One of the aspects of living in Germany that I had to come to terms with very early on was this overwhelming DIY culture. This is the land of precision tools and exact measurements, and where carpenters, plumbers and painters can become certified masters in their own craft. The value placed on tools, trade and craft is high, and the demand for quality is constant.
There are women who can spend the day shopping for shoes and clothes, losing themselves in the beauty departments and never making a quick decision about this sweater or that lacy bra. Never happens to me, and never will, as any male who has ever gone shopping with me will attest to. However, let me loose in any store where I have aisle after aisle of tools, spare parts, building parts at my disposal you might as well extract me after four hours – by force – because I can lose track of time. This is something I get from my father, who taught me all about screws, nails, nuts, bolts, drill bits, power tools and cables. The only thing he failed to teach me was anything carpentry-related, because that wasn’t his field of expertise.
The German word for tools is Werkzeug, which is a rather peculiar word for anglophones when translated literally: craft things. When it comes to tools and kitchen equipment I can be a bit of a snob, not willing to settle for the cheapest in the market, but investing instead in tools that will outlive me. I might buy the cheapest hairdryer from the drugstore, but I painstakingly invested in my Bosch drill! You get the picture. In the same manner, kitchen knives are no laughing matter in my book. The strength, density of the steel, stability of the grip and sharpness is fundamental, and let’s face it, any chef will attest to the fact that good knives are not easy to come by in any run of the mill department store.
Last year I received a knife fr Christmas, the knife to end all knives, the sexiest knife to ever cross my path. If I could have ditched everything else in the kitchen, I would have happily disposed of all my existing knives at the time and just gone through the rest of my life with this one. It slices bread, meat and tomatoes with the same sleek movement that is breathtaking. Let me backtrack a bit and say that when I first unwrapped the gift I was absolutely horrified, because one should never give an Asian a knife as a gift, since 1001 superstitions govern this act, predicting doom and gloom to the relationship between the giver and receiver. Well, let’s just say that it was a bit of a rocky road after that, but what the hell, I had the worlds sexiest knife and this girl’s love for quality Werkzeug is far greater than my loyalty to cultural superstition.
This year I received the companion set to the above and was presented with what I will now refer to as the knife orgy. It is sexy time five, a set of tools that have taken over my life and kitchen, demanding that I forsake all others – and I will happily submit!
I found out very quickly just how sharp these new housemates are, and much to my horror, discovered that I had run out of bandages in my first aid cabinet! Thank goodness for neighbours who are well stocked from lactose-free milk to bandages! My mother taught me to assess a wound calmly and not freak out at the sight of blood, no matter how much I may be bleeding. Once I figured out that it was a cut that did not require stitches, I continued with my dinner preparations.
These knives drove home a very important lesson to me – less is more. Reduce to the bare minimum and retain only that which matters most. This goes for tools, furniture, clothes, shoes, camera equipment, and people. Of course there will be accidents and injuries from time to time, but the stability of the relationship and the depth of the connection is all that matters.