In Defense of Dull Knives

All my life, I’ve heard people say that a dull knife will cut you worse than a sharp knife. I know that isn’t true because I’ve always had dull knives and none of them has ever cut me. My favorite dull knife has been with me since my first marriage. At that time, knife sharpeners came around every few months in trucks that played jingling tunes to alert women to bring out their dull knives. Too bad there weren’t marriage-sharpeners — but I digress. The point is that my trusty old knife has been professionally sharpened only once or twice in its lifetime, and that was a long time ago.

It’s a good knife, with a one-piece length of steel that runs all the way through a wooden handle with brass studs. About ten inches long, I’ve used it for almost everything. It has cut through chicken bones, whacked garlic cloves, chopped onions, sliced carrots, you name it. In the last year, the handle has gotten a little loose, so I quit putting it in the dishwasher. I also started looking for a replacement, and found that I had a knife that chefs consider a treasure. I guess that’s why it has lasted so long and why no other knife has ever felt right in my hand.

Last week I plunked down an obscene amount of money for a knife that was as close to my old one as I could find. I have to admit it’s a lot sharper. Tomatoes take one look at it and practically fall into neat slices before they’re touched. Celery has never sounded so crisp when the blade goes through it. It is one sharp dude.

The old knife is still my first love, but I don’t want to completely destroy its wooden handle so it stays most of the time in its slot in the knife rack on the kitchen counter. So far, I have band-aids on three fingers. They keep slipping off and the cuts start bleeding again so now I’m carrying spare band-aids in my pockets. I suppose in time I’ll remember that the new knife blade is really, really sharp and stop cutting myself, but I may be wearing band-aids on every finger before I do. I’ll be glad when it loses a little of its sharp edge.

I read somewhere that Mikimoto, the cultured pearl king, once held a requiem for the needles that had been broken stringing his pearls. I understand that. I feel the same affection and gratitude for my old dull knife.


5 thoughts on “In Defense of Dull Knives

  1. Good luck with that new knife — adjusting to the new is always a challenge. BTW, my dermatologist advised using paper tape instead of bandaids on the fingers, because it dries out after hand-washing instead of staying damp.

  2. I’ve had several favorite knives over the years – mine was a folding hunting knife, but I still have fond memories of cutting tomatoes and pieces of summer sausage during lunch breaks. (An added benefit of using a dull knife, you can cut a tomato while holding it in your hand, just make sure it’s a nice firm veggie.) He had a maroon-stained wooden handle and a sturdy point on the fat little 2″ blade.

    My parents recently picked up a full set of slick kitchen knives, all stainless steel and molded epoxy handles. They actually go *shinggg* when you pull them out of their slot. (I suspect the makers designed the knife block to do this) Sharp as a razor and smooth, there’s still something wrong about it – artificial, like a well-heeled businessman crashing a family reunion.

    Unfortunately, knives die. My trusty friend finally bit the big one when I used him to open a can of chili – the tip broke off and, although I tried my best to pretend he was still usable, that was the end of that.

    Sentimentality is never a bad thing – mourn your fallen friends, and they live on forever as warmly remembered parts of your life!

      • I’m glad you like it! Where on earth, though, could I publish something like this? (I used to dream of being a writer but never went much further than to pester some reporters from a local newspaper)

  3. That may have been your first mistake, because you don’t write like a newspaper journalist. I think you’re an essayist or a novelist. In which case you just write stuff — short stories, essays, etc — until something clicks and you submit it to some pub that has the kind of thing you’ve written. People who mourn the loss of a good knife are writers. If you used to dream of being a writer, you probably are meant to be one. Not that that’s a great thing. Writers suffer more rejection and loss than maybe any other profession, but we keep doing it because that’s what we are.

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