My father loved to cook. By cook, I mean he grilled steaks, barbecued chickens, roasted oysters, made tomato preserves, simmered one pot meals and had a light hand with crepes and fudge. Dad had an insatiable curiosity about the world around him and that crossed over to food. He was a physician by trade - and many other things just by sheer knowledge.
The kitchen at the beach house was where Dad plied his trade of head chef. Mom had the kitchen in the Elgin house. I was the designated sous chef in both kitchens. A sous chef needs skills and the lessons were never ending. Knife skills were a big thing.
Dad had his own set of knives. His own set that stayed in a special place at the beach and in Elgin. One or two of his favorite knives traveled back and forth with him between houses. No one - NO ONE - was allowed to use Dad’s knives. We could accidentally dull one of his knives by cutting on the wrong type of surface or by placing one in a sink filled with dishwater. Imagine my horror when a date picked up one of Dad’s knives to sharpen before cutting a tomato. Time froze as I looked back and forth between the two men. Fortunately for me and my date, he had worked as a butcher through college and had his own knife skills!
Lessons in chopping, dicing and mincing came daily. I can’t tell you the hours I stood over the handmade wooden chopping board trying to get a pile of celery and onions for gazpacho diced the same size. Tomatoes, which were homegrown, had to be sliced paper thin for sandwiches with the long slicing knife. Then there was the mirepoix for shrimp creole. I can still hear Dad telling me from across the room that I wasn’t “chopping” correctly. When asked how he knew, he replied, “I can tell by the sound that you are not chopping properly.” Ha! No escape from the knife lessons.
Today, I am thankful to my Dad for the lessons he taught me. Knife lessons among them. I knew I had passed my knife lessons when in the 12th grade, he drove me to downtown Columbia for my own set of chopping knives. Stop and think about that - I do. When I was in the 12th grade, I had my own set of professional knives. I didn’t ask for them - I earned them. I also think about my Dad and his love for me that he took the time to teach me something as obscure as knife skills. What a wonderful man he was.
Thank you Dad. I still use my knife skills and my knives daily