When I was a girl in Japan, I often used the Santoku knife to help my mother in the kitchen.
When I think about it now, the Santoku seems dangerous to a girl's little hands, but I don't remember my mother ever telling me "knives are dangerous, don't use them" or "watch out for knives".
My strange experience with blades came after I arrived in Italy.
After getting married in this country, I looked for a knife to add to my kitchen utensils, but I couldn't find one that cut as well as I was used to in Japan.
I bought a lot of knives and tried them, but they didn't cut. The tomatoes were crushed, the meat didn't cut well...
Because for me, the standard of the kitchen knife was the Japanese Santoku knife.
Once, when I complained to the head of the design studio where I worked that I couldn't find anything that cut like a Japanese knife, he said, "What's the problem? Japanese knives? Just buy a XXX (a famous German manufacturer). You will be surprised at how sharp it is."
Given his safety, I immediately bought a XXX kitchen knife following his advice.
No...it didn't cut.
Not even this.
I was still disappointed.
Another thing that surprised me in Italy was the way they cut food into pieces with scissors.
At a friend's house and at my husband's back then, I was so surprised when I saw them cut lettuce with scissors, not to mention meat and fish...
It was a paradigm shift for me, almost as shocking as when I saw an Italian friend sewing the hem of a frayed skirt with a stapler.
And what was so uncomfortable was the lack of sharp knives in every house I went to. My husband's parents only had absolutely (really, not at all) dull knives and used a serrated steak knife to cut the food.
When that thing in my memory happened, I was spending the weekend in the country house with my mother-in-law and my sister-in-law.
It's amazing how Italian women keep their kitchens clean. Even they were not far behind.
The kitchen, which in a country house was very large, was managed by the two of them and everything was organized neatly as if it had never been moved from there.
The kitchen towels were always freshly laundered and perfectly ironed and the ceramic sink always looked like it came out of the factory the day before.
In the middle of the kitchen, there was an antique marble table about 1 x 2.5 meters.
In the middle there was a large and hard-to-extract wooden drawer containing cutlery, knives, and other everyday kitchen utensils.
As I helped them cook with the usual blunt knives, it occurred to me that there might be other better knives in the drawer, so I opened it and looked inside.
At the bottom of the large drawer, where all the cutlery was facing in the same direction and the utensils were ordered as in a shop, I found "that object".
I took out the object, which was carefully wrapped in a thick white cotton cloth and tied with hemp twine and placed it on the marble tabletop.
The shape resembled a kitchen knife.
Why was it so well packed and hidden in the bottom of a drawer?
Was it a knife with a dark past?
I was so struck by the creepy appearance of that object that I interrupted my sister-in-law, who was cooking with her back to me, and I said: "Francesca, what is this?
What? Her face stiffened as she looked at me with a smile: "Oh, no! Be careful, don't touch it!" And she ran up to me screaming.
She stood in front of me and said peremptorily: "Kaori, this is dangerous, you must not touch it!”
I asked, astonished, why she had kept such a dangerous thing in the kitchen drawer.
"What's in there?"
"A kitchen knife" She said ceremoniously: "A very sharp knife."
I hope you can understand my confusion at that moment...Why did I have to endure cooking with a knife that did not cut well until then?
"What? A good sharp knife? Why are you hiding it then?"
“Because it is dangerous. It is too dangerous to use such a sharp knife. You don't even have to touch it. If you get hurt, you'll be in trouble."
I loved this sister-in-law who, like Melanie in ‘Gone with the wind’, was infinitely kind and completely devoid of any semblance of human venom, so I put the item back in the drawer without saying a word.
And then, as soon as she was gone, the first thing I did was...?
Dada dadaaa...dada dadaaa... (Beethoven's 5th Symphony)
Of course, check that item in the kitchen...
I sneaked into the kitchen like a thief and, with a little nervousness, pulled it out of the bottom of the drawer, placed the object on the cold marble and looked at it carefully.
The white cotton had a strangely rustic look, a bit like a Harakiri knife (I've never seen such a thing, of course), and I winced at the intimidation it caused me.
Nervously, I carefully untied the string and opened the cotton wrap, imagining that I would find a sharp knife like the one used by the talented actor Ken Takakura, in the movie "Yakuza" to cut his fingers after making an irreparable mistake.
However, what came out of the package was a simple, ordinary knife that could be found anywhere.
Was it a dangerous knife? I distractedly took an eggplant from the refrigerator, put it on the cutting board and with a little nervousness, I placed the blade of the "dangerous" knife and I applied pressure.
It didn't cut at all...
The surface of the eggplant was pressed by the blade and dented, betraying my expectation that the blade would gently sink into the pulp of the vegetable..
Now that I have lived in Italy for more than 30 years, I know that there are many places here and in Europe where sharp knives are produced.
For a long time, I used the knives I brought from Japan, but the first ones I found in Italy and that I really liked are from Berti, a historic cutlery in Tuscany that I will present in "Memories of Italy".
The company of the Berti family, which was founded in 1895, has the characteristic that each knife is made entirely by a single craftsman and the initials of the person who made it are engraved on each product, guaranteeing their quality.The products of Coltelleria Berti, which made me change my mind about Italian and European knives for their sharpness, are also exaggeratedly beautiful.
In "Memories of Italy", we have decided to introduce one of their type of steak knives, a set of cheese knives and a butter knife.
All are beautiful in a form that arises from their function.
We could really say that this is part of the character, history, and deep culture of Italy.
Why are Ferraris and Maseratis so beautiful? Why are Italian furniture and lamps so beautiful? Why are an ancient city or a village on a hill so beautiful?
Tuscany, where the Berti Cutlery is located, is one of the most famous regions in Italy for its meat dishes.
Tuscany is also known for its Florentine steak. It is a thick beef steak on the bone cooked on the grill and one of the representative dishes of the region.
Tuscany is also the place of production of Chianina beef and Cinta Senese pork (it's a bit like Matsuzaka beef or Kagoshima black pork in Japan ...).
A few years ago, I met for work Mr. Andrea Berti, the fourth generation of the shop, and when he made me use this steak knife for the first time, I felt as if so far I had wasted something of my life, which I would not have never recovered.
I'm not that attached to things that I think designers should like and I'm not obsessed with brands.
I don't collect anything, nor do I care about having branded or famous items, but I do care about common things like a sharp knife, the functionality of a favorite kitchen utensil, plate, cup or tablecloth.
And it makes me think that I have eaten meat for decades with dull and not even beautiful steak knives...
The feeling of softness when the blade slips into the meat, of course, but also the elegance of the tool that goes beyond logic.
And the cheese knives. Italy is a country with a great cheese culture. Each region of the country has its own unique cheeses and typical suitable knives, with a beautiful shape created by their function.
When I left Japan over 30 years ago, there were only a few cheeses available in Japan. So, I came to Italy without knowing much about this and only later realized the depth of its dairy culture.
There are many types of cheese knives, but in "Memories of Italy" I present a set of three easy-to-use Berti knives for different types of dairy products.
This set of knives will surely give you the pleasure of cutting cheeses, hard and soft, in a beautiful and efficient way, also the beauty of their shape and the joy of being able to taste it with the right tool.
Last but not least, the butter knife.
The first time I used this knife, it also opened my eyes to an important function.
As a designer, I should have known a long time ago how inconvenient it is to cut and spread hard butter with a normal table knife.
This butter knife on the other hand is made of ultra-thin and flexible stainless steel, so it can easily cut even hard and thinly sliced butter.
The thinness of the blade and its flexibility also make it easy to spread butter on bread or toast.
The shape is not only functional for cutting and spreading, it is also fun and childproof.
These knives are now among my favorite Italian cutlery I've come across over the decades.
How sometimes such a small luxury in our daily life can enrich our heart...
I am very happy to introduce them to you.