Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

Confession: I bought a chef’s knife at IKEA and I like it.


Not my fault! It was purchased as a temporary stop-gap solution for having no knife at all in the kitchen of the apartment in which we are staying. The thing is, Marc – and by extension me – has a very good knife, one served us well on a daily basis for many, many days. That knife, however, is buried somewhere in one of the slowly moulding boxes in the damp storage unit in Calgary where we keep nearly all of our worldly possessions. Two months ago I made a half-hearted attempt to look for it but ground to a halt when it was clear that we would have to move the barbeque and the bed and the dresser in order to get to the knife. Eventually we’ll see it again, but I don’t anticipate that day coming anytime very soon.

The second option we had, when faced with the no-knife situation, was to purchase a good knife, an exceptional specimen that would be our most valuable tool, like a real knife owned by a real chef. I am a sucker for Wüsthof knives and Marc will always pause in front of the Shun Ken Onion blades. It is so satisfying to hold a well balanced tool, a pleasure to wrap one’s hand around a smooth handle that rests effortlessly in the palm of the hand and which, to quote Quentin Tarrantino, “is sharper than the devil himself”. Until I actually used a knife that was not a piece of crap and that was able to cleanly bite into and then slice through a ripe tomato, I didn’t know what a fantastic utensil a chef’s knife can be. For too long, I blundered along with dull, feather-weight knives, the use of which was made even worse by the fact that I had little idea that they were dull, that they were lightweight. Add to that, the fault that I didn’t know how to properly wield a knife and it makes me wonder how I ever came to enjoy cooking at all. They were pathetic, the knives I had: useless lengths and shapes, dull, serrated, stupid. When Marc and I and the knife moved in together, I threw out those old hags so that no-one else would suffer their inefficiency. Now! Now that I know what it means to whip through a scallion and have all the pieces separated, what it feels like to hold a knife properly, decisively, like I mean to do harm to vegetables, now that I know what a razor’s edge should feel like, I cannot turn back. I continue to work on my technique but it is a pleasure to prep vegetables now- celery especially, the crunch of the stalk as it is quickly diced into clean-edged pieces.

But as people who are unengaged in wage-earning, we could ill afford such dreamy luxury, so we kicked it down a notch and went to IKEA.

They had knives. We bought the least offensive-looking one at $16.99. (I would argue that these are the most offensive.) It came in the door, was unwrapped and washed and soon enough, put to the test. I was wholly prepared to abhor the knife and had ready various complaints about its cheap quality and poor performance, something along the lines of “there must be some assembly required, ha ha”, but none were necessary. I hate that I like this knife! It has a balanced weight, if a little light, but was dead sharp and co-operated very well with the vegetables. The fit is smooth. We bought a smaller version of the same one and it not only completed its assigned tasks, it hacked right through a chicken thigh bone without thinking twice. Mind, neither one of them held their edge for more than a couple of weeks, but I hadn’t expected that they would really have any sharp to begin with so the performance exceeded expectations. Dammit.

So we shall continue with what we have for the time being. And even though it has already severed a respectable slice off of my left index finger (due to pilot error), I shall continue to take pleasure in a decent knife.