Shiny and Sharp

You know you belong in the kitchen on Christmas morning when you can’t stop smiling at the set of Wusthof knives your dearest gave you. And when he apologizes that it’s not a more “fun” gift, you dismiss the apology as unnecessary immediately, because what could be more fun or more thoughtful than a bunch of really sharp, really shiny, really pretty new knives made in Germany? Yes, you belong in the kitchen. And your dearest knows it.

Of course, as I looked at the box in complete disbelief, I hesitated. Wusthof knives, especially a box of 16 Wusthof knives, far exceeded our modest Christmas budget, I was sure. “It was just a little over, don’t worry!” he exclaimed.

Which, of course, made me more nervous–if I’m going to have a set of Wusthof knives, I want a good set of Wusthof knives. Not the Walmart special. Not that they even sell Wusthof knives at Walmart, but you understand my point. Would I be disappointed that these knives weren’t the high quality I expected from a fine German company like Wusthof? “I researched, I did. And I bought them on a Cyber Monday deal from Chef’s Catalog. If you hate them, which you won’t, you can return them. But they’re good knives, I promise!” my sweet husband pleaded, surprised he had to defend this most thoughtful, most perfect gift.

Still, nearly convinced, I hesitated further. I didn’t open the box for four long days, staring at it as I prepared dinner each night, longing to try it, but fearful. I feared I would be disappointed. That I had built up the relevance of expensive, wonderful knives, and these beautiful, black-handled, German knives would be only marginally better, or worse yet, not noticeably better at all, than the set I had gotten for my wedding, the set that I hadn’t noticed was dull out of the box for several years, only discovering the dullness after I finally used the sharpening steel out of desperation.

What if I didn’t love them? What if all my wildest dreams about complete bliss in the kitchen were dashed?

With bated breath, I opened the box. Despite the price tag I envisioned, the packaging was not fancy; the knives each came in a plastic sleeve, the tips of the knives protected in a plastic ring. I slid the chef’s knife out, washed it, and went to work.

As I chopped, a grin crept onto my face, my eyes turned up in a smile, and I felt relief. The knife cut through the vegetables with ease, like butter, and I finally believed the rhetoric of all those food writers who espouse the glories of their wonderful knives.

I still wondered if I needed a set of 16–wouldn’t it be better, I reasoned, to buy just the three knives I actually use? I left the rest in the box, waiting, as I delayed commitment again. It’s a wonder I ever married with the amount of time I spend trying to commit to kitchen equipment.

The real test came when I pulled out the chef’s knife to chop a tomato. True, it was a firm, hot house tomato that really had no business even being in my kitchen; what can I say? I like tomatoes, even in the dead of winter when they are barely worth eating. I decided, instead of piercing the skin with the tip as I usually did before slicing, to attempt a slice. I held my breath, and slid the knife down. The tomato didn’t give a bit as the knife slid effortlessly through the tomato. I gasped in disbelief; I didn’t know it was even possible to slice a tomato like that. I called to my sweet husband and bade him watch while I sliced a tomato. He was, I’m sure, thrilled I had finally come to appreciate his gift, even though he was less enthralled by the cutting action. Don’t misunderstand–he has sliced tomatoes in frustration before. I have shown him the pierce-the-skin trick. He was impressed. Just not giddy like I was.

At last, I gave him permission to wash the rest of the knives. We placed the new knife block next to my old one. My mom has requested my old knives; as bad as they are, they are sufficient for someone who doesn’t spend the better part of dinner prep chopping and they are far better than the pathetic knives she has had since I was little.

Several days later, I used the bread knife for the first time, and it was revelatory. Bread sliced like butter, creating a crumb different than I had ever seen before.

Dearest husband was right; I love them. My hesitation was unwarranted, as it usually is. And while I hesitated, I realized that most of us probably have commitment issues on some level. I spend months thinking about “large” purchases before determining which will make me most happy: cameras, food processors, pasta makers…as if this will be the last time I ever purchase a camera or a food processor. Nowadays, that’s just not feasible. Small appliances aren’t meant to last a lifetime any more, even if they do come with lifetime warranties. And in a way, that’s nice. I currently use a Canon 7D, and I think I would probably be sad in 15 years if I was still using it; technology advances and we all want to take advantage of it. Of course, it would be nice if we weren’t forced into purchases…my sad Kitchenaid mixer is currently in the shop being repaired after only 5 years of use, but that’s another post for another time. I suppose this difficulty in commitment shows how seriously I take my purchases and how much I love what I do purchase. But, all these purchases are not spouses. It wasn’t that difficult for me to select my spouse (when you know, you know, right?), and lucky for me, he will be around forever. Buying me knives and cameras and food processors all along the way, not to mention an All-Clad pan here and there, and some Le Creuset cookware, which should last a lifetime.

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