Christmas Eve found me cutting up a pheasant for Hungarian paprikash. Naturally I was using a knife, my wife’s santoku. It’s not restaurant quality, so in the spirit of complete honesty and disclosure, I was also used a poultry shear to supplement the knife.
Pheasant is one of my favor game birds, even if you buy it at the super market. The bird tends to store fat under the skin and paprikash should not be oily. This made skinning and removal of the rich yellow fat was a key step in the process. Its times like this you appreciate non-slip handles! Just one of many attributes of a good knife.
A good knife is always a treasure and yet can be considered a bad gift. My wife’s grandmother was horrified about giving kitchen knives as a wedding present. They could only be a harbinger bad and unhappy times, maybe even death!
My background is central European and a gift of knives was always bad, so traditionally gift knives were given with a small coin like a penny. The gift receiver would return the penny to the giver, turning a bad omen into a purchase. I guess there was no omen attached to inexpensive knives!
I tried to introduce this custom to my wife’s family, but it was like pulling teeth, also a bad omen. The younger crowd looked at me to say “whatever” and the older patriarchs assured me there was no such tradition. So much for my traditions. Still I have a few of my own blade and bullet traditions that seem to be catching on.
I got into a conversation with a stranger about knife traditions (you meet some really nice people at a knife table!). He told me that from his Native American traditions a knife was a high girt and an honor to receive.
I liked that a lot. I still get a warm and fuzzy feeling when I think about the knives I have been given. But in all honesty, it was the people who gave me the knives that I feel good about.