David Hoppe

David Hoppe is available
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:: Shaving with a brush

by David Hoppe

I was having dinner at the Jazz Kitchen with one of my dearest pals. This was about a year ago; we had just sat down at our favorite table and ordered our usual drinks when, without so much as a drumroll, my friend produced a cardboard box. It wasn’t big, it wasn’t small. If we’d been in Chicago, instead of Indianapolis, I would have guessed it held something like a 16-inch softball, what some people sometimes refer to as “a kitten ball.”

But that is not what was in the box.

“Look,” said my pal apologetically, “I didn’t wrap this up because it’s not a present. I don’t want you to feel obligated in any way.”

Then he asked me if I shaved with an electric razor or a blade.

“Blade,” I said. “Always.”

A great look of relief crossed my pal’s furrowed brow. “Good,” he said.

I opened the box.

Inside was a handmade German silvertip shaving brush and a container of coconut oil shaving cream that, according to its container, was prepared at George Trumper’s “celebrated establishment” in London.

I probably started shaving at about the same time I started high school. Like most boys and men, I generally covered my face with the puffy white stuff that blurted from an aerosol bomb. From time to time I experimented with gels and tubes. I’ve even tried a beard — but once you reach that point in your working life where you are older than your boss, looking like a cross between John the Baptist and Tom Waits loses its cache.

Shaving never really amounted to anything but a daily chore, punctuated by an occasional minor bloodletting, as far as I was concerned.

This, my pal assured me, would change once I availed my self of this old school shaving kit.

He was right.

Shaving the old fashioned way, brushing on a layer of silky cream, turns out to be an unexpectedly sensuous pleasure. If shaving like this takes a little longer, who cares? It feels good. Why, I wonder, would anyone who shaves want to do it any other way?

I am reminded of a conversation I once had with the agricultural historian Eleanor Arnold. Eleanor collected the oral histories of Indiana farm women. For the most part, these were accounts of relentlessly hard work, much of it involving the preparation of food.

So when frozen meals, like the TV Dinner, appeared on the scene, they were greeted as a kind of liberation. These products freed women’s time in ways they had hardly dared to imagine. They could sit a spell on the front porch and socialize with their neighbors, for a change.

Of course, this also opened the floodgates to processed food, diminished nutrition, obesity and a host of other unintended consequences — all in the name of convenience.

But what goes around, comes around. Several generations later, people are rediscovering the virtues of locally grown, fresh foods. More and more of us are learning to cook. Slow food is in.  

It’s a little like shaving with a brush.