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A chick with knives

Japanese people use big knives in the kitchen. A 6 to 8 inch blade santoku or chef's kitchen knife and a big cutting board are must-have items if you cook at all. Before coming to the US, I always thought everyone used big knives to cut food at home.

The first time I came to the U.S., I was a high school exchange student. I lived with a host family and learned the American culture. That's when I saw my host mother slicing cucumbers with a small paring knife (or was it a steak knife?) by holding the cucumber in her left hand and holding the knife with her right hand with the blade pointing toward her. She used her right thumb to hold the back of the cucumber and her right index finger to stabilize the knife. She then used her right thumb to push the cucumber into the knife so that the blade was headed straight for her finger! I was very intrigued as I had never seen anyone cut a cucumber like that before.

I soon realized that many people here in the U.S. actually cut food that way. I'm not even sure if my host mother even owned a cutting board, and the only large kitchen knife she had was primarily used for carving a turkey. She cut everything with her little knife - tomatoes, celery, and even lettuce.

When I came back to the U.S. to attend college, I bought my first kitchen knife and cutting board. I was a poor student, so I bought a cheap knife from Wal-Mart. It wasn't as sharp as I had hoped (in fact, the knife was awful), but that's all I was willing to pay for a knife at that time. For the next 10 years or so, I kept buying cheap knives that are slightly more expensive than the last one in hopes of getting a quality knife. I don't know what I was thinking. I finally got tired of cutting food with force rather than the sharpness of the knife and decided look for a high quality knife. In the end, I decided on a 7 inch Shun Santoku knife. It's expensive, but well worth the investment since it will be with me probably for decades. I finally met my perfect knife!

Before my husband had to go on a gluten-free diet, we went out to eat all the time. I love to cook, but I love to eat out too. Because of our busy schedule, we didn't have much time to cook, so we just went out. After my husband started on the gluten-free diet, however, we couldn't go to many of the places we used to go. That's when i started to cook regularly again. We now eat at home most of our meals. Naturally, I use my santoku knife every day. This slaw recipe is an example of how I put my knife to work. I'm proud to say that my fingers weren't harmed during the making of this dish :)

If you have a knife and a cutting board, it's worth it to take just a few minutes to look at some Youtube videos on the proper procedure to use your big knife. It will take some practice to do it properly, but it could save your fingers.

Do you use a large knife and a cutting board, or use just a small knife and your hands to slice your veggies?