Marietta Pritchard: News with an edge: My new kitchen tool
AMHERST — Is it wrong to love a knife? A few months ago, to celebrate a wedding anniversary, I bought my kitchen a new tool. It is a beauty and it works beautifully, a 10-inch stainless steel knife with a gently rocking edge and those little dimples along the blade that help keep things — cucumbers, potatoes — from sticking as you cut.
Instead of a separate, riveted handle, it is constructed from a single piece of heavy, well-balanced metal, with an array of small dents — little black dots — in the handle that keep it from slipping out of your hand. It is giving me no end of pleasure as I slice the season’s opulent tomatoes, peaches and other soft produce. But it also works perfectly on the hard stuff — a flank steak that got a little too crusty on the grill, for instance.
The knife was purchased at Different Drummer’s Kitchen in Northampton, a shop I think of as a kitchen museum, and where I like to look at the displays and occasionally purchase something. I had not bought a new kitchen knife in a long time — not a serious one, that is. Of course, I already have a number of fairly serious knives in my knife drawer. (I know, you’re not supposed to keep them in a drawer, but it works for me.) One is locally made, a nice wood-handled all-purpose knife that I got at the Lamson outlet in Shelburne Falls at the recommendation of a friend. The earliest in my collection is a 15-inch Sabatier chef’s knife, made of what is known as carbon steel.
It is a long, straight triangle, beautiful in its own way, too, if you don’t mind — and I don’t — the way it tends to darken and get somewhat mottled if you’re not meticulous about drying it right away or, as I just learned, oiling it periodically.
When I was first married and just learning to cook, I used it a lot, but lately — in the past decade or so — have gravitated toward less cumbersome, less hefty knives.
Since I’ve always been the main cook in the house, a place that once also harbored three growing boys, and since I never had a food processor until about a year ago when those boys were long gone, I have done a lot of kitchen work with a knife. The food processor is a miracle of efficiency for large quantities — scalloped potatoes for six — but a pain to put together, take apart and wash, so I tend to pull a knife out of the drawer. This newest one makes me a happy cook.
In the garden, I like to work with a wonderful English-made shovel that I once ordered online from Smith and Hawken — now out of business, I find. It is heavy but short enough for me to handle comfortably, and comes to a nice rounded point that makes it easy to break ground for transplanting or for chopping recalcitrant roots. I find on Google that it’s known as a “rabbiting spade,” because it was used to rescue small hunting dogs that got stuck in rabbit holes.
Other tools in my life that I would not want to do without include a pocket calendar — yes, a paper one. Although it does not make phone calls or take pictures, it also never runs out of batteries, and although I would be lost without it, I presume no one would want to steal it. Its name is At-A-Glance weekly, #70-543, and I have been refilling its black fake leather cover for several decades.
The nice thing about the cover is that it has a little pocket in the front where I can keep schedules for tennis doubles or boarding passes, if I have them. At the back is a small spiral address book that stays put from year to year. It contains — shhh — some of my harder-to-remember passwords and pin numbers. When the year ends, I put the refill on a pile of pocket calendars that has been accumulating since 1977.
Why do I keep these? Surely my biographer will be interested.
Marietta Pritchard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.