Surely every one has a pet tool – the tool that feels like an extension of your hand, the tool with which you do so much that not to have it is unthinkable. I have a pet knife, a little brown knife, which makes paring and peeling a pleasure.
This knife is at least 40 to 50 years old, a paring knife, with thin carbon steel blade, so well worn that one has to look twice to decide which is the cutting side. It has a smooth brown handle and rivets flattened by time. And yes, it rusts if someone leaves it wet in the dish drainer, and yes, it stains if I cut a lemon, and yes, it turns my knuckle black if I peel lots of apples. But what a knife!
I obtained it well over 20 years ago while helping friends clean out the kitchen of a deceased neighbor in Connecticut. I was offered a chance to pick out something to remember Peg by, and in a kitchen drawer was this dowdy little knife that I feared was doomed if I did not take it home. Peg’s knife has been with me ever since. I have other heftier knives, some carbon, some stainless, chef knives and carving knives, all of which I hold in esteem, but this little paring knife I love. Because I love and use it so much, I take it with me if I cook at someone else’s house. It went with me to Thanksgiving in Connecticut near its original home, when I knew I would help my friend Anna prepare dinner. It is my friend and companion a dozen times a day.
Imagine then the horrid moment last August when I could not find it anywhere. Its familiar little round-ended, brown handle did not show up in any jar of utensils, or drawer, or basket, or on any shelf, table or dishpan. I tried not to be frantic. After all, I had inadvertently composted it once, and we found it again when we turned the pile. We scrubbed it up with a piece of steel wool, sharpened it, and oiled the handle and I was back in business. I thought perhaps I had composted it again. I had a terrible lurking fear that when I took it to use at my friend Ginny’s house, I might have left it there, or heaven forbid, it had been mixed into her compost.
For weeks I would reach for the little brown knife and be reminded afresh of its absence. My young nephew who liked using it, too, had said one time that it would be a sore loss if that knife disappeared or was broken. And when finally it seemed that it was gone, he remarked it was as if we had lost a family member. It is bad for our souls to be so attached to a thing.
I had other, inferior paring knives and made do with them. I looked at an elderly case knife I had, with a worn, downright floppy carbon blade, useless for spreading anything more challenging than honey, and wondered if it could be refashioned into a semblance of my little brown knife.
About two months after the disappearance of my pet knife, my nephew took on the project of converting the case knife into a paring knife. He drew out on the blade what he thought would be a good shape, and I extended the length of the shape just a little. Off he went to the grinder. Sure enough, he came back with a grand little knife, the blade just a tad stiffer than the pet knife, the handle just a bit thicker in my palm. It wasn’t my pet knife, but it was a fine tool. I was overjoyed.
No one who believes in the weird synchronicity that the universe offers up every once in while will be surprised that later that very same day, my little brown knife turned up, as big as life, in a bunch of canvas shopping bags. No doubt, one of those bags had held that knife and other stuff I had hauled down to Ginny’s back in August. It doesn’t matter that I have been using those bags at the store, tossing them around in the back of the car for weeks without the knife falling out. I supposed it had stuck its little point into a seam, longing perhaps for a vacation from its many-times-a-day trip to the cutting board, and then, in a fit of jealousy that a new knife was on the scene, shook itself loose. Oh, wait – my knife doesn’t have a consciousness, does it?
The little brown knife, and its new companion, the reworked case knife, now occupy adjoining slots in the knife board. I am indeed very happy to have the little brown knife back in my life. I know that unless I put it into a glass case, or into the safe deposit box, it will go missing again. Ah, but ’tis better to have loved and lost than never to have had little brown knife at all.