Cuisine. A good, sharp knife. 11.24.20

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.

Some tips:

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.

Be safe and happy cooking, folks.

About gojohnego

Avid foodie and kitchen tinkerer, artist, news junky and political wonk, musician, blogger, naturist, dog-daddy, and owner of a kinky play-space. ...and did I mention I'm single ;)
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