I was chopping vegetables today and I realized how attached to my knives I have become. It has been a long road. When I was a young kid, I remember my mother cutting herself pretty badly while peeling something over the sink. I was awful about blood and it must have emotionally scarred me because knives freaked me out for a very long time. We didn't have a dishwasher growing up so we washed everything by hand and I wouldn't even touch a knife to wash it or even put my hand in soapy water when a sharp knife was in the sink. Obviously, that cut down on my cooking opportunities as a kid. I would use a peeler, but never a knife sharper than a table knife.
As I got older, I was a little better, but not much. I lived on my own for six years before Rob and I started dating and I know I was still pretty scared of knives then. The great toe incident on our first Thanksgiving didn't help things. Gradually, through Rob's patience and understanding (read: relentless teasing and belittling) I came to not only be able to use sharp knives on a regular basis, but actually appreciate a good, high quality knife to the point where I get fussy if my favorite knives are not available. I've come a long way, baby!
So, dear friends, I am here to tell you that the number one kitchen tool that no vegan, dare I say, no cook worth their weight in tofu can live without is a good knife. What constitutes a good knife? Well, it is a very personal thing and everyone has their preference, but for me a good knife starts with the weight. It has to be heavy. Don't give me no silly sissy knives. I need a big honking knife that weighs down my hand and doesn't go flying across the room when I'm chopping like crazy. Henkels is the first brand of knife I fell in love with (again, Rob's influence) so I am partial to my Henkels knives, although if I had an unlimited budget I would like to date around and see what else is out there. Even out of our Henkels, I have one that I will reach for before the others.
When shopping for a knife, don't be afraid to play with it. Touch it, feel the weight and how the handle fits in your hand. You will be using it a lot so don't just go for looks...think long term relationship. Go for a knife that you will still want to use years from now. Buy several knives. Don't go cutting up your tomatoes with a paring knife! Buy a small serrated knife for slicing things like tomatoes and a bigger one for breads. Be selective and don't just buy a set. Make sure they all fit you. If you and your partner both cook, you may want two sets of knives. Especially, for couples who's hands are very different sizes, they may not want the same weight or handle for their knives. Shop around. For quality knives you may be spending some money so don't settle for something that doesn't feel just right and once you find that perfect fit you can look for sales.
Be good to your knives. It is best to wash them by hand. Sure, I get lazy and throw them in the dishwasher, but I fell better when I wash them by hand and they will last longer that way. Sharpen them at home on a regular basis and have them professionally sharpened when needed. Put them in a handy place (not thrown pell mell in a drawer) where you can always reach them (while in the kitchen...please don't sleep with one).
If you have children, teach them to use knives safely and as early as you can (when they are developmentally ready and responsible). I love that my eight year old feels completely comfortable and confident slicing up veggies and my four year old is great with supervision.
Now get chopping!