Stories

Choose your weapons carefully

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I’d like to believe everything has a use. It’s just a matter of finding the ‘right’ use. Some things in life are underused, others overused, while some fall into the purgatory of misuse – although very occasionally this creates a new unforeseen outcome and it becomes ‘multiuse’ – then we’re really getting our money’s worth.

Knives and forks are two genius inventions in their own rights. As a chef, I use knives every day in my kitchen. Give me something to chop, slice, carve or butcher and I’m as happy as a pig in shit. I’d even go as far as to say I find it very therapeutic. I’m not knife obsessive, but I do appreciate the fine craftsmanship of a hand forged blade. I don’t collect knives, I just have a lot of knives – representing twenty years of professional cooking – though most have sadly been retired from daily use.

Forks, on the other hand – pun completely intended – well, I eat with a fork. That’s about
it. Of course, forks do have other functionalities: you can tune an instrument or dig up your garden with a fork. Try doing that with chopsticks.

When used together, knives and forks become a supreme marriage of innovation. In the western world, it would be hard to imagine us living without them. I mean, I can actually imagine one or two people starving to death as a result. But that’s fine, we don’t need these people and we can put it down to natural selection.

I often travel to India but found it somewhat challenging the first time, as most meals I encountered were intended to be eaten with hands. As you can imagine, for a chef who immortalised his love of cutlery by tattooing a fork and knife on each of his hands, this took some adjustment. Mostly because the curries were boiling hot and my fingers aren’t quite the asbestos hands you’d expect from a chef.

There was also a lot of ‘gravy’ – the mess I created was much like those I created as a toddler, trying to feed myself for the first time. You don’t need that image in your head. Oh wait, I can use the bread to scoop stuff up? Of course I can.

Let’s think about it, bread has long played a vital role in our existence, not only as a foodstuff but also as a vehicle for the delivery of other ingredients. Pizzas, burgers, hot dogs, kebabs: all share that common bond of bread, topped or filled – vehicle and load. A way to get tasty, meaty, cheesy, greasy fillings to your mouth with fairly minimal mess, and yeah it helps fill you up too. They also share another common bond: they should never, ever be eaten with a fucking knife and fork!

There’s a Seinfeld episode where George Costanza eats a Snickers bar with a knife and fork (YouTube it) because he thinks that’s how the higher echelons of society eat. It catches on like an epidemic, with Elaine screaming in a café at the end of the show “what’s wrong with all you people?” Anytime I catch someone committing this unholy act, it causes me to stop, stare and judge. I try to work out what’s going on in their smug, self-righteous heads. It is truly unfathomable.

Sadly, eating pizza with a knife and fork has been encouraged by many pizzerias. They lay the tables with cutlery and send out an uncut pizza so you’re left wondering for a split second “should I cut small dainty pieces and gracefully feed myself like a little princess?” Bullshit. Send it straight back to the kitchen and get them to portion it. That’s why they invented the pizza cutter, isn’t it? It’s fucking finger food and you’re gonna use your fucking fingers.

Waiting staff should remove cutlery from the table if a diner orders anything that should be eaten with hands. Go to a McDonald’s or Burger King and you don’t see cutlery being used on a Big Mac or Whopper, but order a burger in a ‘restaurant’ and if there’s cutlery near, some asshole is gonna use it. It’s a sandwich! Pick it up! You do that shit with a chicken wing and I’m calling the police.

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