by Brian Griffin May 20, 2020
It seems the first fixed blade to be discovered and actually appreciated, presumably via an injury to the discoverer, was quite the revolutionary incident in human history. It's clearly evidenced by how much we have developed all sorts of cutting tools since then. Not only knives in many specialized applications over the last 50 thousand or so years, but cutting tools for all sorts of materials, and with far more of them being developed for utilitarian applications than combative ones. With a good quality multi-tool perhaps being the pinnacle of overall usefulness versus the various materials in an urbanized environment so far. Though obviously with the weaponization of anything it can profitably be applied to being pretty common, as some living in quarantine may currently be suspecting, blades made for war have certainly earned their way into our revolutionary history as well.
With the most common uses of cutlery in our world today being food processing preparation and consumption, It's probably pretty safe to assume it has been that way since the beginning. Especially considering the durability and size limitations of those early stone blades, and how hard they were to find and later fabricate. The addition of handles to improve the ergonomics and blade control being among the the earliest advancements in cutlery. So it seems a little ironic that, even with all our other advancements, it would take thousands of years for us to develop knife handle materials as easy sanitize as those first simple shards of stone. Only God could know how many people may have been unwittingly, and unintentionally, harmed or killed by consuming unseen organisms transferred from an unsanitary knife before the field of microbiology came along.
As we have become more civilized, and with providing decent cutlery for guests having long been considered cost-prohibitive, many early inns and eateries developed their menus in such a way that most items were fork-able or spoon-able because forks and spoons can be fashioned from wood. The large hunks of meats cheeses and breads or sandwiches were considered finger foods, and if guests wanted to cut them into smaller pieces they could always use their own knives since historically most men carried one for many day to day uses. The fork-able and finger foods certainly do have their advantages even today. They are very handy for a nice Sunday brunch, when we want to spend less time working on our food, and more time enjoying our company.
Speaking of microbiology and significant incidents in human history, with our recent circumstances changing our way of dining out for a few weeks many of us have spent some time just eating take out or delivery while working remote or working at home respectively. I have become partial to take out over delivery for the exercise, and especially over the drive-thru only option for peace of mind. I've recently learned I need the opportunity to visually inspect the environment my food is being prepared in if at all possible to feel okay with it after some of the unsanitary conditions I have witnessed at corporate drive-thrus. In avoiding the corporate eateries as much as possible now, I have found that as a rule locally owned restaurants put more effort into taking care of their customers, and show much more appreciation for our supporting them. Since dining out often became an impromptu picnic in the parking lot or a nearby park for a while, which is fine by me I love picnics, my tendency to carry a small fixed blade pocket knife comes in handy for sharing foods minus issues like pocket lint. Plus it can quickly be cleaned up afterward with just a wet napkin, and more thoroughly cleaned at home.
If you happen to be one of the poor unfortunate souls quarantined in your own home for the past 12 weeks, and have just given up on the notion of getting fully dressed altogether and are doing nothing but boxers and T-shirts now, neck knives don't even require pockets and they come in handy for cutting box-taped cardboard parcels and snack packages as well. And a lot of them are also easily sterilized after cutting all that e-commerce plastic and cardboard. Just saying.
When the restaurants here opened their dining rooms back up, about 4 or 5 weeks ago, we were pretty excited to be able to enjoy dining in at actual tables like civilized people again. The Mayan Kitchen on Broad Street has become a favorite of my daughter and I, and it seemed a fitting place for our recent celebration. We have a tendency to choose our orders with the intention of sharing them, in order to try more dishes per visit and enjoy a wider variety of flavors. To do the splitting as neatly as possible I prefer a sharp knife over the serrated dinner knives provided with the silverware. The knives we almost always have on us are her Swiss Army Knife and my Leatherman for multipurpose use in whatever terrain, and the fixed blade I'm carrying at the time. All have sharp blades, but having made the mistake of splitting a burrito with her using a leatherman years ago, and losing nearly a half hour of my life afterward cleaning all the dried foods back out of it in the restroom sink, I had learned a valuable lesson. Not to mention that the sugars and acids in spicy sauces and complex foods can be pretty rough on the bearings and bushings in many folding knives. So these days reaching for the fixed blade for culinary applications is a matter of habit.
As for the delicious Tres Leches cake they surprised us with for my daughter's promotion, it required no cutting at all. We very happily ate it with only the supplied dessert spoons and our smiles. Celebrating both her graduation from middle school and our good fortune in living in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said that perfection wasn't achieved when there was nothing left to add, but rather when there was nothing left to be removed. It's hard to remove enough from our modern days knives to match the simplicity of the original stone shards our ancestors used thousands of years ago, but the trade off is in better ergonomics and less hand injuries. Yet when it comes to the culinary arts, of creating or consuming, the simple fixed blade still reigns supreme.
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