To be a serious cook, as I understand the rules, a person needs to have serious knives—quality instruments, kept meticulously sharpened. To get dinner, or a snack, or most other things, on the table, what I need is a really crummy knife.
Specifically, I need a cheap steak knife. The kind with a plastic handle and a serrated, but not visibly saw-toothed, blade. We have two of them, in different sizes and of different brands. I have no idea how long we’ve had them or where we got them. All I care about is that they’re around when I want to use one, which is all the time.
We have decent steak knives, too, for cutting steak with, at the table. Or other meat, on the occasions we need them. The lousy steak knives never leave the kitchen, and I use them every single day.
I appreciate the case for using sharp knives in both theory and practice. I remember from my Boy Scout training that a sharp knife is safer than a dull one: it cuts where it’s supposed to cut, without skidding. For chopping vegetables—mincing garlic, thin-slicing onion, roll-cutting asparagus—there’s no substitute for a good, sharp blade.
For getting vegetables or fruits ready to chop, though, I want a dull blade. I want a blade that won’t break the skin unless you consciously saw away at yourself, a blade I can press my thumb against while I’m trimming off dry or wilted vegetable parts in midair over the sink. I want to stab a tomato just deeply enough with the point to carve out the little cone around the stem, without slicing the whole thing, or my fingers, to bits. I want to whittle the bruises off an apple I’m holding, or to grip a slice of melon by the rind in my bare hand and cut away the melon-flesh so it drops into a bowl.
I’m sure you could accomplish all the same work, with precision and delicacy, using a high-end knife and proper technique. Can you throw it in the silverware basket of the dishwasher when you’re done, though?