On a recent visit to my parents’ house, I decided to cook dinner. Caprese paninis were on the menu, so I needed to slice some tomatoes.
Actually, I guess it would be more appropriate to say that I needed to slice some flavorless, reddish-colored fruit that resembles the juicy, delicious, garden-grown treat we call a tomato in the summer. Such is life in the Midwest for about 10 months out of the year.
Armed with cutting board and my favorite chef’s knife—Mama Chick uses the same kind of knives that I do—I set to slicing.
I didn’t get very far. This knife was duller than an elevator ride at an actuarial convention. I made several attempts to make a clean slice through the tomato, but ended up bruising it instead.
I turned to the chief knife caretaker of the house—otherwise known as Papa Chick—and asked “WHAZZUP?!”
He said he didn’t want Mama Chick to accidentally cut herself, so he hadn’t sharpened it in a while.
There are numerous reasons why this logic actually made sense in this scenario, but Mama Chick wasn’t the one doing the cooking that day, and this Chick needed a sharp knife.
Papa Chick normally sharpens the knives on a honing stone with a few drops of oil on it. He slides the blade across the stone at just the right angle to deliver the perfect edge. A knife is sharp, he tells me, when you don’t see any shiny spots when you hold the blade edge up to the light. The light reflects off of flat surfaces and that means those spots aren’t sharp.
Works for me, especially when Papa Chick is available to render his sharpening services like he did that day.
When I’m in my own home, however, he’s miles away and has yet to volunteer to drive seven hours just to sharpen my knives.
I turn to my own trusty knife sharpener instead. No, not the Big Man. He’s allergic to all things related to cooking except for the meal that’s produced as a result.
I used to use one of those long round file-like rod things that I’ve seen chefs on TV use to sharpen their knives. I had no idea what I was doing though, and probably did more damage to my knives than actual sharpening.
These days I rely on my little Wusthof pocket knife sharpener. I’ve had this thing for years and it hasn’t failed me yet.
The sharpener is small enough to fit into the palm of your hand and has two slots through which you slide your blade. One slot has coarse carbide heads for when your knife is really dull. The other slot has fine ceramic rods to help create a perfectly sharp edge.
I usually start on the coarse side and progress to the ceramic side.
The good thing about this device is that it is practically foolproof and accident proof—a necessary quality for an accident prone Chick like me. Plus, you don’t have to worry about holding the knife at just the right angle. The sharpener delivers the perfect edge every time. You also don’t have to worry too much about it slipping during use. Both top and bottom have non-slip rubber inserts.
The paninis turned out well that day despite the slicing snafu. I’m definitely not going to win any Top Chef contests, but with a little help from my Wusthof sharpener, I can slice and dice with the best of them.
Just call me Edwina Scissorhands.
Chickaliciousness: 5 It’s no substitute for Papa Chick’s sharpening skills, but it does a fine job.