a sharp knife is your friend or how I fell in love with knives (part 1)

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An ode to my knives is really what I should have titled this post. I’m deeply fond of my current knives after years of experimenting in different kitchens with other knives. I went on long dates with some knives and I two-timed or even three-timed (if that is even a thing) with some knives.

It takes time to find a knife that’ll make you happy – just like it takes time to find a partner that’ll make you happy.

You can’t just jump in with a knife and know that you two will connect. You need to worry about things like: Will the handle feel good in the palm of my hand? Will the blade slice through an onion without sticking? Can it slice through the sinew connecting a short rib bone just like slicing celery? Will I be able to take care of it and give it the attention it needs? These and more are all serious questions when looking for your one true love(s).

Where did my first dalliance with a knife start? It started all the way back in 1995-96 during high school (that’ll help date me – I’m sure). We had the option of certain election courses like wood shop, etc and I was lucky to pick up Food Tech Prep. I knew I’d need to feed myself in college and even at that young age I knew a man who could cook would sure stand a better chance at impressing a lady.

Now mind you she wasn’t a fancy knife or even “my” knife – since she was shared amongst 5 or 6 other classes, but she taught me how to slice tomatoes, dice onions, smash garlic and chop chicken for the obligatory stir fry. In the faint memories of long ago I can barely remember the color of her handle, but I do remember she was always sharp and ready for action with the slight serrated edge usually reserved for utility kitchen knives. But she taught me how to cook and seeded the love for the blog you are reading now.

After high school I went off to college in the lovely hamlet of Walla Walla and in the dorms found no knife sharper than a butter knife or a random food hall steak knife at a formal dinner – and I hardly had time since I was also swimming and pledging a fraternity. And at the fraternity is where my cooking went in to proverbial overdrive.

I met a chef who taught me and badgered me and offended me and teased me and inspired me every single day – Chef Bob (aka the Old Goat). This wasn’t an ordinary chef – as memory serves he was a former chef in the Navy during the war(s) and also a former chaplain who somehow was conned in to cooking for an entire house of boys in their late teens and early twenties. He took everything in stride that we could throw at him and he dished it back just the same – all while turning food at scale into real meals and experiences for us each day.

I don’t remember exactly when, but I often remember hanging out in the kitchen between class and practice or between meals and watching Bob work his magic prepping his mise en place and breaking down meat for dinner. Somewhere in all of this I was hooked – the knifes, all the food, all the smiles, the Hobart, and all the happy faces after a tasty meal.

I learned how to use these blue and black handled buy in bulk knives that can hack through anything, but lacked the finesse of the fancy knives now resting in my kitchen drawer. I could hack through a half frozen steak from the walk-in or rough chop some onions for some grilled burgers. Then I could see the smiles on everyone’s faces as we turned out meals like Greek week BBQ’s where Chef Bob was nice enough to let me help out.

Fast forward to 2002-3 after graduating and starting my first real job at a startup in Seattle – I moved in to a townhouse with some friends who were touting the awesomeness of Cutco knives and these were even better than what I had enjoyed in college and in Food Tech. I became deft with the knives and turning out great chicken and broccoli stir fries with aplomb.

Then a light shone from the heavens and a roommate showed me a Wusthof knife that migrated from his parents house – knowingly or unknowingly I didn’t care. This Wusthof chefs knife was like using Excalibur in the kitchen. I could make even finer cuts, dices and slices than I’d ever experienced. And that knife was dull as a hatchet – none of us knew how to really take care of a knife. But, even with a dull Wusthof I felt like a kitchen ninja in the making…

Apologies that I lost my train of thought with this post and wanted to share a bit more about me and how I fell in love with the kitchen.

Up next – the final chapter(s) of my love of knives and my review of my favorite knives…

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