I don’t think my mother has ever sharpened her knives. After each use, she takes out a honing steel, runs it along the edge, and considers it sharpened. It may, or may not, surprise you to know that she has complained about the dullness of her knives for years. Christmas gifts are tricky, especially with parents, and I decided to make the most of her worn out knife block by buying it a fresh addition: the MAC 8in chef’s knife. It’s a wonderful knife, indeed the New York Times’ Wirecutter series has named it their top pick since 2013. But the knife kind of scared her. Not because it is so sharp that there is a veritable community of owners that make mesmerizing YouTube videos of grapes falling to their halved doom on the MAC’s edge, but because it is, well, nice. That’s all she said: “it’s very nice”. I’m sure you have given your parents ‘nice things’ they never use too. Of course, I expected the knife to join the Roomba and Roku TV boxes in an abandoned basement closet. But, to my surprise, when I saw her after Christmas she was no longer pushing dull steel through tomatoes, she was slicing through them with 8 inches of hyper sharp Japanese steel. Yes, she fell in love with the knife. But it continued to scare her: after each use, she anxiously fit it back inside of its original box and gingerly returned it to a cabinet. It was a bizarre ritual. At last, it occurred to me that she wasn’t afraid of the knife itself: she was afraid of losing its magic. She was afraid that one ding in the wrong drawer might sap the strength of its miracle edge away. So, I went to work. I made a list of handy to remember ways of keeping your knife sharp without driving it over to Fante’s for a professional sharpening (yes, we do that!). Do you know what the first thing on my list was?
CUTTING SURFACE: USE A GOOD BOARD
Yep. Just like that too (I was using a sharpie at the time). For my mom, this solution was obvious because I bought her an epicurean board for mother’s day, but for you it might not be. Let me share with you why I trusted my mother’s magic knife with epicurean.
The age-old debate in cutting board circles is between wood and softer plastics. Nothing else is at play: hard surfaces like granites, hard plastics, ceramics, or glass dull your knife. If those hard surfaces are non-porous and easy to clean, you’ll spend all of that time sharpening your knife. In fact, when we train our employees to sharpen knives, we dull them between sharpening’s on a granite surface. You want something ‘soft’. Not like play-dough soft, but soft like Acacia wood or a plastic surface that gives and will show cut marks left by your knife. Here’s the long and the short of it: plastic boards are cheaper and require less maintenance, wood boards are magnificent, higher maintenance, and a touch, well, alive. They can grow food stains, they can mold, they can split, they can warp. With proper maintenance, a wood board can last you a lifetime. You always want to clean it as quickly as you can, sanitize it with white vinegar after raw-meat prep, and a good board oil (usually a mineral oil beeswax combo like ours) applied monthly will do wonders. Unsure how to oil a board? I recommend this video. While a cheese spread looks gorgeous on an acacia wood paddle, what if you didn’t want to bother with all of the maintenance required of a wood board? Besides, what if you wanted the non-porous perks of plastic? Epicurean is perfect for this niche and cooks like my mom who prefer to spend their kitchen time making delicious food rather than maintaining an army of tools. What is Epicurean, then? Well. It is neither properly wood, nor properly plastic. It’s actually a material called Richlite. And I suspect their use of it has made them rather rich indeed. Richlite is the result of hundreds, and they mean hundreds, of food safe and resin-soaked sheets of paper being compressed in conditions that resemble the Earth’s core. What results is an extremely durable, non-porous, smooth, and pleasantly wood-like surface. It’s also easy on your knives. But the best part of epicurean, apart from thoughtful design and hardworking pieces, is ease of care. You can throw them in the dishwasher. You can leave them on a hot burner by accident (they’re rated for up to 350 degrees). And you don’t have to worry about food odors (I’ve never known a wood board that doesn’t smell faintly of the first onion you chopped on it). As a matter of fact, the material is so compatible with the needs of a kitchen that I even use a collection of their spatulas and spoons in lieu of traditional wood pieces.
This year, my mom’s made Christmas shopping a little less tricky. She’s got a list of Epicurean products in mind 5 months ahead of the holiday. Get yourself a cutting board that makes it feel like Christmas in July.