playing with knives: sharpening, honing, steeling, and a giveaway

In lieu of What’s Cooking Wednesday this week (come back Friday for my La Buona Cucina Americana recipe though!), I’m letting all of you cooks and wanna-be chefs know about a fabulous post and contest over at Jaden’s Steamy Kitchen:

How to Sharpen Your Knives + Knives Giveaway

This post tells you everything you need to know about keeping your knives in perfect working order and also offers some great resources for finding out more.

And you want to talk about a great contest?

You can win a fabulous knife of your choice from the Phoenix or Fusionwood lines of New West KnifeWorks. I can’t even begin to tell you how awesome these knives are, so please go have a look for yourselves.

To enter this contest all you have to do is pick your favorite knife and leave a comment on this post. That’s it! And you can get another BONUS entry by stumbling, tweeting, or blogging about the contest. Ends November 30th.


Now, I have to tell you that P is the official knife sharpener in my house, as well he should be–his father was the village knife sharpener for many years (although he didn’t act like this one that Shelley of Really Rome told you about). And my mom has generously sent us many fabulous knives to keep him busy; they’re generally less expensive in the United States than here.

But one knife that isn’t in our arsenal is something to cut the amazingly crusty Calabrian bread. The traditional way is like this (as demonstrated by P’s mom):

But I’m not down with this. Can you guess why?

And so, I’ve picked this Fusionwood bread knife should my name be chosen:

Pretty, no?

So wish me luck, and I wish you luck as well!

Now head over to Jaden’s Steamy Kitchen and comment!

17 Beans of Wisdom to “playing with knives: sharpening, honing, steeling, and a giveaway”
  1. Trina

    You know, I am so jealous. All of the older women in my family and my husbands family have skills like P’s mom with a knife. Me, not so much.

    That knife is beautiful. I hope you win!

    The kids here are practically raised with knives in their hands! Makes them very skillful later in life, but P definitely has the scars to prove it 😉

  2. I hope you win as well. That is a very nice knife.

    There is a knife man who comes around once a week in my area. I wonder if it’s the same man from Shelley’s former neighborhood.

    You’ll have to catch him on video/audio sometime for a comparison 😉

  3. 11.19.2008

    Great topic!
    Knives are such an important tool in the Kitchen… Ikea can get you far when setting up, but when it comes to proper cooking knives cutting corners doesn’t work! Do you have this tradition of having to give a penny for each knife you receive as a gift, so that you don’t sever the relationship with the gift giver… my aunt and uncle gave us a lovely Spanish set and my mother insisted on following this superstition 🙂
    Am off to post my favourite knife…. the sashimi! Trying to cut raw fish with anything just leads to frustration!

    Erika’s last blog post..APPLE SPICE COMPOTE

    Best of luck Erika! I have heard of the superstition/tradition with knives, but nope, my family doesn’t follow it. Don’t know if P’s does or not–haven’t gotten a knife from them 😉

  4. 11.19.2008

    That is CRAZY how she’s holding that knife!!! Mamma mia!

    Good luck on winning the beautiful bread knife! (Marco believes that giving or receiving a knife is bad luck — that one should always buy one’s own. Seriously, my mom gave me a knife and he made me give her at least a symbolic dollar so it wouldn’t be a ‘gift.’ I take it P’s family does not subscribe to this superstition?)

    I don’t know if P’s family subscribes to the superstition as I’ve never asked (I do remember asking P about it years ago, and he hadn’t heard of it), but it’s *my* mom who sends us knives, and she isn’t one for superstitions in general, so we’re OK 😉

  5. 11.19.2008

    Thanks for the suggestion Michelle, what a win for whomever it may be! I am wishing for a Fusionware jessica or Granite Santoku turbo knife.
    I tweeted on the other and have tried to stumble upon this one, but I find myself a bit of a stumbler around instead of upon!

    I love the photo of P’s mom cutting bread, because that’s exactly how Fabrizio’s mother cuts bread as well. Funny how the simplest of acts are so different from culture to culture and we don’t even realize it sometimes.

    Marla’s last blog post..Tortelloni di Mele

    P proudly cuts his bread away from his body, and notes that it is *highly* irregular to see here. And yes, a lot of these cultural differences do tend to escape notice, especially after having been here so long. I love when I can document them 🙂

  6. 11.19.2008

    My grandmother cuts vegetables the exact same way sometimes – especially when it comes to peeling anything. I am so afraid she will cut herself sometimes. But when it comes to cooking, she’s the expert, so who am I to argue, right?

    NewWrldYankee’s last blog post..The 5 Biggest Mistakes You Make When Living Abroad.

    You know they just grow up doing things a certain way, I guess, and they get very good at it. I’d definitely stab myself so I don’t even try.

  7. 11.19.2008

    Good luck my friend!! xoxo, jaden

    Steamy Kitchen’s last blog post..How to Sharpen Your Knives + Knife Giveaway

    Thanks Jaden!

  8. carol

    I never knew about that knife gift superstition either,untill we got some steak knives for a wedding gift. My mom freaked out…Hahaha!
    Great foto of la mamma… that a picture of you and P in the background? Did you stage that shot or was it candid? Either way, it’s fabulous.

    Good eye, Carol! Indeed it is P and me. It was taken quite casually during the Holy Saturday procession two Easters ago. Mamma was *overjoyed* to finally have a photo of the two of us 🙂

    P.S. The photo above us is P’s parents with his brother on his wedding day.

  9. 11.19.2008

    It always freak me out when they cut things like that. My nonna does it all the time!!

    These Calabrese women never cease to amaze, do they? 😉

  10. anna l'americana

    OMG! The arrotino!!!! I remember that call so very well AAAAAAROOOOOOTINO! He’d ride the cobbled streets of Trastevere on his bike, I’d see him outside the fruttivendolo, right next to la vecchia signora borsa nera (sigarette) on Vicolo del Cinque, or across the street from my portone around the corner on Vicolo del Bologna. Shelley’s description is EXACTLY as I remember him with the lowering of the baskets and everything. It can’t be the same guy, he’d be 100 by now. Of course the baskets were used to lower or raise anything….a little money to a neighborhood kid so he could run and get whoever a pack of sigs, another layer of clothing for a kid playing, something that whoever just left forgot – no-one wanted to rewalk those flights of stairs, raising the cigs or groceries the neighborhood kid just got you…. I loved how any mom punished or ordered around any kid like they were shared!
    I used a basket with my downstairs neighbor in my condo in LA – you know, Ella – you got an extra egg? Or Hey Ann, lower me a cigarette…. It felt like a tiny piece of home just doing that. Unfortunately no real arrotino in LA. A few Romani of my acquaintance there however did apparently have an arrotino scam going – they had a used piece of sharpening equipment and they would go to restaurant back doors in the morning while the head chef was at the markets and present themselves as THE knife sharpener. The kitchen staff usually let them in and gave them the knives, which they proceeded to completely butcher (pun?) and then collect a $250 (or whatever the market would bear) and hightail it out of there before anyone wised up. Aaah, there’s a little bit of Rome everywhere isn’t there?

    Hah! Love it! Glad I was able to bring up some good memories with the knife talk. Who woulda thunk it? 😉

  11. 11.19.2008

    My neighbor does that. I almost fainted the first few times.

    I still gasp if I’m not mentally prepared.

  12. 11.19.2008

    um…because you’d cut your finger off?!

    Janet’s last blog post..What Is It Wednesday #138

    At the very least, Janet!

  13. 11.19.2008

    great info. I was just saying that our knives are getting dull. The holidays are a perfect time for a new knife 🙂 Thanks for the contest info!!! Good luck!!

    My Melange’s last blog post..Travel Tip Tuesday – Why go solo?

    You too, Robin 🙂

  14. 11.19.2008

    Thanks for posting about the contest, I’m in. I cringed when I saw P’s mom holding the knife towards her; I could just hear my mother scolding me if I ever did that.

    Thanks for sharing a glimpse into your life.

    Ice Tea For Me’s last blog post..what’s cooking wednesday – zucchini pie/muffins

    I know! My parents *and* grandparents would’ve been all over me for something like that….

    And it’s my pleasure to share such glimpses 🙂

  15. 11.19.2008

    I am only allowed butter knives.

    Go figure.

    Hope you get it! Good luck!!!

    Scarlett & Viaggiatore

    Hee hee hee….

  16. 11.20.2008

    The fusionwood knives are beautiful. I agree, it is so important to keep them clean sharpened and safely stored away. No kitchen is complete without the proper cutlery. Great info Michelle. Thanks.

    Teresa’s last blog post..Tamales – Part 2

    Good luck Teresa! My mom always tells me that I’m more likely to cut myself with a dull knife than a sharp one, so P is kept busy here 😉

  17. Pat

    Oh…I’m not in the same town as my favorite knife right now, but it is a glorious serrated tomato knife that I bought at Wegman’s, the uber supermarket, a few years ago. It is perpetually sharp, cutting precision slices of tomato every time, but I use it for lots of things.

    What’s up with Italians and knives? Our friends are always chopping onions or potatoes right in their hands, blades cutting right toward their palms every time. I have to hide my eyes in fear!

    I don’t know, Pat, but they’re dangerous, I tell you!

Michelle KaminskyMichelle Kaminsky is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer who lived in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy for 15 years. This blog is now archived. 

Calabria Guidebook

Calabria travel guide by Michelle Fabio



Homemade apple butter
Green beans, potatoes, and pancetta
Glazed Apple Oatmeal Cinnamon Muffins
Pasta with snails alla calabrese
Onion, Oregano, and Thyme Focaccia
Oatmeal Banana Craisin Muffins
Prosciutto wrapped watermelon with bel paese cheese
Fried eggs with red onion and cheese
Calabrian sausage and fava beans
Ricotta Pound Cake