Just like that, your life changes. Sometimes it’s a baby; sometimes it’s a tumor; sometimes it’s a knife. The first one isn’t coming anytime soon, and I can’t speak to the second. But the knife is here and it’s staying here. I now have the only knife I’m going to use for the rest of my life.
The knife is an Bob Kramer all-carbon 8″ chef’s knife, manufactured by Henckels Zwillig. Bob Kramer is the greatest knifesmith in America. (Here’s a video of him doing unnatural things with a chef’s knife.) I should say here that I didn’t buy it; I was badgering my friend at Henckels to use his employee discount on my behalf, and he got sick of hearing it and just had one sent to me. (That’s the Ozersky family motto: nothing but the best, and never pay retail.) The fact is that I would willingly have paid the full price for the knife, because, as I say, I’m never going to buy another one. It’s available from Sur La Table. And now I find myself actively looking to cut things up.
I’m not saying that everyone who reads this should run out and get the same knife. The reason the Bob Kramer knife works for me is because, among other things, it fits my hand so perfectly. I have a marvelous Japanese knife, a 10″ Ittosai chef’s knife from Korin, that is unimaginably beautiful and has an edge capable of beheading a man in one stroke. But it doesnt’ fit my hand like this one, and it doesn’t speak to me in quite the same way. The full-carbon tool-steel knife is ugly; it’s not stainless, it doesn’t have damascus cladding. It picks up stains and patinas as you use it, and even when brand new a single thumbprint was enough to mar its mirror sheen permanently. But that’s one reason I feel it; it ages with me and gains a unique character that runs deep. I even put a thumbprint patina on it as soon as I got it; I wanted it to be mine and mine alone. It doesn’t look like any other knife.
It is also preturnaturally sharp. Stainless knives can sharp; but you have to give up something to get a knife that beautfiul that never rusts or discolors. And what you give is is that extra level of sharpness. And you have to believe me: it makes such a difference! My knife fits in my hand as if I were holding no knife at all; and its edge cuts through carrots and onions as if they weren’t there. I mean this in a very literal sense: there is almost no resistance, and I can mince as fast as my wrist can move. It’s an exhilerating feeling; you rarely, if ever, see your will imposed so quickly and absolutely. It’s intoxicating, and the psychological pleasure, combined with the physical feeling of holding the knife, creates an adrenaline surge when you use it; it’s basically culinary adderall.
Having a knife this special requires more of me than I would have thought. I have to clean it religously, at least until its dark patina forms, protecting it from rust and other forms of earthly corruption. I hone it regularly with a Kramer steel. When its edge becomes less than lethal, I sharpen it by hand on a Japanese whetstone, which is fun, but also hard, since I’m bad at it. I have to keep the knife in a special sheath. I can’t look at it the wrong way, or I will be a triple amputee within months. But I don’t care. I love my knife. And now I love cooking more than I ever have before.