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Life Minded

A Cut Above

I recently purchased a knife that I’m very excited about. This is a sign of becoming firmly middle-aged. When I was twenty-five years old, I had cheap knives and thought people who got enthusiastic about knives or lamps or pillows were sad and needed to get out more. But I’m not sad and I don’t want to get out at all. I’m excited about my knife, and I’m quite proud of my purchase. 

Not to brag…but it’s a Shun Premier 5.5” Nakiri. It’s like a trophy wife but for the kitchen, making all other utensils seem plain. I want to show it off to friends and neighbors. I can now slice limes so thin you’d be able to read these words through the flesh. I have no idea why you would ever want to - but it would be possible. 

If high style is marked by a mixture of expensive and bargain finds, then my kitchen drawers are full of the highest style. I have a can opener from 1995 that is cornflower blue because my kitchen was blue in 1995, and I must have thought my gadgets must match the hideous wallpaper border. It still works. It was less than $2. My mom gifted me a set of Peugeot salt and pepper grinders last year. They were much more than $2 and are works of art. I have two Chinese spider strainers that I’ve had for over ten years that were worth every dime. But I’ve blown through many, many spatulas, treating them as if they were single-use paper towels. And I’ve loved, used, and broken four French presses. Not everything lasts. 

I am now quite critical when I assess wedding registries. These sweet lambs register for some of the dumbest things. I know because that is exactly what we did, and I know what they can’t possibly know yet. They aren’t going to have 16 people over for margaritas very often, but… a quality wet-dry vac? That thing will become their best friend. So as I’m selecting gifts, I try to choose something desired, but also something that is practical. 

Worth it: Good pans but not a set of 12. Who has room for that? A cast iron skillet. A beautiful wooden salad bowl. Quality knives. Soft towels. A Kitchen Aid mixer. 

Not worth it:  Appliances that only do one thing. Dishes that have to be hand washed. Dishes that can’t go in the microwave. Dishes that don’t fit in a dishwasher. (Yes, I had some of those.) Sheets that cost more than a car payment. White throw blankets. A beautiful white throw is so pretty in a photo. But these young people will make the mistake of having friends or having children, and someone will use that white faux fur blanket to mop up a root beer float. 

We used to heed advice on such household investments from experts. Martha Stewart could recommend a Dutch oven or a cutting board, and she appears to know her way around a kitchen. Christopher Kimball, in his test kitchen, could warn against gimmick gadgets. Ina Garten. Julia Child. Gordon Ramsay. Our parents. All of these experts were experts. Now my kids say things like, “I saw this on TikTok, so I bought one.”  Help. Me. Because now we own a chopper slicer dicer thing with 20 impossible-to-wash parts because some bonehead in a dank basement said it’s trending. 

And it is trending, but that doesn’t mean it’s good. Also, nobody should be eating a stir fry cooked in a dorm room under a ring light. Even if it was cooked by someone attractive with a lot of followers. I’m just genuinely delighted when things work. It’s the little things. And this knife works like a dream. 

You would think this missive is sponsored by the knife company. It isn’t. But it is sheer joy to have invested in something of the highest quality. It’s looking like I’m still on the hook for slicing vegetables for this household for a while and it will be nice to do so in style. 

I really must line item this beauty in my will. My kids will have to rotate custody. 

Jen Fortner is a freelance writer who enjoys asking friends and strangers far too many questions. She spends her spare time sitting in inclement weather watching youth sports, traveling, cooking, and searching for the very best baked goods. She lives in the Southwest Metro with her husband, three children and the most spoiled dog.