A few times a year, I find my sharpening stones, put them into soak, take my knives down from their magnetic holder at their station, and I put the knives through ever-finer grades of stone. From the most coarse, I send each knife over the stone, holding the form, honing the edge, and put it down.
I move to the next knife. Holding the form, honing the edge.
Keeping count of the strokes.
Wetting the whetstones.
My hands and arms tire, and the fine grit pigments small dots on the towel I use to hold the stone in place.
I rinse the blades one, by one, and increase the fine grade until the last stone.
It is small, and deep gray, and has characters in gold on the side.
The stone feels very smooth, but rubbing a finger across it too quickly will take some skin with it.
I finish off each of the blades, wash them, dry them with a cotton kitchen towel, the one with the red stripe down the center, and place each blade back in its place on the metal magnetic bar.
How many people did we kill in Iraq after we invaded a country for no justifiable reason – and when the world knows the real reason was and likely always will be one thing – oil?
We all know Saudi Arabia was primarily responsible for the attack, since the funding and most of the hijackers were Wahabi-ists with connections to the House of Saud.
We all know Osama bin Laden was in Afghanistan for maybe a month, and then lived comfortably in the security sector in Pakistan in plain sight for years, yet we justified a war in Afghanistan for 20 years, doling out a few Trillion dollars which have enriched about 5 companies and left Afghanistan no safer than they were before we arrived from the ministrations of the Taliban.
We send drones to kill Terrorists, now, but sometimes those “terrorists” are a dude with a bunch of water containers in his car, headed out to provide humanitarian aid.
The 3,000 lives we paid on 9/11 20 years ago; are they worth more than the lives of the MILLIONS of people killed by the United States in our various global misadventures, trying to export ideas like “Freedom” and “Democracy” abroad, while our own Congresspeople and Senators conspire to overthrow the Government?
Governors sign bills into law that give a corpse more rights than a raped woman?
While people scream about “Freedom and Liberty” and shove their unmasked children into poorly ventilated classrooms, then launch “GoFundMe” accounts to pay for their grandmother or their child’s funerals?
We claim to value freedom while we oppress each other.
We claim to value democracy and the privilege of voting while nearly half of us who are eligible have never voted.
20 years out from an attack on our shores, where we were united for about a month, and then found a new way to have the world hate us as Hans Blix screamed from the ground in Iraq, “There are no weapons of mass destruction,” but could not be heard over the overly loud drums of war and the resulting cries for blood.
It is a tragic day.
A day to remember.
…but it must also be a day where we reflect on who we truly are and who we aspire to be, because entirely too often in this country, we are not “United.” We are not “Free.”We do not believe in “Liberty” unless that “Liberty” aligns with the idea that we get to control someone else’s body, ability to take drugs or not, what Church they attend, what beliefs they have in gender and sexual expression.
We seem to believe that the right to bear arms is more important than a child’s right not to be traumatized by monthly active shooter drills in school.
We seem to believe that rich people have the “right” to acquire wealth using infrastructure and labor that was trained and build with your tax dollars, but they seem to believe they have no obligation to pay a wage that allows a person to have a roof over head, food in their mouth, access to health care, and joy.
Rich people seem to believe that the working class has absolutely no right at all to experience joy.
It would seem that “Freedom” and “Liberty” are only for those who can afford them.
This essay will likely not rest lightly on people who are still traumatized by having watched towers that scraped the sky topple to the ground, and people who turned planes into missiles, nor will it rest lightly on the folks who walked home covered in the toxic dust of destruction, traumatized by watching their worlds flip on their heads in an instant.
To those people, I say I’m sorry.
…but I do believe that our country, the land of the “Free” has spent a lot of time preening in a false reflection, not looking at the reality, eyes focused on the future, and not on the “now.”
…and that action costs us in ways great and small.
I hope that we are now as a country at a crossroads, beginning to look at who we are in the world, what we have done in our past, and that we begin to learn that its time to remove some hands from the tiller that guide us into darkness in search of profit and power, and begin the journey that has us begin to see that we are part of a World community, on a precious little blue dot in a vast universe, that we only have this, and we only have now, and we need to begin to embrace each other, to listen to those who have been silenced, and to respect each other if we can’t find love in our hearts for the other glimmering beings around us.
During the pandemic and up until two days ago, I had grown to accept a low hum of existential dread and anxiety as something I just needed to live with, because we are living in strange and for some, terrible times, so I figured its just something to factor into the day.
It is hot, as summers here in the DC area tend to be. I came in from the afternoon tending of my garden, and decided maybe some iced tea in the afternoons might help me get some energy back. The temptation to nap in the afternoon is strong, but my ability to recover from or be disciplined enough about the time limit on a nap make me reluctant to go down that path.
I didn’t want a caffeine bomb, as my bedtime was beginning to drift to the small numbers at the front end of the clock again, and I do have some commitments in the morning, namely two furry buds who need to go outside, scare the birds and the squirrels and chase each other around for a while until settling down to business.
I had done some research on some things I could add to my tea to reduce anxiety, and another thing to reduce any stomach issue that might result, and decided a little Valerian root, some chamomile, some lavender would be nice additions to the black tea, dried hibiscus flowers, oranges and lemons that I’ve found that I like. dried Valerian taken in small doses can quite nicely to reduce the feelings of anxiety.
The additions to the tea seem to be working pretty well. The caffeine from the black tea and the sugar and citrus has me nicely energized, but I’m also calm, like that weird calm space I rarely get to see when trying to meditate, or after yoga? Not sure if its the valerian in the tea, or that I’ve bent my purpose a bit and decided I really don’t need to carry around anxiety and existential dread and its time to start doing something about it, and the action of doing that has maybe shifted my mental outlook a bit?
If this continues to work, and the anxiety is eased and I am able to sleep through the night again, I’m also considering the work of finding a therapist to start working through some of the old baggage I keep locking away or burying, telling myself I need to move on, but all this urgency to move forward doesn’t gain a lot of momentum, so its time to cut ties with some of the anger, depression, and self doubt that I stuff down in those bags and bury in places in my head I tend to avoid.
…or at the very least face it, process it and let it go.
I’m also thinking of some advice I’ve heard from some friends and my sisters – the time to seek help is not when you need it, but when you don’t really think you need it. There was a show from Taraji P. Henson about taking care of our mental health, and that its particularly important for Black American people, because as a group, we’re carrying around a lot of trauma, from living in a country that is often hostile to us, with people who know they can’t be openly hostile without consequences, but can’t seem to stop themselves from micro-aggression and slights and undermining behaviors, plus all the internalized anger and sadness from having to be strong all the time, and not let the bastards see you bleed, but there is only but so much injury one can take and suppress without it causing some problems.
I say work because I’m going to need to find someone who isn’t going to be charmed by me, or that I can outsmart too easily, otherwise, I’ll just be paying for pleasant chatter. Its a thing I’m actively considering now, since I actually have a decent level of insurance thanks to a subsidy provided by the Federal Government and the State of Maryland, and a nice case worker who was bored and decided to go in and audit some of the pending insurance applications in PG county and help those of us who weren’t completely clear on how to navigate their systems.
It’s almost as if the system was designed to keep folks from looking for help, but that same system has attracted cool folks like that lady who know the system is fucked up, and worked to get enough expertise to help the folks who the system seems to be designed to leave a little broken.
There’s also the truth – I’m not fine, even though that’s reflexively how I respond when asked. I would like to exercise but seem unable to compel myself to do it. I would like to be more creative and finish a few projects but I can’t compel myself outside of a few things that I have to do to finish them. I’m a freelancer, but I continue to interview for jobs and have been for three years now, and the stress of the hustle to get the money to pay the bills does have my nerves a bit frayed.
My life is great in a lot of ways. I have good friends, pets, a support system of family and friends, a better than average amount of sex in a month, and fairly tightly controlled caffeine and alcohol intake.
…but still, I’m not fine. I’m not broken, either, but I’m not fine.
…so I’ll sip my tea, and work my tasks, and start looking forward to the day where I can put some of this baggage in my head down – and I think the writing of this the beginning of that process.
Critical Race Theory is a college-level theory course in which they examine how laws and economics, whether intentionally or not (but in most cases, it was intentional) created inequalities in society that cut along racial lines in the US and in other countries that experienced Euro-centric colonization.
It is completely separate from “Honest History,” which is the teaching of what actually happened historically in this country, once you remove the lens from which people were taught up to this moment. This is also referred to as The 1619 Project, created by Nikole Hannah-Jones in cooperation with the New York Times as a means to look at US history through a lens other than what history has been taught in this country.
That lens: Euro-centric – meaning every history lesson taught in this country was about “White” people, their contributions to this country, and maybe one month out of the year, you would get to learn about “safe” Black people – meaning the ways in which Black people helped White people in this country. It was never about our achievements unless those achievements helped to augment the continuing dominance of things seen as “White” and “Normal” over every other culture that helped create the United States.
The practice of centering history on those whose ancestors came from Europe is referred to as “Patriotic History.” In reality, it is the White Nationalist version of what happened, skipping over enslavement, rape, murder, land theft, cultural and physical genocide, Jim Crow, Japanese Internment Camps, The Trail of Tears and the repeated eviction of indigenous people from their lands, multiple campaigns of terror to first drive Black people out of the South, then to hold them captive in the South via sharecropping, since agriculture could not exist without Black labor until the machine age and tractors made Black labor redundant, the import of cheap labor from China and other Asian countries, the theft and rape of the Continent of Africa, including theft of its antiquities and the erasure of its heritage, both via kidnapping, enslavement, and via instigation of wars between countries to distract long enough so that resources could continue to be stolen.
…and this is only a small part of the vast history of this country which usually is not taught to children in their foundational education in schools in the US.
This happened because a group that began as the Daughters of the Confederacy, in conjunction with book publishers based in Texas that have always leaned Conservative, have lobbied to have history told this way, have edited and printed text books, and have constantly worked to promote a White Supremacist view of history under the guise of “protecting the Children” from being ashamed of their heritage, specifically children with European ancestry.
They are often referred to as “White” children.
An aside on that – in the United States, Black people call ourselves Black because the majority of Black people here, whether recent arrivals from the Caribbean and South and Central America, or ancestors of the folks who were kidnapped, enslaved, and suffered from cultural and actual genocide, connections to our cultures of origin, our tribes and countries and nations and religious traditions were erased, replaced with “English” and “Christianity,” re-written in large part under the direction of King James as a means of control and oppression.
If you refer to yourself as “White,” but have full knowledge and recollection of the country of origin of your ancestors, what that says is that you are choosing to call yourself “White” and that you are proud to be “Not Black.”
…and this is only a small part of what you were not taught.
Choices were made to protect little White children, while the parents of every other ethnicity in this country had to teach their children how to survive White people.
Systems were created by White people like slave catchers, re-branded eventually as the police, aided and abetted by the carceral Justice System – where we are taught to submit and obey, while labor is extracted and if we choose not to submit and obey, we are imprisoned and our labor is extracted anyway.
So teachers’ unions have to sue in order to protect their members from being punished for teaching your children the truth.
…and an entire “Conservative” party apparatus in the US is fighting for the “right” to lie to your children.
It has been roughly a year since the murmurings and whispers and news of folks stuck on a cruise ship unable to come to shore happened.
Its been roughly a year since people got really scary-sick a couple weeks after attending a conference in Seattle.
Its been roughly a year since the lights went out on Broadway and everyone around the planet put on masks – well those of us who believe in science did anyway – shut down schools, worked from home if you could, stressed about dying either from the virus or, honestly, starvation if the virus didn’t get you, and did our best not to die while exhausted nurses tried desperately not to lose their shit because another one needed to have a tube unglamourously shoved down their throats to help one try to breathe around gobs of fibrous snot, and as the virus did its best to throw clots and inflammation in random combinations, trying to kill you.
…and to try to maintain a positive outlook, stay connected, sane, and maybe think about doing some of those projects you’ve always meant to do when you have time, because if nothing else in 2020, most of us had an abundance of time.
One of my hobbies is gardening – fighting with poor soil, little bugs, random wildlife etc, while trying to grow something edible, beautiful, or both.
I befriended squirrels and fed the lady-squirrels in hopes that they would chase off the random male squirrels who seemed less inclined toward eating, and more inclined toward digging random holes in my planter beds, taking bites of things, deciding they didn’t like them, and then digging up the next thing in the row, which was the same kind of vegetable and repeating the exercise.
I fed birds. I put out a solar powered fountain that made soothing water sounds when the sun shined and the pump worked. The birds often stop by to take a drink, and sometimes bath in it.
Birds are a bit dirty and vile at times, so the fountain needed a scrubbing at least once a week to prevent it from turning into unnamed soup.
My dogs like the yard, as much as a dog can like its bathroom and hunting ground with a strange human forever cursing and moving plants around in it, and cursing and turning the compost, and cursing and running from the carpenter bees that zoom at your face and are harmless, and the wasps that sun themselves in places where you were just getting ready to put your hand.
There was a lot I didn’t do this year, but I didn’t get sick and become a burden on our medical care professionals. I didn’t get rich, but between some kind clients and generous friends, I didn’t starve, and was even able, occasionally, to send people little treats to brighten their day.
I painted a picture of my niece that looks like her, and she loves it. I might do more of them and collaborate with my brother in law on a book with me as the illustrator? We shall see.
I learned a lot and realize I know nothing, and that I have a whole lot more to learn about gardens, but sometimes luck and circumstance get together and over time, and with lots of carried water to keep them alive, sometimes beauty happens from soil, and sometimes food happens.
Here are some pictures from the garden.
I hope you survived 2020 with your sanity and your body in some semblance of health, and that if you weren’t able to do much of anything, again, at least you survived one of the worst years this planet has seen in recent memory.
Usually, when people want the country to sing kumbaya, ignore trespasses and injustice, and not hold racist White folks accountable, they pull a random quote from Martin Luther King Jr. and weaponize his words for their convenience, much like oppressors have been doing when pulling Bible quotes pretty much since the birth of this country.
Martin Luther King Jr. organized peaceful protests, but people have misconstrued passive resistance to mean that we should not and must not resort to violence to attain a necessary goal, and while doing so, credit Martin Luther King Jr with single-handedly pushing Lyndon B. Johnson to sign the Civil Rights act of 1964.
…which completely discounts the work of others who have not been recognized with a National Holiday on their birthdays, such as Malcolm X, The Black Panthers and others.
Peaceful protest was effective, but the fear of destruction of the Republic also was an influence that added urgency to the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the hope that doing so would be enough to lull the people back to complacency.
There were many ideas that contributed to the urgency toward progress in this country; the idea that Black people could arm and defend themselves from police, the fact that the families of the lynched would hold open casket funerals to show what the angry mobs did to a child, falsely accused of whistling at a White woman, or the fact that a Black woman refused to go to the back of the bus before Rosa Parks did, but wasn’t the “right sort of Black woman” and her less than perfect background would be weaponized as justification not to allow her to be seen as an equal human being.
All of this tends to get overlooked and overshadowed by “I Have a Dream,” and the cherry picking of a legacy.
Progress was made because organized strikes threatened the acquisition of wealth in this country, and Civil Rights was the salve they hoped would put the matter back to rest.
Many of our leaders who died were targeted for death or exile when Civil Rights as law proved only to be the beginning. I say this because so many people killed, either publicly or privately lynched, or threatened, or financially ruined or blackmailed, does not happen in this country without either the complicity or the permission of people in seats of power.
We look at Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday as a holiday and as the commemoration of a leader for change in this country, who happened to be Black, but wanted change for all of us.
Still, there is the persistent perception that Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday is a “Black” holiday, and many companies feel free not to acknowledge the day and have their employees work as if it were any other day.
This is disrespectful and a continuing vestige of the soft-racism that runs in this country, even in places not deemed to be seen as “racist.”
People conveniently forget when blaming racism on Democrats, that elements within our society could not countenance being no better than Black people, which caused Dixiecrats, southern Democrats, to abandon their party and become Republicans, all because of racism.
Elements of our society could not deal with the next idea on Martin Luther King’s agenda, which is the poison underlying racism which provides it with its power – poverty.
Racism has always been used as a tool by the wealthy to keep the White people in poverty fighting with the Black people in poverty, using the poor Whites as enforcers and slave-catchers, the root of policing structures in this country, against the poor Blacks, and while the poor of all races were oppressed and distracted, extracting labor, stealing wealth and generally continuing to steal the whole cake while their victims fought amongst themselves for the crumbs.
Martin Luther King’s next mission was to march with unions – specifically Black men who worked in sanitation, a job people tend to look down upon, but without their valuable service, we would quickly be waist deep in trash, rats, and disease. They were striking because they were being paid less than a person could survive on to do a necessary job.
“I AM A MAN” was the precursor to “Black Lives Matter” in this country. It was painted on signs and carried by protesters fighting to receive a living wage equal to White men for the same work.
This was the final straw, and it resulted in the death of Martin Luther King Jr, shot on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, and within a few years, Malcolm X was killed, the Black Panthers were jailed, and voices went into exile in Paris, as their lives were threatened for simply wanting to be no better than White people, and to have the right to be paid a living wage for work.
After JFK and RFK were killed, White leaders became afraid to stand up. After Black leaders were killed or jailed or institutionalized, or exiled, Black leaders became afraid to speak, and while the Voting Rights act and the Civil Rights Act became law, the laws were slowly undermined and dismantled over time by power structures within this country that wish to not be any better than Black people, and who know what happens in this country when enough people forget to be racist for a moment, start to see themselves in us, and begin to see the real problem – poverty and the extraction of labor and wealth by the wealthy and powerful.
The new Jim Crow was a construction designed to load Black bodies into an unjust “Justice System,” and to use the loophole in the 13th Amendment in the Constitution designed to salve the anger of aggrieved Whites who saw the freed enslaved as a government mandated loss of property, to create a machine to extract free labor from Black bodies via corporate owned and run prison system.
Three Strikes rules and higher penalties for essentially the same drug only differentiated by an economic barrier targeted Black bodies for prison in communities intentionally left under-served, and then lured into the drug trade with videos and movies glamorizing “Thug Life.”
Bodies dehumanized by labeling them as “super-predators” were thrown into cells, since racism and bigotry is not the exclusive provenance of the GOP and its minions. Both faces of the coin build the machine.
All through this era, Black people were jailed at higher rates than poor Whites, and killed by police with impunity and without consequence at higher rates than poor Whites and while we screamed and cried and protested, our voices were not heard until the dark day when a smirking officer placed his over 200 pound body on the handcuffed person beneath him, and smirked as the light died in George Floyd’s eyes and he called out for his mother as his brain slowly died from lack of air.
In 2020, the work people began to do together to have a voice came to fruition.
People of all colors marched for years to say no to racism, to say yes to trying to work together, this time to get us out of an economic crater and then out of a pandemic.
…and a small section of the wealthy and powerful saw this as a threat to their power.
They used a credibility gap to sow doubt in the Democratic process, to propagate conspiracy theory, and to whip up those who, even though every deck in this country is stacked in their favor, have not been able to attain the wealth they’ve felt they were owed.
They funded masked men with long hammers and firestarters in their backpacks to set things on fire during protests.
They paid for skids of bricks to be conveniently left handy for the aggrieved and recently pepper sprayed to react with violence and put though windows of stores they do not own, and to burn buildings they did not build.
These temptations were largely unsuccessful as 93-95% of all protests were peaceful.
The 5% of protests that weren’t were filmed from all angles and put on a loud loop on a drum beat on right wing media to scare the White people in their suburban enclaves, terrified that the riots they were led to believe were happening everywhere would eventually burn their beloved homes and businesses, not realizing that in many cases, it was their radicalized sons and daughters, fed lies through social media and via the coms on their video games, gone wild-ing in the big cities, convinced that they were helping BLM, who set most of the fires and did most of the looting.
BLM witnessed this happening repeatedly and counseled the misguided.
BLM let the folks know that burning would not be helpful – that Black people lived in these communities and needed these stores. We needed our places to live. We would be blamed for burning while the White kids would return to their homes, thinking they did something good, but in reality their “wild-ing” may have taken out the only supermarket in a food desert, and may have done the work of demolition of established communities, making the way for real estate developers to renew, displace and gentrify neighborhoods they had targeted for years but had been unable to crack.
The Poor and distressed middle classes were rarely allowed time from distraction to see the truth – the deck is stacked specifically so that wealthiest of wealthy people can retain their wealth and power, and the system requires restructuring.
The White poor and the distressed mostly White middle classes believed the lies. They believed that they were “patriots” charged with saving their country, but in fact, they were no better than the Confederate army, lied into a conflict that was fought specifically to keep kidnapped Africans who had been enslaved for centuries enslaved, and in doing so, to keep the means of generation of wealth in the hands of the rich White few.
The insurrectionists, armed, invaded the Capitol on the day the Electoral College votes were to be read, the day the Vice President refused a direct request from the President to overstep his authority, to disenfranchise electors, and to hand power over to a wanna-be authoritarian, desperate to avoid the long line of the aggrieved and victimized, ready to hold him to account once the legal shield he believed his Presidency provided, was prized away from his stubby orange foundation and blood-stained finger.
He has lived a life around the idea of “what can I get away with?” – the direct opposite of the “Noble Obligation” that was once a pillar of American life – once you attained success, it was your obligation to pay your taxes, to use your wealth to improve the lot of others, to build museums and schools and churches out of your benevolence, and out of duty.
He lived opposite to that. Wealth to him, is a tool used to acquire pleasure and power, to avoid accountability for crimes that less wealthy people would be jailed, to lure women and who would not otherwise be attracted to him, to allegedly partake in illegal activity such as the rape of children, and to discard them once he grew bored or tired of them, to misdirect blame when things went wrong, to use the system to sue his enemies and his creditors into submission and to game the system to avoid paying taxes and to hoard wealth.
When his wealth was allegedly threatened by sanctions against his primary source of income, money kept in a small Russian bank, passed through Deutchebank by his private bankers, and used to purchase overpriced properties in order to launder ill-gotten gains from stolen oil, sex-trafficking, drug sales, and other proceeds from organized crime, he decided to run for President, in hopes that at a minimum, he would gain enough power to lobby to have the sanctions lifted, but unexpectedly, he won.
The Insurrection E vent on January 6, 2021 was to silence the voice of 81 million Americans who worked together during a pandemic to remove a liar, conman, and racist from office.
The liar called people within the Senate as they fled from armed insurrectionists, trying to convince them to support him. His supporters within the House and Senate refused to wear masks while in lock-down, infecting their colleagues, live-tweeted the location of key Representatives, allowing the people who had walked the building the day before on a “tour” which looked a lot like reconnaissance, to know that some of them were close to their goal of capturing, and potentially lynching people they saw as enemies to their cause.
The Insurrectionists had zip-ties and a hastily-constructed gallows on the plaza outside the Capitol Dome. They had weapons. They planted bombs. They stole secured laptops and ripped panic buttons out of the offices of targeted government officials.
Some of the insurrectionists defecated into their hands and smeared shit on the walls of Congress.
Let us only consider forgiveness after those who have trespassed have apologized, and only after they have atoned and done the work to repair what they tried to break. Let them accept that the work they must do is for them, not for us, and that, quite frankly, our forgiveness is not the expected reward, nor is it owed. This is the minimum they need to do, to attempt to make whole what was broken.
There are some trespasses that are unforgivable and will have forever broken a trust that cannot be repaired, and for some of us, they will have to accept this and we’ll have to agree to walk our separate paths, united only by country.
No longer can we trust them to be united in purpose, and that they must find their own way from the moment they crossed the threshold into the Capitol and were prepared to hand our democracy over to a man who wants everything and values nothing.
They posed for Instagram pictures while parading a Confederate Flag through the halls, a flag that had not even made it into the building during the worst of the Civil War. So, as we remember a leader on his birthday, and prepare to swear in a new President in hopes of taking the first steps out of the crater caused by an incompetent man who should never have been placed in the seat of power in this country, let us remember the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. but more importantly, let no-one twist his words into an excuse not to hold people accountable for crimes against democracy and against our fellow citizens. …and let us remember King’s final action – to fly to lead a protest of sanitation workers, and to provide them with a voice and a path out of poverty – an action so terrifying to the powers that be in this country, they very well may have had him executed for daring to ask that people should be paid a living wage and provided dignity for their work.
Folks wind up in the emergency room on Thanksgiving, an US, harvest-oriented holiday based on the myth of a shared meal between Indigenous people and “colonizers” who “discovered America and then proceeded to annex land, intentionally sicken the indigenous folks, run them off their land, or murder them, or rape them, men and women.
It was decided in the early part of the twentieth century, in which a lot of the pretty vile things folks did to “found ” this country were whitewashed, edges smoothed, gore and blood spackled over, with the excuse that we needed to teach history, but not to expose the children to how awful our founding fathers actually were.
So much is done in this country in the name of “protecting children” which often, in reality is done to absolve people’s grandparents of atrocities that continue to this very day, but I digress. (Imagine me smiling and saying this in my best customer service-flight attendant – patient pearl-wearing voice, topped by a high, high bouffant.)
So a holiday was created in advance of Christmas, another strange mythical confection, so that families could sit down, eat to excess, attempt to ignore the slights and insults casually thrown back and forth in families and try to get along.
Fairly often on this holiday, usually because someone who doesn’t usually cook or doesn’t cook often, mishandled some tough-to-break-down food, like carrots that rolled on them, or butternut squash, or one of those big, yellow onions that decided to roll while being sliced.
Fairly often, kitchen accidents happen, resulting in blood, screaming and tears and a mad rush off to the emergency room to sit dolefully until it is your turn to be stitched back together, maybe given some drugs, and sent home many, many hours after your lapse in judgement landed you in our modern answer to what is usually referred to as purgatory. Home to a cold dinner, if anyone was around to finish cooking it, and an eventual bill from the hospital which will likely scare you away from ever touching a knife again.
It was because you weren’t working on a stable surface.
Please, put a kitchen towel under that cutting board so it doesn’t rock when you’re working.
The other reason folks wind up in that horrid purgatory, watching that kitchen towel get even redder and hoping you don’t bleed out before your turn arrives – a very real possibility in our over-stretched medical care system, currently taxed to its limits due to a raging pandemic, in large part due to an idiot in the White House who felt like it was a great idea to create credibility gaps about science during a pandemic.
Again, I digress.
The culprit: dull knives.
When did you last have yours sharpened?
Do you know how to do it yourself?
It will cost you about $12 for a double sided sharpening stone, coarse and fine grain. Another dollar or two for a towel, which will then always be the sharpening towel.
Rest the stone on the towel to stabilize the surface.
I sharpen mine with a whetstone and food safe mineral oil, but you could dry-sharpen them, or wet-sharpen, by soaking your whetstone in a sink full of water for a few minutes before you get to work.
Maybe spend another $5 for food safe mineral oil to oil your stone before you sharpen.
It takes about 7 strokes left, 7 strokes right – alternating so – left, right, left, right, etc. Hold the blade at about a 15 degree angle, about what you’d have if you rested your knife on a nickel and pushed the blade down toward the board. Then, push diagonally away from you, from the point to the handle, in an even stroke. Flip the stone over to the “fine grade” side and repeat the process – 7 left, 7 right alternating your stroke.
Carefully wash the oil and a bit of grit from the sharpening stone off your knife, dry with a cotton towel. If the handle is wood, take the opportunity to treat it to some oil a day or two before you intend to use it again so it gets fully absorbed.
Remind yourself that your knives are sharp next time you go to use them so you don’t nick yourself on the blade, particularly the Japanese steel style, as there usually is no guard near the tang, as that point near the handle is thirsty if you aren’t careful.
When you are using a knife, you aren’t doing anything else – not talking, not watching TV. Focus on the knife. If you are working with something that rolls, either fold up a kitchen towel and place it under the item as support, or look at the thing you are cutting and your first cut should be to make a flat surface to stabilize your product.Hold the food with your hand in a tucked/claw position, being careful to keep your fingers tucked under so that your knuckle is the most forward in your hand position.
Vegetables are cheap, flesh is not.
Don’t get brave trying to get that last slice of onion out. Just compost it and move on.
NEVER PUT A KNIFE IN THE SINK. When it has done it’s service, wash it immediately, dry it immediately and put it on a magnetic wall holder, back in its case, or holder.
A sharp knife in a warm, soapy tub of water is essentially a shark. You don’t reach your hand in a shark tank. You shouldn’t reach into a sink full of soapy water and knives.
NEVER PUT A KNIFE IN THE DISHWASHER – sure, they often are stamped “dishwasher safe,” but putting a knife in the dishwasher does two things – it loosens the handle from the blade, setting you up for an accident, and most dish washing detergents are VERY abrasive – all that not-directed abrasion will take that nice sharp edge you worked to put on there right off your knife.