#42 Learn to properly use kitchen knives.
I like to think I’m a decent cook. At least when I don’t burn everything. Or my hand. I saute, stir fry, and steam, make fish, make soup, make enchiladas. I roast an amazing chicken that will some day make someone fall in love with me. I know it. I’ll make it for you some day if you ask nicely.
I can cook.
But, if I am to confess here, I am awful at cutting. This is partially because I just own a cheap knife set that I got from Target twelve years ago (and it wasn’t until I wrote that sentence that I realized I’ve had those knives that long, I got them my third year of college). But, really, it’s mostly because I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know how to hold a knife. I didn’t know which knife held which purpose. I didn’t know the difference between julienning and dicing. I always managed to get the job done but I knew there had to be some trick to getting my veggies to look prettier than whatever I was able to produce.
I just had no idea what I was doing.
And so, some time ago, I added “learn to properly use kitchen knives” to my life list. Because it seems like one of those important skills everyone should have.
Last year I visited The Chopping Block — a gourmet cooking store in Chicago that offers recreational culinary classes — when I wanted to learn to make gnocchi. I liked the way the class was run: a small size, everyone standing around the kitchen, completely hands on, with a knowledgeable instructor who could answer any questions we had. So, when I returned to Chicago for two weeks, I decided to go again and take their most popular class: knife skills.
Over the course of two and a half hours one Tuesday night in Lincoln Square I learned about cooking knives from our fantastic instructor, Quincy. He explained to the class the different types of knives, the different brands (Did you know that there are knives designed by the same people behind Porsche? Because there totally are.), how to sharpen and take care of knives, knife safety (don’t try to catch a knife if it falls, never approach anyone in a threatening manner), and a variety of other topics. And then we pushed back our chairs, grabbed a chef’s knife, and started cutting.
We made matchsticks from some cucumbers, diced up a pepper, made a glorious garlic schmear. Sure, I still had some mishaps: after the onion I was in tears and I may have accidentally cut my carrots into full moons instead of half moons. But, in the end, I had some beautiful, mostly uniform, veggies, and a new life skill that may make you fall in love with my chicken, and me, even more.
Learn to properly use kitchen knives was number 42 on my life list.