The Knife

I’ve been meaning to share this thought for a while.  It’s about the knife.  When I was growing up we had only three knives in the house.  There was a big bread knife that we rarely used.  It was rather foreboding because of it being new and stainless steel from end to end.  It only came out on rare occasions, perhaps to impress visitors. There was a paring knife that rarely made it into the utensil drawer because it was in constant use.  And there was the other knife.  Only about ten inches long with a curved blade like an ancient scimitar from constant sharpening.  It had a wood handle that had degraded rather dangerously but was still hanging on to the blade.  Its bolts wiggled like the teeth on an ancient mariner who lacked sufficient citrus.  I believe my mother had brought it from Italy when she came to America in 1924. As a child I believed that this knife was incredible for one reason: It did everything that my mother needed it to do.  It trimmed, cut, chopped, diced, dug, shaped, separated, stirred, pierced, curled, halved, halved again and halved once more. We had few utensils. There was a manual egg beater, a mixing fork, a spatula, measuring spoons and the knife.  Please do not ask me how many boxes of utensils clutter my kitchen today but I still use only those my mother used with any regularity.  When I pull out a fancy-dancy chopper or mixer, I feel silly and overdressed for the party.  They are magnificent items and always delight – like bright costume jewelry dazzles the eye. All I really need is a knife.  My mother only used a cutting board when my sister made one in the shape of a pig, in home econ at school.  Before that, she chopped everything right into the bowl or pan.  I find myself doing that more and more. I peel away and discard all of the things I don’t need and use only what is necessary.  You may think this is a metaphor for stripping away the drama and high emotion of the public turmoil that embarrasses us daily and makes our melting pot into a muddy messy stew instead of a golden broth.  To eschew the news media processing of information and instead take the time to poke our knives into the truth, to chop directly into the pot and stir with the knife still in hand as was done in a simpler time. I can’t say which is better, only that which is.  I’m talking about food preparation and perhaps, other things?

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