Gretchen VanEsselstyn

Feb 24 2013

I can’t remember the last time I fine-diced anything, much less brunoised. But today I wanted to make egg salad and Smitten Kitchen wanted me to make pickled celery to mix into it, so I sharpened my knife and dug out my 3D knife cuts models from cooking school to see just how well I could fine-dice now, eleven years later.

It sucked. I sucked at it. And I remembered how I used to have to do three quarts of mirepoix every day and how much my wrists used to hurt and how I got my first Global knife right before I quit the restaurant and how I probably could have lasted another six months if I had realized sooner that I could stop being a tough guy and ditch the Henckel.

And I remembered a poem I wrote back then called “Knife Skills” and how I was embarrassed to publish it because it showed what a lousy cook I was and how I published it anyway.   

This celery was not uniform, it was not fine-dice, it was C minus material. But the snick-snick sound of the knife soothed me and it smelled fresh and green and I dumped it in the vinegar-salt-sugar mixture, knowing no one would notice my shoddy knife work.

And while I waited for the pickled celery to be ready, I sat down at my computer and I read that Paul McIlhenny died yesterday and I remembered how kind he was to me when I went to Avery Island and what a fine dancer and host and cook he was.

And I pulled out another bunch of celery and I tried again, to do it right for Mr. McIlhenny. And I took down the bottle of Avery Island Reserve Tabasco that I’ve been saving since 2008 and I will open it tonight and toast that good man and his legacy.

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