Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Nimble With a Knife

Slate's Sara Dickerman recently wondered if there is a book that can teach her husband how to handle a knife deftly in the kitchen. She writes:

Just as no figure skater ever won a gold medal solely for executing perfect figure eights, no one will become a great chef simply on the elegance of his brunoise. Show too much focus on juliennes and chiffonades, and you can be dismissed as a technician without soul. But without sharp knife skills, food cooks unevenly, expensive meat and fish turn raggedy, and lots of time and ingredients are wasted.

. . . there is a certain pride of blade — more often than not, a masculine pride — that goes with elegant handling. The kitchen knife is the domestic stand-in for the sword, and men who might otherwise show little interest in cookery can be quick to volunteer when it comes to cutting up whatever beast is for dinner.

In his 1808 Host's Manual, the great French gourmand Grimod de la Reynière shamed gentlemen who did not know how to cut up a roast: "The host who does not
know how to carve, nor to serve is like someone who has a fine library and cannot read. The one is almost as shameful as the other."

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