K is for Knife
When I was getting ready to move out on my own, I lamented that I owned two lemon zesters and no sharp knives. For Christmas that year, my parents bought me a wonderful set of colorful knives, ready for any loaf of bread, tomato, or avocado I needed to slice.
This fall, I purchased a whole coconut from Trader Joe’s. It was bald and reminded me vaguely of drinking straight out of a shell on the road to Hana on Maui the week of my sixteenth birthday. The memory propelled my hands to put the coconut in the cart. There was no accompanying machete like I remembered from the side of the road, neatly shearing off the top. I figured that my red chef’s knife would do it.
Later, my knife was bent and my coconut open. It was delicious as I remembered, and I stuck a straw in the top, an act of self care.
Next time, my dad said, I should let him cut it with his axe.
I continued to use my red knife, noticing divots in cucumbers from time to time. I read an interview with Ruth Reichl in which she talks about a knife she’s owned for 40 years, sharpening it regularly. As I delve deeper into my family history, I hear a story about my Poppa, my mom’s dad, who went out and bought a knife while on vacation rather than use the ones provided in the kitchenette where they were staying. “A chef is only as good as his tools,” he would tell my mom. Those words ring in my ears as I slice in a crooked line.
A friend of mine owns a kitchen store. The other day, I was at her house and I told her about my bent knife. She didn’t laugh at me, but she let me slice some cheese with a couple of her knives, to see which brand I liked best.
Last week, I rose early on Black Friday and joined a cordial line of people waiting for the store to open. I chatted with those around me, asking them what they were after. “We just like to shop,” laughed the woman behind me. “We have some presents to pick up, and some gadgets.”
“I’m here for a knife,” I told them. “I bent one on a coconut.”
“Next time look for the scoring,” the man told me. “I used to work in produce. You just take a hammer and gently tap around the indentation until it falls open.”
When the doors opened, I headed straight for the doorbusters at the back of the store. My knife was one of a few options they had on sale. They were in sleek black boxes. I couldn’t help thinking that the packaging was very similar to the wands my brother and I had purchased at Harry Potter World for Christmas last year. This felt a little like being chosen by a wand.
Once home, I took out the knife to inspect it, taking in the beauty, and the extremely sharp edge before putting it back in it’s sheath. I was almost afraid to use it, afraid to mar the shiny surface and the newness. This gorgeous Japanese knife should belong to a sushi chef, or at least a chef, I thought. But a chef is only as good as her tools, and I am trying to learn the craft and art of creating excellent food. In the end, the first thing I sliced was a perfect avocado, first in half, then in slices. I barely used any pressure to bring the knife cleanly through without puncturing the outer skin (or any part of myself).
After the first use, I followed the care instructions from the booklet to the letter, not wanting to do anything to get this, hopefully lifelong, relationship off on the wrong foot. I found a way to pull the knife out before every meal. When I held the handle, it had as much import as a sword or the reins of a well trained horse. It is powerful, suited to a particular purpose. It does not know that I am not a chef. Or perhaps I do not know the truth yet, after all, the knife did choose me.
This post is the eleventh installment of a series called A to Z, one for each letter of the alphabet. These posts will be in order, about whatever strikes my fancy, posted each Monday.
To read "A is for Aravis" click here.
To read "B is for Bacon" click here.
To read "C is for Cake" click here.
To read "D is for Depression" click here.
To read "E is for Email" click here.
To read "F is for Finally" click here.
To read "G is for Grace" click here.
To read "H is for Hope" click here.
To read "I is for Infant" click here.
To read "J is for Jelly" click here.
My 12 Days of Christmas devotional art calendars are still available! They are my attempt to bring beauty and hush into your Christmas season (and those of any lucky friends who might receive them as gifts). Each card has a beautiful illustration by Alicia Heater of Slightly Stationary and a short devotion on the reverse, written by me. You can purchase them here.
Thanks to all of you who have already purchased, shared, gifted and offered me encouragement in this venture.