My boyfriend is a rather talented cook and though he has no more professional training than what his restaurateur-father taught him, I've still noticed his attention to detail and the priority he places on quality equipment in our kitchen.
So, when I visited the town of Scarperia in Tuscany and learned that they've been handmaking fine knives for more than five centuries I could readily understand why it's important. A good knife to a chef, is like a good paintbrush to an artist or the right lens to a photographer.
At one time, there were over a hundred artisans making knives by hand in the town (imagine the noise that must have created!) but now there are only a handful. We shopped at the beautiful boutique 'Saladini,' after our visit to the town's museum, and a demonstration by a man who still knows the art by hand but does most of his work aided by a machine these days.
Of course, I traveled home to New York City with a knife for my boyfriend. He now cooks with it in our kitchen and every time I see him do so I am reminded of the beauty and history of Tuscany.
He did have to give me a coin in return though. In Scarperia, legend tells that anyone who receives a knife, must gift a coin in return. The good luck of being given money is said to offset the "bad luck" of gifting a knife. Since, though useful, it can also technically be a weapon.