When I decided to move to an apartment, one of my agonizing decisions was what sort of cutlery to get. My mother had always remarked that sharp knives were crucial for a pleasantly functioning kitchen. For just about the entire time I worked in her kitchen she did not have particularly good knives, so I got to experience some of the frustrations of pushing a knife through some tough cut of meat, or squashing rather than slicing a tomato. I also verified her philosophy with some exceptionally cheap knives that were passed along to us, flimsy little things that belong in a play house set.
Well, not my play house set. I gained familial fame as a child for my propensity to injure myself with knives. The penultimate example is when I was stabbing orange peels lying on the table. I was stacking as many up on the blade as I could and it was getting full. For some reason I had hold of the peel I was currently trying to stab and I got my finger in the bargain.
Seemed to take forever to heal up and hurt pretty good the whole while.
So I know how useless is the adage about “A sharp knife is safer than a dull one.” It’s not really the knife that matters. If the undertrained operator is heaving and jerking a dull knife around, yeah, he’ll get hurt. If the same unskilled operator is dancing his professionally sharp knife across the cutting board in an eloquent ballet and forgets to take his fingers out of the way, he’ll still get hurt. To be safe you have to work with the knife you have, and the hands you want to keep.
Leaving my mother’s kitchen, I first had experience in my Grandmother’s kitchen. Her knives brought out all the good qualitys of my mother’s. Although I tried admonishing Grandma that sharp knives were safer, she pretty much won with her reasoning that if you are going to be knocking knives off the counter, they might better be short, light, dull knives, to give your feet half a chance. (Still has more to do with the operator than the knife, but we may say the handicap is physical and not mental in this case.)
When it came time for me to move, I had to consider how I wanted to provision myself with knives. I knew relatives would be glad to provision me with some of those knives that make chimpanzees look like skilled toolcrafters and I knew I would not accept such follies for free, much less buy them. But I had to be frugal. Several times I teased the idea of buying a complete set of good knives for hundreds of dollars, for the principle of the thing, but I couldn’t really come to terms with the cost. Then I thought about buying a few good knives. But getting a set of knives one at a time costs more than buying them all, so I had a mental roadblock there, too.
Eventually I decided to buy one very good knife. I didn’t scour the internet or the botique gormet stores for an Excalibur, but I did get a knife from the Locked Up Case of Expensive Knives at Bed Bath & Beyond. One paring knife. I found that at my Grandmother’s I could handle most cooking tasks for a small audience using the one paring knife I thought sharp enough to be manageable. A few tasks require a larger knife, but by myself I was not likely to need that. And it wound up that I got some medicore larger knives for free anyway, good enough to cover the gap.
But then I found out that my bonus points on my credit card had, in the course of time, actually begun to amount to something. And I got an offer for a ton of free points if I spent over a certain amount within two months. Until I had moved to the apartment it would not have been prudent to meet the spending limit, but once I had I was spending enough money on necessities that it seemed achievable. I signed up. I met the limit.
Only recently did I check back to see if the set of decent knives I’d scoped out was still available. It was. The list price on these knives is as high as I’d ever want to consider for knives, but the Amazon.com discount price gives you an idea of how far these are marked up. Some of the reviews speak of the price as if it is low-end or a budget set. Wish I could think so! Probably any real gourmet would agree, and think these knives tolerable at best.
I like them. Well, I have used one so far. Comparing to the one good knife I’ve been sticking with for months, I would say about equal; not unbelievably sharp, as the particular knife (6″ utility) I used gave me some reluctance to start a cut on some mushrooms. Goes to show why people would spend even more on knives. The mushrooms, though, were getting old, and that makes a lot of fruits and vegetables tough on the outside and a little soft on the inside, harder to start a cut on. My “one good knive” is also like that, although, being shorter, it concentrates the force more and is easier to control.
The weight of the knives is good and the handle is well shaped. Weight is very often and indicator of quality (as noted on Amazon, the steak knives are lighter and not as convincing). The worst cheap little throwaway knives actually float, plastic handle up, in dishwater. These have a good solid heft and a nice tone as they brush against a hard object. Cheap knives also sound flat or dull where good knives have a higher, almost tense resonance. You know, the “Shhing-ing-ing” sound when a sword is drawn. Or something like that.
So this time I won. I have a nice selection of good knives without spending any money that I was not already spending for other purposes. Hehehe! How clever I am. I think I will go practice my cleverness by finding something totally unnecessary to do with my knives.