Can a Book Teach Knife Skills?

080701_f_knifeskills_tn Sara Dickerman in Slate:

I had two major breakthroughs in my own knife-skills training. First, I learned to seek stability in whatever object I was cutting, usually by slicing a thin piece off the bottom of the carrot or zucchini or lemon in question, in order to keep it from rolling. It’s simple, but it made my gleaming chef’s knife seem a lot less dangerous. Secondly, I learned to work systematically left to right—keeping a pile of uncut items on the one side of my knife, and the chopped items on the other—so that I didn’t waste time shuffling the ingredients around the board. That kind of organization keeps you moving along at a fast clip.

Somehow, Andrew hasn’t sought out such pearls of wisdom from me, but the release of Norman Weinstein’s new book-plus-DVD, Mastering Knife Skills, got me wondering whether it would be possible to get Andrew dicing the occasional onion and cutting bagels in a way that doesn’t threaten his brachial artery. Weinstein is a longtime chef instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York, and Mastering Knife Skills is copiously illustrated with photo close-ups demonstrating grips and knife positions. In the accompanying video, Weinstein is pleasantly fluid and matter-of-fact. He mostly focuses on the basic cuts that are useful to home cooks: dicing vegetables, segmenting citrus fruit, breaking down chickens, filleting fish, and other essential maneuvers (although for some reason he spends a few pages explaining how to make hotel-style garnishes like lemon baskets and tomato roses). Could Weinstein provide a knife-skills makeover for Andrew? Lured by the promise of an appearance in Slate, my hammy spouse volunteered.