Knife Stories Spring Edition
The rhyme goes, April showers bring May flowers, this saying represents the season of Spring bringing newness and rebirth. Waters thaw, trees, and flowers are in full bloom and it seems like people celebrate more during this time of year. Town Cutler is no different, we enjoy the fresh smells and bright colors of this lovely season and we too like to celebrate all the unique beauty surrounding us. With every new season, memories are brought to mind and for this Mother’s Day I am reminiscent of spending time in my childhood doing something we all hopefully had a chance to do with someone special.
When I was young dinners became a way for our family to communicate without the droning from a nearby television or being interrupted by a ringing phone. When it was dinner time my father turned the TV off and took the phone off the hook. We sat down for at least a half an hour each night to pleasantly converse with our parents about the day’s events and plans for the upcoming night. I am older now and I realize what a marvel that was even back then in the 1990’s. A “traditional nuclear family” of husband and wife sitting down with their two children eating a nutritious dinner while a cute little dog scampered underneath the table hoping for a friendly hand to secretly share food or a nice stroke of his head. I realize how foreign and annoyingly quaint this tableau is. Was it ever really like that? Was I part of some commercial in which the newspaper boy would ring the doorbell and sniff a boxed stuffing recipe aroma in the air and invite himself in for a seat at our table? No, this was real life, and these things did in fact happen. Albeit, very rarely did we all get along and I don’t think there was ever an instance where my sister and I didn’t complain about the TV going off, nor was it always pleasant but we did sit down with one another to eat and talk
I couldn’t tell you what specific stories were discussed, who did the dishes after dinner and I can’t remember what we ate most of the time but what I can remember is having the pleasure of at first watching my mom cook and as I got older being able to help with dinners or meals when she asked for my assistance. Cooking with my mom was always an experiment. She could read, she knew math, but for some reason a recipe to her was just a foundation to start off with so that she could then “improvise” by adding or subtracting whatever ingredients she felt like. Every meatloaf had ketchup and a few dashes of cinnamon, although I don’t know how much because it would change every time it was cooked. Taco night would vary because she might find a new idea in a magazine and decided to add a mango lime salsa this time around. However, there were some dishes she made which were always reliable. My mom’s chicken soup always had big bits of shredded chicken in it and I always felt like no matter what bite went into my mouth a bay leaf found its way being spit out.
Every Spring she would make a dish called copper pennies in which thinly sliced carrots were the stars and an overpowering scent of ginger would infiltrate the whole house making me nauseous. To this day I cannot eat warm carrots. But it is her process I remember most. I can recall my mom getting out her “good chef knife”. A knife handed down to her by her grandmother, a classically shaped handmade handle with some sort of weather beaten wood attached to what I now know is, a carbon chef knife showcasing a dark patina with highlights of rust from not being cared for properly over the years. I was told not to play with that knife because it was sharp, handmade a long time ago and most importantly because it was her favorite. Her “good serving fork” was another antique handed down from a past generation which had an intricate sterling silver handle and two sharp prongs at the end that looked so sinister I thought the devil must have made it for himself and I disliked even holding it. She had other “good” utensils and china but their special value seemed minimal compared to great grandma’s handmade chef knife and the devil’s fork.
My mom would start her process as if in a trance, emptying the refrigerator of the ingredients she needed for this recipe; carrots, purple onion, bell pepper, fresh ginger, Worcestershire sauce all magically appeared on the counter before me. She glided to a cupboard and unloaded the spices necessary. They too, mysteriously teleported in front of my eyes. And now she could get to work. Great grandma’s chef knife with its rustic handle and blackened blade made its way out of our old wooden hutch that needed to be shaken at the exact right sliding speed just to open the drawer. She quickly rinsed it underneath the faucet and patted it dry and then began. Slicing through vegetables, the knife made sounds I had only heard in old jungle movies where the leader would hack his way through the bush with a huge machete.
Little eye contact was made until she commanded “bowl” which meant for me to get on my hands and knees, reach into the lowest cupboard to grab her favorite mixing bowl (a pale yellow piece of plastic that undoubtedly was bought at a Tupper-ware party). Although seemingly possessed, she would occasionally acknowledge me or the rest of my family with greetings or a loud order. “Do your homework” was a phrase that fell from my mother’s mouth frequently. But when she was in the zone nothing could break her concentration.
Now, with a family of my own, I watch my wife prepare family dinners (because she is a much better cook than I am). I see our son fascinated by the “good” tools she uses and the process she goes through to make our nutritious meals with love yet also a sense of urgency, just like my mother did for my family. My wife too, has a “good” chef knife that will only make its way out of its wrap when the meal calls for it. It is a handmade 7” Classic Chef Knife from Town Cutler, she loves this knife so much in-fact, she does not allow me to use it.
The Spring brings along newness and rebirth, but let us also enjoy the fond remembrances of yesterday, so let’s celebrate the present by delighting in our own nostalgia and by also making more incredible memories to pass on to our family and friends. Town Cutler would like to send well wishes and a happy day to all the mothers, sisters, daughters, grandmothers, wives, girlfriends, friends, and family who make life easier and better simply by being themselves.