What you are looking at here is a constant companion of mine for over (ahem) 30 years. Yep, this baby and I have been through a lot together. It was given to me by my Mother when I was in college, though I don’t think it was an intentional gift. In those days my family owned a restaurant and catering company on the East End of Long Island in Greenport. On occasion wayfaring types would appear outside the back door selling all sorts of things, quality knives being one of them. I believe my Mom bought it to save her a trip of 30 miles to buy me some other sort of birthday gift, but I was thrilled to have it. She also knew that a good knife is a worthwhile gift for someone who loves to cook. It made me feel like a cook, it made me take cooking seriously.
If you know anything about professional chefs, you know that they are religious about their tools. Wherever they go, their knives go with them. This one is an 8″ Chef’s Knife made by Ludwig Schiff with a wooden handle. They don’t really make the wooden handles anymore. You can see why from the photo. Over time the wood splinters and cracks, even with diligent care- which I practice, (always washed by hand, never left to soak, never left in the bottom of the sink, and never- EVER washed in the dishwasher). I love that about this knife though. Like the lines around my smiling eyes, it tells a tale of travels.
I have two other knives in my base repertoire- meaning I have many other knives, but these are my core. One is a 7″ boning knife (mid photo), and the other is a serrated bread knife (left). The handle on the bread knife is the composite material they now mostly use, and as you can see it’s not indestructible either. Somewhere along the line I dropped it and the end chipped off. I remember when, I remember where. That’s another story.
So why am I telling you about my knives? Well, because the best part of having these quality tools is how well we work together. A good stainless steel blade will take a honing again and again, and give you an edge that makes slicing an art and a delight. I cannot express how important this is. Not long ago I visited a friend, and, which is often the case, we decided to cook together. The knife that she had was not a terrible knife really, but it was flimsy and had a dullish edge. What this meant for the our cooking experience was that chopping was not the finessing of vegetables into fine shapes, but rather an anxious battle of unruly edges. As I stood over the cutting board I had to wonder if the reason why so many people didn’t like chopping and slicing was because they had to work under conditions such as these. Truly. If every time I wanted to prepare something I had to do battle at the cutting board I would be less than enthused myself.
My chef’s knife weighs 9oz, which is fairly hefty. It is also beautifully balanced so that when I hold it in my hand we are a unit. When I place the knife on my board and prepare to cut, I move the blade to my rhythm and desire. We move like dancers. We do not fight. It’s supremely satisfying.
There is no doubt that stocking a kitchen with tools, quality or otherwise, is costly. I have a knife listed in my shop that you can purchase right now for less than $60 (normally around $100). Considering the long life you will have together, it’s worth every cent. I’m not suggesting that you purchase that one per se- but perhaps the next time someone asks you what you want as a gift, suggest a quality knife such as this. It may not be a romantic gift, but considering the long relationship you’ll have together, it’s pretty wonderful. You’ll thank me for it.
Then you can become a religious cook like me- because wherever I go, my knives go with me.