever before I give up and ask for help.

We bought a house a couple of years ago that was home to a very old lady. Up under the cupboard was a v shaped device with teeth on the inside. Now i just slide the jar, bottle or whatever into the v, pull toward me and turn. It is absolute magic.

I gave up on the "rubber thingy" when I was 40! Good luck and for goodness sakes don't hurt yourself. :)


Unknown said...

I don't know if you have a Pampered Chef person near you but if you can locate one I would suggest this type of device that they sell. It has a 'V' shaped metal part with a serrated edge that grips any size jar and a handle that provides plenty of leverage to make it easy to open almost any lid. It's even easier it you use the optional mount for under a kitchen cabinet. We mounted ours under a cabinet and it works great and isn't visible so not 'unsightly.' The only problem I've had is that I forget that it's there!