About 20 years ago we did a substantial renovation at the then family home. At the end of it I had my dream kitchen. I decided it was time I had a knife block for my expensive kitchen knives. In those days it was a modest collection and so I bought a modest knife block.
Over the intervening years, the knives went forth and multiplied. A bigger knife block was called for. By then we had shifted home and country. I thought it would be easy to find a knife receptacle in this food-loving city, but though I scoured Melbourne, I failed. Sure, there were knife blocks aplenty but they all came with resident knives. I had enough knives. I didn’t need any more. I wanted an empty knife block.
After a frustrating exhaustive search, I gave up looking. Then one day, while mindlessly wandering round an arty overpriced gift store, I came across a knifeless block. All it contained was a collection of very fine black rods designed to hold and separate the kitchen knives. I bought it.
The idea was good until the knife block began malfunctioning a few months later. Maybe I keep my knives too sharp, but after a while even a few knives wouldn’t fit in snugly between the rods. The block started spitting them out. There’s nothing like a sharp cook’s knife clattering onto the bench and taking little chips out of the beautiful worktop in our near-new home.
I began my knife block hunt once more. Same old story. Even shops purveying professional chefs’ supplies couldn’t sell me an empty knife block apart from the capricious black rod variety.
I decided I might have to commission a wood-worker to custom-make a knife holder, but I wasn’t ready to give up yet.
I chewed Mr Google’s ear and sent him off looking for an “empty knife block”. He kept finding useless little blocks that would hold only five or six knives, or more capacious ones but with dumb labels on the slots like “showtime” or “rocker”.
No one can say I lack patience but meanwhile another knife flipped out of the existing knife block, sending The Spouse tut-tutting and running his fingers over the pitted patch on the bench. He was starting to sound like a curmudgeon. He had to be silenced. He was on shaky ground loitering too close to the knife collection.
And then, in the depths of the internet, miles beyond the Hollywood starlets, scrummy mummies and wayward sportsmen and I found exactly what I was looking for. Amazon had an empty block that would house a score of knives from a battery of small paring knives to a substantial cleaver, kitchen scissors and a sharpening steel. And only $27.90 – half what I had paid for the useless block I was replacing.
Sticking the knife in
It was very satisfying to see my favourite knives slide effortlessly into the block – and stay there. It was equally satisfying to open the rubbish bin, throw the old block where it belonged, and smugly announce to The Spouse “I’ve already done it!”
Kitchen knives are very personal things. They need to be immediately accessible from our work area. They are no use (not to mention, dangerous) sitting scabbardless in a drawer.
Treated with respect, they will last for years. And we need to choose the knives that best suit us and not invest in a designer set in matching block. You can guarantee at least a couple of those designer knives will never get used. Leave those pretty boys for non-cooks who use boning knives for opening the box of coffee capsules or as a proxy screwdriver.
In a world full of space-occupying “essential” kitchen gadgetry, I still cannot understand why real necessities like empty knife blocks are so hard to come by. A niche market waiting to be exploited?
Fortunately I’ve managed to do a fairly good cosmetic job on my damaged benchtop – but that’s another story…