This one picture displays all the knives that I ever use in the kitchen – a grand total of three. I cook every day, and between them these knives are the pieces of kitchen equipment that I use to prepare every single meal. I think of them as friends and have even been known to take them on holiday.
The one on the left with the rivetted handle is my main knife, used for 80% of tasks – vegetables, meat, fish, carving, general prodding and poking. It is small, light and flexible, and takes an impressively sharp edge.
The central knife is used for everything else – cheese, butter, bread, spreading icing, emergency rescues from frying pans, waggling at naughty teenagers. This could also take a sharp edge, but I don’t keep it sharp. This knife, with its bone handle, reminds me of my grandmother, who used the same sort of knife for seventy years until she had worn it to a strange stump of a blade and finally (unceremoniously) just threw it out.
The third knife is just the bread knife: not very sharp, can’t be sharpened, and only useful because big enough to cut a big loaf. It’s the brawn, not the brains, of the trio.
I used to have a knife block and about a dozen different working knives. My husband liked to collect them, in the fond belief that the more you spend on equipment, the better the cooking. Some were pretty impressive and pretty expensive – those from Japan in particular. I had one for meat, one for fish, two for vegetables, and one I used solely for grapefruit. I used to think it was impossible to cook with less than half a dozen of these beauties.
Then my daughter got sick, and like many other families in our sort of situation, we found medical staff telling us urgently that we had to lock the knives away. Just as we had to remove a lot of rather useful common painkillers and other medicines from our cupboards. Just as we had to lock away our matches and our bleach. We locked the knife block in the garage, and I imagined that I would be back in there on a daily basis fetching out my knives. To preserve my sanity, I saved just one small knife in the kitchen – the one with the rivetted handle – and hid it in a drawer.
But to my surprise, I managed just fine with that one knife. It cuts everything I need it to cut. When I was given the bone handled knife later, I let it get blunt because I never needed the edge (though I appreciated its broad spreading surface). I still have that knife block, gathering dust in my garage, but I have not used the fancy knives in it in three years.