Extremism in defense of tastiness is no vice.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Heart of Darkness

Milwaukee. Shit.

It should have been an easy mission. Hell, there was even a registry. I was to go to a gourmet store, buy a few silicone mats, maybe a pie dish, and my good friend and his new wife would be set for a happy life of baking together. I accepted the mission. What the hell else was I going to do?

Of course, once you set foot in a gourmet store, the bullshit piles up so fast you need wings to stay above it. "Everyone needs a great knife," I justified to myself, ignoring the bakeware I was carrying for the bride. "Besides, even if someone else has the same idea, they'll be able to cook together."

As I approached the cutlery display, the Valkyries gathered to the swelling of strings and my gung-ho plan began to take form. "I'll start them off with a Wüsthof paring knife"--I loved my Wüsthofs, back at home, back in civilization--"and then, when they see how much of a difference it makes, they'll be able to get a serious chef's knife." The Wagner rose to a crescendo as the clerk handed me the blade, and I prepared to turn back.

Then I saw it: the distinctive Damascus pattern, the ebony Pikka handle, the prohibitive price. A Japanese blade. A Shun. I had spoken to some who had gone up the river before me, turning from safer waters to their Globals, wild-eyed men who waded into prep undaunted by slippery metal handles. I had used several santokus, tools that my foreigner's hands were never able to properly master. But I recently had the opportunity to use an eight-inch Shun chef's, and while that blade was smaller than I preferred, the handle suited my pinch grip well, and I could feel how much lighter and sharper it was compared to my European armament. As I continued upriver, my mission faded into the display of half-hallucinated fireworks.

Never get out of the boat. Absolutely God damn right. Unless you were going all the way.

I bought the ten-inch.

They will tell me that I have gone totally insane, and that my methods are unsound. The boys back in Solingen will say that I've gone native. But still I construct my own Empire: chickens are broken down more quickly and finely diced onions are effortless. I produce chiffonades, duxelles and other relics recovered from the former colonists.

I watch a snail crawl along its razor edge. Crawling, slithering--and surviving. That's my dream. That's my nightmare. I reach for shallots and Vouvray.

But what would be next? A deba? A chukabocho? Would the madness end?

The horror. The horror.

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