Tells a story


The artist, the wife, the butcher block and her knife

Posted on September 24, 2009 at 4:28 PM


There was a film that was made back in the late 80s called The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her lover with Helen Mirren in it.  I don't remember the film that well except for the part at the end that a man gets cooked. Yikes!  What I like most was the title - how it basically tells you the story in one line.  As I chop vegetables, I am stringing thoughts together.  I pull the handle on the butcher block and I see three stories with an Artist in it.  From the title of the blog, you might think it is a low budget horror film.   

The butcher block's story starts in New York. Sakai found it at Dean and Deluca in Soho. Whenever we managed to visit the big city, we'd take the subway to downtown and go to this high-end grocery store.  We would have a cup of coffee and a muffin, walk around and admire the exotic fruit and vegetables, imported cheeses and salamis, and the fancy kitchenware and gadgets we couldn't afford. We were happy just doing that. One day, when Sakai sold a piece of art work in New York, he went into Dean and Deluca and did something different than what we would normally do when we were there together. He bought a butcher block. He wrapped it with paper, held it with masking tape as he would his artwork, and carried the heavy thing back to LA. I thought for a minute that he brought back an unsold sculpture but it turned out to be something else. A butcher block for goodness sake! He didn't know you can buy similar butcher blocks in LA but that made the gift all the more special. A sculptor never hesitates to sweat things out.

The handle on the butcher block came from our old loft in downtown LA where we lived for nearly seven years. It was where my son Sakae grew up until he was two years old. How did we managed that lifestyle with a baby without even a washing machine in the beginning? We were young.  When my mother flew out from Tokyo and saw our living space, she went into mild shock and gave us $500 to buy a washer/dryer.  But then there was the hairy parking situation.  We lost three baby strollers and two car seats right out of our car in one year, not to forget the broken car windows. It was not exactly a family friendly environment.  We finally moved to a tiny one bed room rental in the suburb of Monterey Park where Sakae could have a sandbox under a shady pecan tree.  We moved a couple more times since then to Silverlake and to Santa Monica where we have settled for the last fifteen years.  As a memorabilia of downtown living, Sakai took the handle off the big sliding door of the loft.  The handle found its way to become part of the butcher block in this kitchen. I am glad it is still with us.

Then, there is the knife story.  It comes from Aritsugu, the old knife shop in Tsukiji, Tokyo. It is one of the first serious chef's knives I bought. 100% Carbon steel. Sakai does the sharpening. It's the one thing he does as far as kitchen duties are concerned but he does it better than anyone else I know. If I put the dull knives out, by late afternoon, they come back shiny as if they got dipped in silver.  Let just say for now that I always have sharp knives to work with and that's essential for a cook.  I am nearly finished with the chopping.  Sorry, this didn't turn into a murder mystery.   But if you stick around for another day, you will see how I am going to use these vegetables.  Imagine a football.  Lots of them. No, they don't fall from the sky but they are edible.  What can that be?

Categories: Kitchen Tools and Utencils

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