Blades of Glory, C & C Short Program

I wish I had a buck for every overpriced clunky wedge of Teutonic steel I’ve acquired in over thirty years of working the line in my own kichen. Fifty cents for all the Chinese cleavers, kitchen shears and pricey paring knives. A buck fifty for the assorted steels, stones and electric crap we’ve bought to keep them sharp — I tell you I’d be a hundredaire!

But there’s no use weeping over Wusthoffs, especially as I’m now the happiest I’ve ever been about my knife block. These cheap and cheerful couteaux are made in France in the ancient knife-making town of Thiers, by L’Econome, and sport carbon steel blades with painted wooden handles. If you’ve browsed Sur la Table, Williams-Sonoma or Crate and Barrel in the past few years you’ve seen the paring knife, priced at about eight dollars. Mine set me back five bucks, but that was five years ago.

As you can see in the pic, it’s showing some wear — I suspect someone used it for prying purposes. The paint’s getting battered from five years of washing and the occasional unintended overnight dip in the dishwater. But as one can grow to love a bent battered pet more with every year, so is it with me and my paring knife. Before my thrilling aquisition of L’Econome Marque Deux I used that baby for everything but hacking bones.

(I promise to find a less shiny ruler.)

In her last illness my mother stayed at L’Hopital Elisabeth Bruyere a few blocks from Ottawa’s splendid Byward Market. (Ottawa has the highest number of independent cooking stores, per capita, than any other city I know.) After cruising the produce stands for the dinner’s fruit and vegetables (“Bonjour Madame!.” “Bonjour, Madame!”) I popped into a shop on Dalhousie Street called Ma Cuisine, and pulled out my purse. For twenty bucks CDN there he was, the ten inch utility big bro’ of my red paring knife. The saleslady said: “I had fifty of these in stock yesterday. You’ve bought the last one. As soon as this knife arrives all the chefs from the restaurants around the market wipe me out.”

That knife’s scary-sharp edge got me though that sad spring’s cooking. It pared, sliced, diced and carved fish, fowl, vegetables, fruit — anything that hit the cutting board. When I got back home I realized I’d left it in Ottawa, mourned for a minute and forgot about it.

But my joy knew no bounds when I found it in the knife drawer on my next trip to Ottawa. Me: “Oh, here it is! I was wondering what happened to it!”

Daddy: “I love that knife. It’s my favourite knife.”

So I returned to Ma Cuisine and bought another one. I was lucky — there were only two left.

So why am I so loyal to this cheap cutlery? Well, it’s sharp, it stays sharp forever and it takes a great edge when it’s time for a touch-up. It’s strong, light and flexible. I love the bright wooden handles in French farmhouse colors. These L’Economes are as satisfying as that beech-handled Opinel folding knife we all bought in Europe, and in the same way: functional, sharp and French.

For tasks that require more heft I’ve ditched the cleaver forever. Behold the 1.99 pruners I bought on sale two years ago at –of all places –the gardening aisle at Joanne Fabrics. They’ve cut back shrubbery, deadheaded roses and spatchcocked chicken for two years and show no sign of blunting — rib and shoulders about any pair of kitchen shears I’ve ever owned.  Cheerful too, non?

These three items are on my 5***** highest recommended list. When you find them, buy them.

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12 Comments

Filed under Food, Home, Ten bucks or fewer, Twenty bucks

12 responses to “Blades of Glory, C & C Short Program

  1. OK, using that type of pruner for poultry is shear genius.

  2. I wish I could say it was genius, but it was laziness. Couldn’t find the poultry shears and I had the garden shears in my hand. A light bulb turned on over my dim head.
    –Maggie

  3. I’m loving the cheery cutlery!! That statement in no way negates or is unfaithful to my own drawerful of Flea-Market purchased wallflower RADAs.

    They’re all steel—brushed steel handles which turn from shiny silver to various hues of gray, from dove to charcoal. depending on age and trips through the dishwasher.

    You can only find them at Flea Markets and gun shows, I think—right there in the booth between the Watkins Man and that nice couple with the honey and beeswax candles.

    We give several different sizes and blade types, the sharpeners, the cutting boards and the small round choppers to all the children who have their own kitchens. Always a coupla RADA in the stockings or baskets.

    I would, however, commit the powderpuff infidelity of having a couple of those pastel ceramic beauties, though. They’re like kitchen jewelry. I’d mostly just open the drawer and look at ’em.

  4. Rachel, I plead ignorance. What is an RADA?

  5. Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts.

  6. Priscilla,

    Have you been eavesdropping on my kitchen, when I strut and fret my hour? “Is this a dagger which I see before me, its handle toward my hand . . .”? When everyone else was singing into their Ban roll-on mike, I was waving knives and spouting Shakespeare as I choreographed battles with all the neighborhood boys (don’t get me started on the unfortunate incident with Great-Great Grandpa’s Civil War sword when I was McDuff).

    RADAs are lovely little knives—low end to all the REAL chefs, but perfect for me. They’re fairly lightweight, have a thin keen blade, sharpen easily and well, and come in every shape and size you might desire.

    Here’s a sample:

    http://www.radacutlery.com/Category.asp?SRCH_CATEGORY=Cat09

    Chris picks up five or six of whatever new one is out when he scans the display, and we haven’t bought any others in many years.

  7. sparrowgrass

    I thought I was the only one with a garden tool in my utensil drawer. Mine has shorter blades, but it is so useful for cutting thru bones. I started using a pruner back when we raised rabbits–nothing like it for cutting off feet while skinning a bunny. They work just as well for cutting off chicken feet, though I decapitate with the ones with the much longer handles–keeps the splatters off my clothes, ya know. (TMI?)

    I love my Rada knives, especially the big chef’s knife–I use it every day. I also have a Rada spoon and little black plastic steel that works well for putting an edge on a knife. The spoon is not very comfortable in the hand, but it is sturdy and good for scooping out hard ice cream.

    I did not like the peeler I bought–it really dug into my hand when I used it.

    Thanks for the interesting blogs, Rachel and Maggie. Too bad I am so lazy–I should join you.

  8. Sparrow! Welcome, Lady! If you and Rachel recommend RADA knives, I’m fer sher going to investigate.

    (And you should join us.)

  9. sparrowgrass

    I bought my first RADA knives from a Pentecostal lady–it was a fund drive for her church. (I asked her if they were going to use the money to harass the heathens–she did not find that amusing.)

    The Boy Scouts provided me with the spoon and sharpener–the young man who took my order told me that I should take the Obama sticker off my truck.

    I don’t know if I should buy any more–I seem to have some fundamental (ha) differences of opinion with their sales people.

  10. Sparrowgrass: Hmmmm. I just might stay with the godless heathen Frenchies.

    (And I think you’re VERY funny.)

  11. Kim

    I was the lucky recipient of Rachel’s and Chris’ largess re: RADA knife, flexible cutting board and vegetable peeler. I’ve since ordered more for my mom and my daughter. I love them and they are the tools that I reach for first, in spite of the family of Henkel twins that I love and a set of pink handled ceramics that are lethal and lovely. If I ever spot one of those cheery wooden handled lovelies, I will buy them on the spot. I’m charmed by the painted handles alone, not to mention the fact that they are good knives!

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