Rabu, 31 Oktober 2012

Why You Need a Good Kitchen Knife

Well... You don't actually NEED a premium chef's knife. No more than anyone NEEDS a Ferrari or BMW to get to work and back. But I'm guessing you WANT one. And the underlying principle is the same as any other luxury: performance.

Just as a sub-compact car will get you from A to B fast enough, a cheap stamped-out knife at the supermarket will still cut food. But it won't do it with as much precision or style as a good knife.

There's a long list of reasons to get a top quality knife for your kitchen. Any of the following appeal to you?

Better Design

Quality knives have carefully designed blades and handles for the job at hand. More ergonomic handles, bolsters and finger-guards make a good knife easier to use, safer, and more comfortable.

The blade will be better balanced, carefully constructed for the best cutting experience. And if this sounds a little strange, talking about the "cutting experience" or "performance," then I challenge you to try a really good knife. The comparison is like comparing a modern cellphone with an old rotary phone. They're completely different machines.

Longer Life

No one will agree faster than me that top quality knives cost top dollar. They are typically in excess of $100, even $200 dollars. At the same time, however, they are a lifetime investment. A cheap knife from the dollar store is likely to break, chip, and lose its edge after cutting a banana. A good knife is a lifetime investment. They hold their edges longer, don't wear down or dull, and are more resistant to the regular wear and tear.

Which doesn't mean that a great knife is maintenance free. They still require care and attention to maintain their peak sharpness, but we are far more likely to value something that cost us a pretty penny. A premium kitchen knife demands respect and care, resulting in a longer-lasting utensil.

Better Materials

Besides some of the obvious features - strength, sharpness and weight - the quality of steel used to make a knife contributes to other quality control issues. Did you know that some kinds of steel can change the flavor of your food? Or that certain trace metals increase a knife's hardness, flexibility, and ability to take an edge?

There's also the look (and some function to go with the form) of the metal. Some knives use a lovely Damascus steel to sheath a harder but more brittle cutting core. The resulting blade is covered with a misty appearance that is quite striking.

And we return to the obvious. A better knife is sharper for longer, giving the discerning chef the ability to make finer, straighter, easier cuts. And a sharp knife is a safe knife. It doesn't slip, needs less force to cut, and it's surgical edge commands respect and caution where a dull knife may be dangerously ignored.

So you may not NEED a really good knife for your kitchen, but you certainly WANT one. There are plenty to choose from, in numerous styles. And many reasons to get any one of those styles for your kitchen right away.

Jumat, 12 Oktober 2012

All About Chopsticks - The Stuff You Didn't Know

Where do chopsticks come from?

It is well believed that these tricky little utensils originated in the great country of China about 5,000 years ago and spread to other Asian countries hundreds of years later. In China, they are also Kuai-Zi which means "quick little fellows". Interesting, because I am anything but quick when I eat with chopsticks. Anyways, so how did they come about? The early Chinese used sticks and branches of wood to collect their food when it was finished cooking over the fire. As the population continued to grow, resources became scarce and the people had to find ways to preserve the resources they had. In order to save fuel, they would cut their food into teeny tiny pieces so that it would cook faster. With these tiny pieces, there was no longer a need for knives. Thus, sticks and later "chopsticks", were the utensil of choice.

Confucianism and its influence on chopsticks

Confucianism was founded by Kong Qiu (i.e. Confucius) and had a powerful impact on the Chinese culture around c. 500 B.C.E. Confucius was a teacher to sons of nobility and traveled from region to region spreading his ideals and wisdom. Although Confucianism is not a religion, it is treated as such. Confucius developed followers and taught principles with strict guidelines and hierarchy of authority. His most notable teaching was one of respect towards all humans, specifically one's elders. How does this impact the development of chopsticks you might ask? Confucius was a vegetarian and he believed that knives would remind people of slaughterhouses. He stated,"Confucius taught, "The honorable and upright man keeps well away from both the slaughterhouse and the kitchen. And he allows no knives on his table." With Confucianism being influential to the Chinese culture, the use of chopsticks developed quickly.

What are chopsticks made of?

Wood, duh. Well that's what we see in America anyway. But chopsticks have been known to be made of a variety of materials with a variety of designs. The most common and popular material is bamboo. They can also be made out of plastic, porcelain, animal bone, metal, jade, coral, silver, and even gold. They are usually 9-10 inches with blunt ends, but they can also be pointed too. And if you're really fancy, you might like the chopsticks with calligraphy and intricate carvings along the side. Creating chopsticks can truly be an art.