REGULAR cut-ups, aren't you? Not referring, of course, to your playful moods, but to the paring, coring, slicing and carving that goes on in the kitchen.
For the serious business of housekeeping, a good knife is as important in its way as any other piece of equipment around the place. That being so, it’s amazing what some women put up with in the way of cutlery—nicked blades, bent points, loose handles, and edges duller than a selfrespecting hoe. Others struggle along with one or two shapes and sizes, seemingly putting versatility above all a knife’s desirable qualities.
Efficiency demands the right tool for the job, as any good craftsman in any line will tell you. A carpenter doesn’t use an adze for an axe, nor can you expect to peel potatoes with your chopper. No one knife will do all your cutting up, but you can find suitable designs to meet all situations. There’s no need to buy every one you see, or your kitchen will look like an armory, but a well-chosen assortment will give major satisfaction for minor expense.
Make your selection according to the various jobs on hand and with a view to accomplishing them in the easiest possible manner. You can, for instance, gouge the core out of a grapefruit with almost any kind of knife, but a flexible curved blade will make quicker and neater work of it. You can hack a loaf of bread with the wrong tool, but a bread knife with a sawlike edge will give you thin even slices and no crumbling. Scrape carrots with a butcher knife and get a cramp in your fingers, or use a small stiff parer and you can do your piano scales with limberness. Carve your Christmas turkey with a blunt-tipped blade if you like, but you’ll find a pointed carver much more efficient and graceful.
All of which goes to prove that different knives serve different purposes, and that it’s poor economy to have an inadequate supply. Not all kitchens need the same assortment of cutters; the number in the family, the type of meals and the work to be done in their preparation, govern the equipment required.
Some items, though, are essential to every well-run household. Paring knives, for instance, are something you can’t do without. Don’t try to get along with one when two or more would be such a convenience, especially when there’s more than one worker. They cost only a few cents, so you’re not running yourself into a lot of expense, and they come in differentshaped blades, for straight paring, scraping, digging eyes from potatoes, and so on. Make your own collection for your own needs. Large cutlery should include a butcher knife for meat, a carver for fowl, a bread sheer with plain or saw edge, a utility knife with a stiff six-inch blade, and a long narrow sheer that is semiflexible. Some housekeepers find frequent use for a murderous-looking chopper for cutting bones of meat, taking the legs off a fowl, and such services.
THEN THERE’S a knife’s first cousin— the limber spatula which has no cutting edge but is useful for removing cookies, turning food in the pan, loosening a cake and so on. Better have two of them—a short narrow one, and a wider, longer design. That rubber dish-scraper illustrated has only a distant relationship to the cutlery family, but it cuts your cake batter and is a handy utensil for beating and scraping the dish.
A pair of scissors is another essential, for nothing so deftly cuts the rind from bacon, snips the fins from a fish, quarters marshmallows, trims a piece of meat or fowl, shreds lettuce, divides a bunch of grapes, and attends to a dozen odd jobs in meal preparation. Apart from food, it severs the string that ties your bundles, shapes the paper for your shelves or for your cake tins.
No kitchen can afford to be without a knife sharpener, for dull blades w’ould aggravate a saint. The use of a sharpening steel or hone requires some dexterity, but other practical devices can be operated to good effect by any woman, and their acquisition is worth while for retaining your
angelic disposition. Pick your gadget, and don’t let it sit idle when the blade shows sign of losing its business edge.
Proper storing is another precaution in keeping this line of equipment up to efficiency. A rack on the wall or fastened to the back of a cupboard door is a suitable arrangement, handy to reach and a good prevention from scratching, nicking and chipping. Divided storage drawers also protect the edge and keep the knives within easy reach.
In buying, consider the quality of the steel, the workmanship, the type of edge, as well as the size and shape. Examine the handles for comfort in the hand, the finish and the way they are joined to the blade. Cheap knives are never good value for your money, and one that isn’t sharp in its prime will not improve with age. Highgrade steel, tempered to the right degree, will hold its edge and outlast several knives of inferior quality. Stainless alloy does away with eternal scouring, and for this reason is a popular metal with busy housekeepers. Different materials are used for handles—bakelite, vulcanite, wood—and it’s important to have them well designed and firmly fastened if they are to give satisfaction.
Color helps to carry out a kitchen scheme, and so long as good material is used there’s no objection on that score. Beware, though, of flimsy wooden handles with cheap enamel, poorly applied. Even the best cutlery costs comparatively little, so it doesn’t pay to stint yourself either as to number or quality of these utensils.
And when you get a good set, use the various items for their own particular purpose. Within reason, of course, for each will perform more than one duty when occasion demands. Don’t expect them to last forever, and for goodness sake don’t
get so attached to them that you can’t make up your mind to replace them with new ones. Better a knife with a keen edge than an edge to your temper.
And while we’re on the subject of equipment for cutting up, it’s a good time and place to say a word on behalf of the canopener, an appliance that performs yeoman service in modern housekeeping. New and improved types operate efficiently and easily, removing tops without leaving rough edges. Don’t begrudge the few cents which buys you the best device on the market, capable of dealing with cans of all shapes and sizes. You’ll use it almost daily, for aren’t canned goods on the bill of fare in the best regulated households?
A set of graters designed to shred vegetables in large thin flakes or to mince them finely will make short work of an otherwise tedious job. Speedy tools in the manufacture of a salad, for preparing additions to the soup pot and for giving a stylish look to many a dish. The size of the openings determines the resulting fineness, so to meet all likely requirements have two or three graters to call upon.
Have you ever seen your grocer cut cheese with a single strand of fine wire? There’s a gadget on the same principle designed to give you the same smooth cut with a minimum of effort. Another tricky device for slicing a hard-cooked egg as neatly and as quickly as you can wink your left eye consists of an indentation to rest the egg and a row of little wires to divide it cleanly into even slices thin enough for garnishing any dish that happens to need it. Tomatoes are another of the vegetables —or fruits, if you insist—which have a cutter designed for them, while onions may be dealt with by an enclosed chopper to take all the tears out of the business.
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