(Here is a new reader submission of favorite knives... if you have your own ode to cutlery, email us with a photo of the knives and a short description of where they came from and why you love them so much.)
The bottom cleaver is a Dexter from the kitchen at Barn House, the old academic commune on Martha's Vineyard. My sister was the chef there for a number of summers, and to keep it out of the hands of serial killers she would sleep with it under her pillow, and when she left the Vineyard it eventually made its way with her to Michigan. I inherited it and it has been with me from Chicago to graduate school in Indiana and now to NYC. It is one hell of a lump.
I imagine this thing has done in its share of crabs and lobsters over the decades. I put a proper wedge grind on it and now it cuts down a chicken in about 45 seconds. I also use the backside to drive nails for hanging pictures.
The curved knife in the middle is very special to me. My mother bought it for three dollars at a roadside sale in southern Indiana in the mid-1960s a few years before I was born. The farmer who sold it to her said he used it to slaughter hogs, and I have no doubts. I have seen friendlier knives in slasher flicks. The curved blade isn't the most useful, but when there's certain business to be done, look no further. I keep it razor sharp and the blade holds an edge like no knife I have ever seen. I use it to cut down beef and even carve turkey, but twice in Chicago I pulled it out to chase the Latin Kings out of my carriage house at 3:30 AM.
The top knife is the newcomer, but has become my daily favorite. It was a gift from a girlfriend in Chicago, and it came from the test kitchens of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. It is also an old Dexter, and it has a forged, carbon blade that is surprisingly thin for a chef's knife. Despite its heritage, it's not good at all with meats but produces perfect julienne carrots in double-time. This is not one of those three pound lumps of dead-cold German stainless you get as a wedding gift. This is a culinary scalpel, and it encourages speed and demands finesse. It makes the most wonderful sound coming out of the knife block — swisshhhinnnggg! The blade has a great rounded shape at the tip and it slides through vegetables like, well, a hot knife.