My Workhorses

17 Mar

I’ve been working on this post in my head for days, trying to figure out the best way to present it to the world. It has been crafted in response to a post over on The Kitchen. Sara Kate notes, “the topic of knives comes up regularly around here people just love their weapons of slicing and dicing,” and so she opens the floor to the readers saying, “we also love an old knife with a good story.”

Many people think of their knives as workhorses, dependable blades that will last forever with the proper care, but people like me, who get wibbly at the knees at the sight of a discounted set of Globals, we think of our knives more affectionately. My knives remind me of the kind souls that taught me many important life lessons over the course of two decades. Yes, my knives, as odd as it may seem, remind me of the horses of my past.

Allow me to explain…

Both horses and knives (and by default cooking) can teach us a lot about the world and ourselves. They teach us to be patient, to trust our instincts, to be detail oriented, to think ahead, and most importantly to care, not just about ourselves, but also about other living beings and the environment around us.  Horses and the farm and eating teach us that the world is ours to care for, and that’s an important lesson, no matter how it is learned.

Messermeister 10″ Chefs Knife
This knife I purchased when I was thinking of becoming a chef. I had lost my job in the post-9/11 downturn, I was depressed and didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, so a friend in culinary school who knew I liked to cook, asked me if I wanted to come and intern with her at a kitchen run by a high school friend. I jumped at the chance and subsequently bought this knife, mainly, because all the men in the kitchen used big knives, and I didn’t want to look like too much of a girl.

This knife taught me many lessons and removed huge chunks from my fingers. It was wild, hard to control, large and dangerous, just like my old horse Broadway. B (as we called him) was huge (nearly 6′ where the neck meets the back), very high strung and strong as hell. I got more concussions and a few broken bones off him, but he was my attempt to enter the bigtime. Neither event happened, I never became a restaurant chef, and I never became a professional rider. sigh.

Wüsthof 17cm Santoku Knife
I could never quite figure out why everyone on TV seemed to chop with a granton-edge Santoku knife. I thought it was because they lacked skills, were just pretty faces, hired for their laughs and clevage, and therefore had to make up for their lack of training with fancy dancy knives. Two birthdays ago, trolling the knife counter at Broadway Panhandler, I decided it was time to try one of those puppies out, to see what all the fuss was about. Boy was I wrong (god I hate to admit that).

I love this knife. I love its balance, the way it rocks on the board, the intense control it affords me and how much of a better cook I’ve become because of it. This knife reminds me of Andy, the goregous little 1/2 Arab, 1/2 Heinz 57 variety pinto mare that took me from being a rider and made me into a Rider. Every kid in my county’s 4-H program took lessons on Andy. She could do anything from dressage to barrel racing to fox hunting, and was intelligent enough to know when someone was a good enough rider to teach them some very important lessons. Andy was possibly the most intelligent creature I’ve met of any species, and the culinary experiments I’ve embarked on since buying this knife form an era of learning and experimenting akin to my time learning from Andy.

Messermeister 7″ Chefs Knife
This isn’t actually my knife, it’s the boys knife, but I helped him pick it out soon after we started dating. I was spending a lot of time at his house, and for some reason, bringing one of my knives over to use in his apartment seemed like far too big a step forward. So, I convinced him that it would be a good purchase for him to make. He still uses it when he cooks for me. I like that. And while we now live together, and many of my things entered his apartment prior to my official moving in, my knives were amongst the last of my possessions to move in.

It’s kind of like my old boy Wilson. My folks bought half of him for me when I was a little girl. The other half belonged to one of my friends that rode at the same stable as me. Wilson was not a perfect horse, he had a funny white blaze that ran down his face, and then hooked over one nostril, like he’d been clocked in the face by a boxer. He could get out of any blanket we put on him (we nicknamed him horse-dini (I was young!)), but he brought our families together and eventually, we sold Wilson, my friend and I went our seperate ways, yet now, 20-odd years later, we’re sisters. I can’t say that it was the knife that brought the boy and I together (that’s just silly!) and I can’t say it was Wilson that helped form a new family (a little less silly) but I can say that they’re both memories that make me very, very happy.

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One Response to “My Workhorses”

  1. caveman March 18, 2006 at 6:05 am #

    Anne,
    Brilliant. I have found you! I have spent countless hours going through foodie blogs searching for someone who has my vibe. Very cool. I will do your stuff justice tommorow.
    In so far as the animal wine is concerned, I am constantly amazed that ‘adventure’ wine has become a category of wine unto itself. But i guess it as not all that different than those who content themslves with frozen dinners.
    Bill

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