Andrea James

Fun with knives

A few weeks ago, I was having an interesting chat with a dinner companion. In addition to being a noted philosopher, he is a foodie and a gadget freak. The conversation turned to knives, his newest interest. Having been the beneficiary of some of his home-cooked delights (braised figs and homemade chocolate fettuccine with gorgonzola were among many standouts), I listened with interest as he went into a reverie about knives.

Now, I have some OK knives and I am a pretty good cook myself, but high-end knives are pretty far down my list of priorities. He offered to get me one as a gift, which sounded cool to me.

It arrived this weekend, and I have to say I never thought I’d be blown away by a knife, but I spent an hour or two messing around with it today and was just amazed. To say this professional use Tojiro Gyutou (chef’s knife) is razor sharp is an understatement. I felt like Beatrix holding the Hattori Hanzō sword in Kill Bill.

I had a couple of good items lying around to test a knife like this: a bunch of ultra-ripe heirloom tomatoes on the vine, and a pear that needed to be eaten in the next hour or tossed. It was so ripe it was a little mushy to the touch.

I didn’t have to apply any downward pressure – just slide the knife across the tomato, and it smoothly shaved off the thinnest of slices. The only limiting factor to how thin I could slice was how steadily I could hold the blade.

I quickly got to where I could consistently slice pieces of both that were thinner than the blade. It put me in mind of the great scene in Goodfellas where Paulie is slicing garlic in prison with a razor so it will dissolve in the pan.

I was also reminded of one of my favorite Sylvia Plath poems:


for Susan O’Neill Roe

What a thrill —-

My thumb instead of an onion.

The top quite gone

Except for a sort of hinge

Of skin,

A flap like a hat,

Dead white.

Then that red plush.

Little pilgrim,

The Indian’s axed your scalp.

Your turkey wattle

Carpet rolls

Straight from the heart.

I step on it,

Clutching my bottle

Of pink fizz.

A celebration, this is.

Out of a gap

A million soldiers run,

Redcoats, every one.

Whose side are they on?

O my

Homunculus, I am ill.

I have taken a pill to kill

The thin

Papery feeling.


Kamikaze man —-

The stain on your

Gauze Ku Klux Klan


Darkens and tarnishes and when

The balled

Pulp of your heart

Confronts its small

Mill of silence

How you jump —-

Trepanned veteran,

Dirty girl,

Thumb stump.

Anyway, a few more shots here if you are interested.

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