Happiness is a sharp knife

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Bone handled pocket knife

My Dad was meticulous about keeping his knives sharp using a dark flat whetstone, coarse and gritty on one side and grey slick on the other. I can hear the sound of the blade swirling on the smooth surface with a bit of liquid as he finished the last swipes, methodically and patiently.  “A dull blade is just more dangerous” he’d tell me as he wiped his knife clean and slipped it back into his jeans.

He was just as picky about his mismatched collection in the knife block, a carbon steel chef’s knife, slender boning knife and various serrated blades, each one with a specific purpose. Man, oh man would we get the lecture if we mishandled or misused any of them. He was a stickler about taking care of your tools, a lesson reinforced often.

He gave me my first pocket knife when I was about nine and that was mostly to prevent me constantly bugging to borrow his as we fished together on the middle fork of the Stanislaus River. In cut-off jeans and tennis shoes, we waded in the cold water, casting out the our red ball bait and caught our limits nearly every time. Clean your catch right away he taught me, using a sharp knife and rinsing in the fast moving water.

In the kitchen, he showed me how to curl my fingers just so, to prevent (or hopefully so) a cut as I was slicing and dicing. Oh, there were plenty of accidents, and together our hands bear the scars, nicks and cuts earned along the way. But the lesson was well taught, and learned.

For whatever reason, perhaps all the above makes me enjoy hand slicing and dicing my ingredients. There is a focus, a moment of desired perfection as I slide the blade or rough chop my herbs. That could be why stir-fry or fried rice have become such comfort foods. That and the fact he taught me the recipes. For most, I am sure it is a pain to prep all those different ingredients, but to me the results, displayed on a plate are like jewels, bright and colorful.

Zwilling J.A.Henckles Sponsor of Plate to Page Tuscany
Two woks, no waiting
Add a bit of scrambled egg, just before serving.
Smoked Pork and Shiitake Fried Rice

Smoked Pork and Shiitake Fried Rice
Serves 4
Prep time: 60 minutes (for rice)
Cook Time: 15-20 minutes

Oil for stir frying (peanut, grapeseed or canola)
½ pound smoked pork chops (about 2 large)
1 carrot
1 celery stalk
1 medium zucchini
½ yellow onion
½ pound shiitake mushrooms
½ pound snow peas
2 eggs, scrambled
3 green onions
3 cups cooked Lundberg Wild Blend (mix of wild and whole grain brown rice that is gluten free)
Low Salt Soy Sauce or Yamasa Tamari (wheat free and organic soy sauce)
Course ground black pepper


  1. Cook rice blend according to package instructions, substitute olive oil for butter and making sure that all liquids are absorbed. You can do this ahead of time as it takes about an hour to cook thoroughly.
  2. Cut pork off bone and into ¼”- ½” cubes
  3. Dice up carrots, celery, onion and zucchini. I usually set aside my ingredients on a platter or large plate so they are easy to quickly add to my wok.
  4. Finely slice the shiitake mushrooms.
  5. Take out string from snow peas.
  6. Scramble 2 eggs (I do this in a glass measuring cup in the microwave, works great and then use a fork to shred for distribution into rice.)
  7. Finely slice green onions, including green part. Set aside for garnish.

Key to any stir-fry is a) Uniform dicing of meat and vegetables ensure that all ingredients cook quickly and at the same rate, b) hot wok, c)frying in batches. So have your ingredients all ready and plates set aside for the in/out process of the batch frying.

  1. Heat wok over high, add 1 tablespoon oil and bring up to temperature. Add pork, sprinkle with about a tsp of sake and soy sauce, tossing constantly to coat and caramelize the outside of the pork. Cook for about 3 minutes, then remove to plate for later.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon oil, bring back up to temperature and put in the onion, carrots, celery, zucchini, stirring constantly to not burn but heat through until slightly softened.  Add mushrooms and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of Sake and Soy Sauce. Toss to coat, cook until mushrooms are soft, but veggies are still firmish – 2 minutes. Remove to plate.
  3. Add ½ teaspoon of oil, heat up and toss in the snow peas. Cook, stirring for about 2-3 minutes until lightly cooked. You will want these to still be crispy. Remove to plate.
  4. Add 2 teaspoons of oil to wok. Add in cooked rice, stirring and pulling up from bottom to top so the rice doesn’t stick to much to the bottom of the pan. Add a good bit of Sake and Soy Sauce to flavor (about a tablespoon of Sake and 1 teaspoon of Sake is what I used.)
  5. As the rice gets toasted, add back in the pork, vegetables and stir to combine thoroughly, cook together about 5 minutes so flavors meld. You can lower heat and hold the rice at this point if you need to prep other dinner sides.
  6. Add in scrambled eggs, sprinkle in course ground black pepper. Garnish with green onions and serve. I like having some fruit and another vegetable to my plate, tonight was sesame/honey stir-fried broccoli.

My Dad always placed a penny on a knife gift, so we could return the coin and never let the sharp edges cut our friendship.  May your knives stay sharp and your friendships strong.

My thanks to Zwilling, J.A.Henckels for their fine knives and sponsorship of Plate to Page Tuscany. I love adding this instrument to my kitchen collection.

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15 Responses to Happiness is a sharp knife

  1. Eliz says:

    Lovely post Robin! Although I love to cook, I still haven’t learned how to use a knife properly. Guess I can add that to my two finger typing skills 🙂


  2. Ilva says:

    Robin, we could have the same father, mine was knife obsessed too!

  3. I love my kinves in the kitchen. Without a good knife the kitchen is useless! Love the recipe in this Robin. Simply delish!

  4. Loving my new knife as well:) And that fried rice looks so good!

  5. Jamie says:

    Great post, wonderful story, perfect recipe. I love all of it. And boy did you stir up a memory that I had long forgotten, of my dad slowly sharpening his knives on that charcoal gray, gritty whetstone. What beautiful words and memories, Robin.

  6. Robin says:

    Thank you my darling P2PTuscany pals! It is wonderful having you drop by and give me such great encouragement ;D

    Eliz: Practice, practice my friend, it will become easier

    Ilva: Another nice connection we share!

    Meeta: Couldn’t agee with you more. Glad you like the recipe!

    Denise: So glad you are giving that knife a workout, hope you can give this recipe a go.

    Jamie: Aw, so pleased that this brought a memory back to you too. Appreciate your comments so much, oh writing master 🙂

  7. michaeloco says:

    The photos make me hungry. I am also very particular with my knives. They are so important to me because they have a lot of purposes. They can be used in the kitchen, when traveling and for self-defense. By the way, thanks for the recipe, I love fried rice too! kershaw pocket knife

  8. Jayden says:

    I remembered my uncle in your dad’s meticulousness on his knives. My uncle, on the other hand, loves his tools so much. He is an electrician and cleans his tools everyday like they are brand new. Its nice to see people like them that loves there things so much that they are like parts of their body. cold steel swords

  9. Pocket knives have multi purpose functionality. In fact, I have a collection of knives including a buck knife and cold steel knife. I admire your father’s skill in sharpening his own knife. I have never sharpened mine. I’m afraid that I will cause a dent on it. I always take it to the sharpening shop. It’s better for me to pay than to ruin my own collection. Anyway, this Smoked Pork and Shiitake Fried Rice looks delicious.

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment Walter, my husband takes care of my knives for me as I don’t have my father’s sharpening skills. Takes patience and practice. I think you’ve found a good solution for your collection. Cheers!

  10. black chinos says:

    Wow! This looks great! I am so impressed!

  11. DH says:

    I have been fortunate to share much of your journey. I believe that I know you better than most. Yet, it cannot be only I who is moved by your carefully worded stories. There are universal themes encompassing history, ancestry, empathy, and common sense as well as the culinary. Surely everyone reading might find something to relate to. I may not say it often enough or well enough, but you move me.

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