Saturday, December 19, 2009

Blushing letters: The blade


Catherine,
Can you recommend a very fine knife for my boyfriend?
Thank you,
Ellen
Irvington, NY


Ellen,

I wish I could. Firstly, I don't know the first thing about hunting or fishing knives though I certainly have a few colleagues on the style list to the left who could help if you really must produce a knife for these purposes. If you refer to kitchen knives, I am equally stumped.

This is the thing about knives, Ellen: On my kitchen counter, atop my cutting board is a Henkel's top grade carbon steel chef's knife. When I move, among the first questions I ask of Josh is always where my knife is located; my knife is critical to all that occurs in the kitchen, the center of our home and lives. When I stand in another kitchen and I am handed another's knife, I turn it around in my palm, feel for it's heft, look over its blade, and then miss the feel of my own knife. My friend, Becca, gave me my knife before I was married but allowed me to handle all the best knives available and to pick the one that spoke to me. I could no more select a knife for another than I would pick the art that hangs on their walls. It is intensely personal and entirely individual.

For hunters and fishermen, the same applies: I've a friend who fillets enormous fish with something not much larger than a paring knife. And another who de-joints with a cleaver while I use a chef's knife. A lot of this has to do with one's build and strength; I like a more substantial knife blade which allows me to do a little less work at the shoulder when dealing with meat.

When your boyfriend touches his knife and lays it across his palm, he will know it instantly and in darkness. Don't look at the price tag, don't remark about it being the ugliest one on the wall. Just buy the knife. It is what it is; a hand does not make aesthetic distinctions, the mind does, and in the instance of a primal tool it makes only pointless distinctions. In the end, the knife's work is elemental and primitive, best to leave your head out of it entirely.

All the best,
Catherine

2 comments:

home before dark said...

Very well said, Blushing Hostess. How a knife feels in your hand in paramount, especially in the chef knife. I have 9" Henckel's, which I think is no longer made. It fits me. I also enjoy the santuko knives. Not as much heft, but easier for doing veggies sometimes. And, if you are looking for wonderful hand tools: rosle. The can opener made me weep. (Designed to cut so the lid doesn't fall in the can!)

Eric said...

Great post - so true! As a year round hunter and fisherman (in the event that is the context the question was asked) - I can confirm that the same visceral rules of "feel it in your hand" apply.

Looking forward to reading more in the future.