All I Want For Christmas is KNIVES
What I Want For Christmas:
If you don’t know what to ask Santa for this Christmas, then I have a little suggestion for you: Knives.
This is not about to launch into a long and weirdly detailed plan to assassinate that one uncle at the dinner table who just will not shut the hell up about politics, the real meaning of Christmas and kids these days. Although it could, very easily.
We all have relatives that are well meaning but have absolutely nothing to do with you throughout the rest of the year, from these lovely people we usually receive the deodorant that makes us smell like our granddad, a sweatshirt with the name of a sports team we have never heard of and of course, a pair of socks. You get home, the bag of crap goes in the bin and you go on with your life hoping that those delightful people never ever come around and discover that the lovely sculpture that they made for you in their evening class is nowhere to be found.
Shockingly enough, this situation also sucks for the people buying you gifts. They don’t know you but they like you in that vague friendly way that neighbours and your extended family like you, those lucky people who haven’t had a chance to get to know just how terrible you really are. You need to help them. You need to use that amazing grapevine of elderly relatives to spread the word that what you really need is a decent set of knives for your kitchen. What with you being a responsible young man who is just trying to make his way in the world.
A full set of knives is a very expensive thing if you live paycheck to paycheck and it is probably more than you would be comfortable asking any one relative for, but if they all band together you can get a really useful addition to your kitchen and they can feel like they have helped you out.
There are a lot of really fancy looking knives out there now, but as cool as some of them look, there are a few specific things that you should take into consideration before you go buying to the knives that look like they have flames on them or the block that looks like a voodoo doll: What do you actually need your knives for?
I’ve got the full set of different knives in my kitchen because I cook a lot of different kinds of food, most of them only see use once in a blue moon and one or two get used every single meal. The only thing that I have never bothered with is a hardened plastic knife. If you are a vegetarian, then one of those is actually a pretty sensible investment because you can slow down oxidisation when chopping certain fruit and vegetables when you don’t bring metal into the mix.
If I am being completely honest, I could probably get away with just three knives. The little, really sharp one, the big bread saw and the big really sharp one.
The Little Really Sharp Knife is used for chopping tiny things, it is used to remove little bits of bone, or to trim fat from meat. Basically, it exists solely to do the things that the Big Really Sharp Knife does, except when you are dealing with a small or fiddly portion.
The Bread Saw is for slicing bread. It isn’t for anything else, don’t think about using it for anything else. But likewise, don’t use anything else for cutting slices of bread. If you try to use the Little Really Sharp Knife you will be there all day and if you use the Big Really Sharp Knife it is liable to skid off of the crust and take one of your finger-tips with it.
The Big Really Sharp Knife is what I will use to do nearly everything in my kitchen, up to and including scratching my eyebrow when my hands are all meaty because I am clearly not very attached to the idea of owning a face.
With a big, straight edged, sharp knife there is very little that you can’t do, except walk down the street without getting arrested. It is good for vegetables, meat, fish and pretty much anything else that you need to chop up. There will always be a few exceptions, like a big cleaver to separate bones and a little serrated knife to descale fish, but for the most part, those three will do the trick.
You could buy them all individually, one a month until you have the whole set, like they are baseball cards, or you can buy them as a set with a couple of other sizes of knife that will come in handy when you need to switch between preparing different ingredients.
Regardless of how you get them, they will function absolutely perfectly, exactly once. After the first time you use your new knives they will start to blunt, getting progressively more useless until finally you would have better luck trying to saw through your ingredients with your thumb.
The reason that I recommend people get their knives in a handy block, other than the fact that it prevents you from accidentally mangling your hands every time that you reach into the cutlery drawer, is that the blocks usually come with a knife sharpener. You pull it out every time you are about to put the knives back into the block. You scrape the blade over the sharpener, making a noise like a million nails on a million chalkboards, and then you put them all away, ready to use next time.
So, remember to let your family and friends know that what you want more than anything this year is the almost magical ability to make big things into smaller things by the power of stainless steel and applied force. It is the gift that keeps on giving.