Chefs have a reputation for not having any feeling left in their fingers.
That’s not nearly accurate.
It’s true in a way: my temperature sensitivity is minimal. Unless it’s REALLY HOT (or cold) I typically am not phased.
My sensitivity and awareness to/of other things, though, is probably much higher than you could imagine. My fingers, they are full of feels. In the literal and figurative senses of the word. What my fingers feel is directly connected to what my heart feels.
Salt – this is the most distinct and intense of the spices for me. Kosher salt, specifically. The way the crystals stick in your fingerprint. How gritty it feels. The way it doesn’t slide but grinds across itself, sprinkles out of your fingertips at the edge of the pressure. When you shake your wrist just so, and make your thumb do those little circles so that the coat is even on whatever you’re salting… it’s the only crystalline thing in your seasoning setup and so it is completely unique. Identifiable with your eyes closed. My heart skips every time I pick it up in my fingertips because I know it is the start of something new. Something delicious.
Pepper is almost as distinct as salt. Fresh… somewhere between cracked and ground. Not powder. Just a few remaining ‘big’ pieces… half peppercorns that snuck through the blades of the grinder between pulses. Pepper is entirely different from salt. Softer. Round edges. It’s not sticky like the salt. You have to be more careful with it. It will fall out of your fingertips in clumps if you try to hold too much at once. I know it, but i know it like the voice of a highschool acquaintance. Familiar, but I don’t really like it on it’s own.
When you mix the salt and pepper together you get this kind of heavenly concoction. Like your best friends all in one room. The perfect mix of sticky and slippery, loud and soft, it has a little bit of float but doesn’t blow in the draft from the hoods like the solo pepper would. It is easy to get a nice even coating.
Crushed pepper flakes, powdered spices, crushed pods and ground twig-like things, chopped herbs and whole spices. Texture and consistency of sauces, a good stock from a weak one… These are all things my fingers can feel and distinguish from one another. They all have specific qualities that make them identifiable without having to look at them. All facilitated by my fingers.
So you see, my fingers, they have a lot of feeling. They know a great many things. They may not know heat or cold, but they know a great many things.