If you cook anything ever, my greatest advice is to invest in high-quality, sharp knives and keep them that way.
Not only are sharp knives infinitely more effective than dull ones, they're also much more fun to work with and a great deal safer. A clean cut made by a finely whetted blade will heal more quickly and neatly than will a jagged wound made by a toothless steel. I've been to the ER two or three times with deeply slivered fingers; once I got stitches, once the skin glue, and I have no discernible scars to show. Fantastic!
A honed blade slicing briskly through a silky green zucchini or the thick rind of a vivid orange never fails to delight me. It is efficient, quiet until the cutting board stops the forward motion with a pleasing thud. Cut, thud, begin anew.
You might recall this lengthy post Tom and I co-wrote a few years back. He is the knife sharpener in our home, keeping stones at the ready for both German and Japanese knives whose blades are honed at different angles. We have several Wusthofs, 3 or 4 Globals, and now, thanks to my friend, Mary, a fabulous Kamata (a generations-old Tokyo store that sells fabulous knives that are sharp as get-out).
Because I still feel low today, I decided to take an hour and do just what I wanted. What I wanted to do was make a gorgeous vin pamplemousse that my friend Ginger recently made and posted on Instagram. I think she based her recipe on Heidi Swanson's, and Heidi rarely misses (really never!), so I knew it'd be fab.
Vin pamplemousse is basically a fortified grapefruit wine made with rosé, vodka, sugar and grapefruit. Ginger (and Heidi) use a variety of citrus which, as you might know, is having a wonderful season right now. Mandarins, blood oranges, ruby reds, gold nuggets, Meyers...it is citrus heaven at Whole Foods, and I love citrus. I omitted the vanilla bean G and H use but otherwise followed Ginger's instructions to a T.
I thought, during all my chopping, about what a pleasure it was to be able to ignore my malaise by being able to easily slice gloriously even rounds of beautiful, pungent fruit. I considered how much I love a crisp, cool glass of Lillet pamplemousse on warm spring and summer evenings, and how much better a homemade version might taste.
The methodical, productive, simple act of cleaning and slicing and layering many beautiful pieces into a more beautiful whole was a welcome reprieve from an otherwise busy, demanding day. So often, those feelings of creation and focus, contemplation and peace are why I cook and miss the kitchen when I'm away for too long.
Sharp knives make every bit of those experiences better.