The joys of a good knife

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Last October, I was called out for not having a good knife. I thought I did—a brand I won’t mention because your niece/godson/third-cousin-twice-removed is selling them as we speak. Some months later, a professional chef was in my kitchen with a collection of her own knives, carefully kept in a wonderful leather roll. That the pouch cost more than all my cutlery should have told me something. The chef graciously walked me through the information I’d need to purchase a good knife of my own: forged not stamped, Japanese or German, hand-tried and balanced, Sur la Table, on sale if possible, or Amazon.

So off I went with some idea of what to look for. I purchased a Miyabi Koh, on sale of course, but also available at Wal-Mart, thereby lessening the panache of Sur la Table. I bought a Messermeister holder for it, to prevent its doing harm to other utensils in the drawer as well as my unintentional grab. I put it away.

Now here’s the interesting thing: I had never actually used a good knife. With the chef’s tools, I was merely a beholder, not a handler. Being chided for not having a good one meant very little. In essence, I didn’t know what I was missing. When I first used the knife to cube some chicken for tikka masala, my reaction was simple: “Oh. That’s what a good knife does.”

A few weeks later, a daughter-in-law was invited to use it. Her response was less enthusiastic than one would hope, a “ho-hum, sure” sort of reaction. But then she sliced into some potatoes. Her immediate call to my son to come check this knife out was gratifying. Oh. It is different.

For years I have misquoted Albert Einstein, who said: “Example isn’t just another way to teach. It is the only way.” My change is to substitute “experience” for “example.” It has a corollary in “Telling isn’t teaching,” but I don’t always have to be a prof so we won’t go further. I do believe that reading can and is an extension of experience; fiction allows us to have experiences without the messes. The cliché that will suit today is, of course, “You don’t know what you’re missing.” Dangerous, perhaps, but relevant if taken with care.

So I invite you to experience the joys of a good knife. If you don’t want to purchase one, ask a friend. Come to my house, and we’ll cube some chicken. Perhaps you will then say, “Oh.”

2 thoughts on “The joys of a good knife”

  1. I will be right over! Just promise me you won’t let me cut something that I shouldn’t (like a finger). I, too, have never used a good knife, or so I’ve been told. My mother was told the same thing before me. I wonder if her mother was told that, too.

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