He was the Harold Hill of the exhibition hall circuit. A traveling, one-act performer who hosted a 30-minute cooking demonstration in which he promised better, healthier, and more convenient meals in less time…provided that you bought whatever culinary wonder he was currently hawking.
He was the “Slice-it-dice-it Man” and he was my childhood hero.
Part carnival barker, part infomercial spokesperson and part Harry Houdini, the Slice-it-dice-it Man was a staple at the Indiana State Fairgrounds and I was attracted to him like a mosquito is to bare flesh. No matter if it was the fair itself, the home show or other exposition, it didn’t take me long to find him, push my way to the front and watch as he sliced, diced and julienned vegetables into works of art.
“Oh Mom, we’ve gotta get one of those,” I pressed after the Slice-it-dice-it Man showed off his fancy Japanese Ginsu knife. That thing was truly a modern marvel. Not only could it slice bread thin enough you could practically see through it, but also it cut meat better than an electric knife. It could hack into a tree (a fact he demonstrated by lacerating his wooden cutting board), saw an aluminum can and remain sharp enough to gently segment a tomato without turning it to mush.
“It’s a knife no kitchen should be without,” the Slice-it-dice-it man agreed, thrilled to have an unpaid ringer helping him make a sale.
He immediately pointed out the “free” gifts that were included in his special “show only” price of…say it with me…$19.95: two paring knives, a set of steak knives, and some kind of screw that you popped into a potato and twirled around until you turned the spud into a slinky. As an added bonus, the Slice-it-dice-it Man threw in a second double-sided Ginsu. Looking back on it, this doesn’t make a lot of sense. I mean, if it were supposedly indestructible, why the need for a second one?
Logic aside, my mother actually bought into the spiel, purchasing the Ginsu thanks in part to my persistence. The Slice-it-dice-it Man proudly handed over her new kitchen tools complete with a certificate of authenticity and money back guarantee. These last two items were a LOT smaller than they appeared on TV and required a powerful magnifying glass to read properly. I do remember her using the orange handled knife quite a bit over the years, but can only recall one meal that involved curly cued potatoes.
In the years that followed, I have seen the Slice-it-dice-it Man graduate to cookware, choppers, high-tech thingamajigs and a number of handy-dandy devices that no self-respecting cook should walk away from. Thankfully, I have a tad more sales resistance than I did as a child and can enjoy the show with my bank account in tact. However, I always pause to take in a bit of his act. I can’t help it. Like sno-cones, elephant ears and the hog barn, the Slice-it-dice-it Man was a part of my State Fair experience…
And something no childhood should be without.