There was a time when I used to collect cutlery and knives. I have since, stopped buying the former but I can’t resist buying a knife if I see a good one. I use at least 4-5 knives along with my trusted cleaver during the course of the day to do various cutting jobs in the kitchen. And all need to be sharp enough to cut off my finger. Note, I said ‘cut off’ not cut — they have to be that sharp! I keep one blunt knife for jobs that don’t require a razor’s edge.
And to think that in my mother’s house, we hardly had any knives. There was this old fashioned board with a curved knife mounted on it. We learnt not only to cut all kinds of vegetables on it but also grate coconut on the serrated plate-like contraption at the end of the blade. I learnt to use knives only after marriage and then it became a life-long love affair. And the cleaver? I will come to that soon.
Cooks and their knives have to vibe with each other. Sounds strange, doesn’t it? Well, there was this cook in my son’s house who didn’t like any of the knives in his kitchen and kept complaining. Finally, he gave her some money and told her to get what she wanted. The next day, she brought home something resembling a carpenter’s thin saw with a handle, her face beaming!
On the other hand, some cooks can make anything work for them. I know some women who manage with just one knife! They peel, chop, cut, slice, shape – all with that one small knife. And we once had a neighbour who made beautiful fruit and vegetable carvings using a small knife with a four-inch blade and a broken handle! I guess it is all about how good you are at what you do. The tools are incidental to your craft.
By that standard, I am most inept. For instance, if I have to cut something hard like, say, yellow pumpkin, I would first use a cleaver to chop them into about 4 inch squares. Then I use a largish knife to slice off the peel (a peeler is useless on the tough pumpkin skin). I then use a smaller knife to remove the peel from parts my large knife did not reach. Finally for the actual cutting, I go back to my cleaver. Chop, chop, chop….and the pumpkin lies in a neat pile of half inch cubes in no time! Thank you Yan!
Oh you don’t know who Yan is? Well he was the host of the cookery show Yan Can Cook, which aired on Star TV back in the early 90s. Martin Yan made magic on the chopping board with his huge cleaver, wielding it like a surgeon’s scalpel to cut, chop and slice! Mesmerized, I had promptly bought a cleaver. The first time I used it, despite carefully watching his lessons on how to do it, I had almost chopped off my left forefinger. However I soon got the hang of it and for the records, I haven’t lost a digit in all these years! But my greatest regret is that I still can’t use it as skillfully as he does.
One need not be a knife collector like me, or even have a cleaver like Yan, but I would suggest that you have at least two or three good knives of different blade lengths, to make cutting vegetables a pleasure — even an art!
The author is your regular neighborhood granny. Loves cooking, feeding her friends and family, telling tales and reading children’s books among others — on her Kindle. She is comfortable with people her age, older than her and of course all youngsters right down to infants. And oh, she is in tune with the times too. She has seen the telegram transform into Twitter and telephone into WhatsApp. You could call her Gadget Granny Seeta, if you like. She loves saying that the tip of her tongue is in the fingers on her keyboard!