I've recently received John Thorne's collection of essays entitled "Pot on the Fire" and the very first essay describes his relationship with his knife and pot.
Originally Posted by BertMor
Several passages in the essay resonate for me in the context of your question:
Each cook finds the tools that pull their temperament and their kitchen work into some sort of synchrony. I have always been an anxious and impatient person, and this was especially so when I was young. That sharp carbon-steel knife allowed me to grasp anxiety by the handle and point it away from me.I think this is the root of my life-long fascination with sharp things: at its simplest level it derives from developing the skills and ability to control something dangerous.
He also says:
No matter how many times you've done it before, picking up a razor-sharp knife puts the nerves on alert, and practice teaches you to extend them to the blade's tip, so that you feel rather than cut your way around and there's a lot hiding in this.
As a user and developer of software "tools" I know how important it is for a tool to be well-designed such that it feels right. Not just that it fits the hand comfortably and naturally but how it feels when you're using it; does it function as it is supposed to and can you make it do what you want it to do. Does it work with you or against you. How much effort must be applied to make it do what you want. How much and what kind of feedback do you get. When everything feels just right the tool becomes a part of you, an extension of your will and it can just disappear in the sense that you don't have think about it, you're just able to use it intuitively and subconsciously.
To me, this relationship is the thesis of Thorne's essay: it is a very personal, private thing between a cook (craftsman) and his tools. Some care about this and some don't. We knife knuts care very much because we understand that with the right tool that which was tedious drudgery is now fun and something to look forward to with much anticipation. The end result, eating the meal, is no longer the only goal. Enjoying the preparation, exercising and appreciating the tools used, becomes a large part of it as well.
Then when you discover the additional dimensions of enjoying the aesthetic, artitistic and scientific aspects of how the knife looks as well as the materials it is made from, well pretty soon you're caught up in wanting to experience as wide a variety as possible trying to find that one perfect knife.
The perfect blossom is a rare thing. You could spend your life looking for one and it would not be a wasted life.
-- General Katsumoto in The Last Samurai
Passion, addiction, grail quest, whatever. I've now rationalized why I have 10 gyutos and still lust for more