>Hibernation, and the first of an occasional series


When the weather’s like this …

DSC00995 DSC00998 We don’t usually get mist here, but we did today.

we go to the garden to pick lettuce, lamb’s lettuce, cauliflowers, leeks, chard and herbs, but it’s too cold and damp to spend a lot of time there.

Spending more time in the house means we’ve been thinking more about cooking and the kitchen, so I’m starting an occasional series of the things that we feel make up our essential batterie de cuisine or kitchen equipment.

Essential batterie de cuisine – 1: A knife

I’m not sure yet how many of these essentials there will be, and I don’t want to rank them all, but the most important for me is a very good knife.


Ever since I was eighteen I’ve had a good kitchen knife and a steel to sharpen it. I bought this one about five or six years ago and it’s the best one I’ve ever had. It’s heavy with a comfortable handle and a curved blade. I use it to cut meat and vegetables and to chop herbs and garlic. The curved blade is essential for the rocking motion you need for chopping. It needs to be very sharp – sharp knives are safer than blunt ones as you have more control. A good knife will also be expensive – at least 30 to 40 euros (or pounds sterling) – but it will last a lifetime and will be worth every centime/penny. If I had to choose just one kitchen implement to take to a desert island it would be this knife.

A few other knives ….


The large knife at the top (above) was my first knife which I’ve had for forty years – as I said, they last a lifetime and this one still looks as it did then, apart from the nice worn effect on the wooden handle. The sharpening steel in the first picture came with it and I use it regularly. It is said that the same person should always sharpen a knife as everyone does it differently and it’s better for the blade to sharpen it with the same action every time. Lo Jardinièr uses these knives, but I’m always the one who sharpens them. When I started using my first set of knives I was afraid of their sharpness and even used to have nightmares about them, but experience has shown me that you are far more likely to cut yourself with a blunt knife than with a sharp one.

The small black-handled knives are two of a set of three we bought for 10 euros at the market in Narbonne a few years ago. They’re useful for peeling vegetables and slicing charcuterie and cheese, and they need regular sharpening too, but they could never replace a good large kitchen knife.

Buying a knife

When you buy a knife you should try holding it to make sure it feels comfortable to you. It should feel quite heavy as the weight helps you to cut with it. It should be of good quality and expensive – it’s a lifetime investment. You can buy and use cheap saucepans and chopping boards, but you need a good knife. It should be big enough – with a blade 18 to 20 cm long. And remember to buy a sharpening steel as well – you’ll want to use it so much it won’t stay sharp for long! And never put a good kitchen knife in the dishwasher.

7 thoughts on “>Hibernation, and the first of an occasional series

  1. >Steve always sharpens our knives, since I don't know how to do it, but we have to admit to having put them in the dishwasher in the UK so I'll remember your advice when we eventually get a dishwasher in the village. We only have one good, sharp, long knife that I can use to chop mint etc properly, which Steve picked up in Skegness for about 50p, so a definite bargain. Knives are ok in my hand… but I don't like being near someone else holding one!

  2. >My favourite knife is one I bought at a jumble sale many years ago, it was already a bit worn through frequent sharpening (and it's a lot more worn now!) but I've got used to it's uneven edge over the years, couldn't part with it. This is a great idea for a series btw!

  3. >True, you are more likely to cut yourself with a blunt knife than with a sharp one, unless… you've been used to using a blunt one for many years and suddenly you have a sharp one. You try applying the same force as before and then realise to goes like the proverbial hot knife through butter… and your fingertips!

  4. >Great series! I have a book on kitchen implements, gorgeously illustrated, but even they admit there are only a few "must-haves." I sharpen our knives occasionally with a set of handheld diamond sharpening stones, but keep them in trim with a steel. I love sharp knives. So much easier to use than any other kind. Do you do the paper test to see how sharp it is?

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