The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Seeking the "Miss Manners" of bread

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karladiane's picture
karladiane

Seeking the "Miss Manners" of bread

Hi all:


 


I wonder if anyone has come across the following etiquette problem (or am I the only person on the forum suffering from OCD?).


When invited to dinner parties (holidays, get togethers, etc.), I'm often asked to bring one of my homemade loaves.  Now of course, I'm pleased as punch to do so - but as I'm ready to walk out the door, loaf wrapped snugly in a basket, I stop and wonder - Should I bring a bread knife???? 


It's just a fact that most people buy their bread pre-sliced (not, "on-the-hoof", as I like to call it), and they do not have a decent knife for slicing a crusty sourdough boule.  The tearing with one's own hands is a charming methodology sometimes, if one has a baguette.  But it does tend to destroy your larger, bulkier loaves.


My point being - is it insulting to bring my own knife?  I don't think I would be offended if someone brought a good knife to my house for a cooking event.  Frankly, I'd appreciate it, since knives are such important and personal tools in the kitchen.


Just wondering if anyone else has come across this scenario.


peace & love!


karladiane

SteveB's picture
SteveB

The exact scenario you described recently happened to me.  I brought a crusty pain au levain and a bread knife to a friend's house for dinner.  I said to my friend that I hope she didn't mind that I brought the knife because sometimes crusty loaves can be difficult to slice.  She said she wasn't offended at all and, in fact, started to talk about how dull her knives were.  That evolved into a discussion on how to properly care for knives.  The upshot was that I ended up taking all her knives home with me to sharpen!


SteveB


http://www.breadcetera.com


     

arzajac's picture
arzajac

Since you brought it up, I have been wondering...  Are you supposed to sharpen stainless-steel serratted bread knives?


Are all serrated knives the same?  I mean, I have some that you obviously couldn't sharpen, because the grooves in the serrated blade are indented (think rounded teeth).  But I have a few that are simply saw-toothed and was wondering if I was able to sharpen them with my run-of-the-mill knife sharpener.


Any idea?


 

SteveB's picture
SteveB

I don't sharpen my serrated bread knife because the serrations are scalloped.  I suppose a serrated knife could be sharpened if it was a simple 'saw-tooth' design.


SteveB


http://www.breadcetera.com


  

xaipete's picture
xaipete

At least, my Chef's Choice knife sharpener has a slot for doing such stuff. I have tried it on two of my older knives and I suppose it did help. I recently bought a new bread knife.


http://www.amazon.com/Forschner-Victorinox-4-Inch-Curved-Fibrox/dp/B00093090Y


I'm not sure I would want to test it by running it through the knife sharpener, though. I guess it wouldn't hurt if the knife is no longer performing well, i.e., if you options are try or buy a new one, why not try.


Not all models of the Chef's Choice have this option though.


http://www.amazon.com/Chefs-Choice-120-Professional-Sharpener/dp/B00004S1B8/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&s=home-garden&qid=1234471279&sr=1-5


--Pamela

gaaarp's picture
gaaarp

I haven't had to sharpen my bread knife, as I only use it for bread and, more importantly, don't let anyone else use it.  As for other serrated knives (e.g., steak knives), they do become dull and need to be sharpened.  However, you can't sharpen them with a regular knife sharpener.  They make sharpeners speicifically for serrated knives.

EvaB's picture
EvaB

I have just gotten a lovely book on knives, which says its just fine to sharpen all knives with a simple knife sharpener.


That was not my brother's take on things, but then again he was a perfectionist on all things.


However as to sharpening the rounded (scalopped?) knife edges, it led me to remember the first bread knife I ever saw. I was about 10 years old, and my brother had been given a lovely stainless steel butcher knife (a sort of chef knife shape without the rocker end) first one I ever saw, now you can buy them a dime a dozen in Wal Mart. However that is digressing, the knife was given to him, because someone (the giver) had managed to get a huge scollop shaped knick out of the blade about halfway down the blade, so he was going to throw it out, now my brother being from a family that survived the depression, the second world war and living with a single mom in the 50's couldn't bear to see a "knife" thrown out, so the person gave it to him.


He brought it home, fastened a chain saw sharpener (actually any good saw sharpener that holds the files would work) to the blade, and proceeded to turn the nick into a perfectly beautiful bread knife by nicking the rest of the blade to match. This knife still cuts wonderfully well, and is a favourite. I run it through the sharpener on occasion, and if I really want to spruce it up, I would get him to use his stone on it, now unfortunately I shall have to learn to do that myself.


Thank you for bringing a lovely memory of my brother to mind. I just lost him in Nov 2009 so am still not over missing his daily comments. He would have loved this web site.

dlstanf2's picture
dlstanf2

I'm fanantic about a sharp edge. And I have some serated edge knives which I also sharpen.


Spyderco Knives, spyderco.com, offers a ceramic stone, triangular knife sharpener. It even has hand guards to protect you hands but I use a hand towel over my hand as I'm on blood thinners.


The traingular edge, not flat side, is the edge to use. There are two ceramic of fine ceramic and two of medium grit for duller knives. These work great on keeping your knives sharp plus I keep my friends knives sharp for them as well.

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Yes this something that seems to come up often. My family expects for me to arrive with bread, board and knife in hand. In fact my BIL who is the family big party guy calls to ask that I please bring my sharp chef knives and bread knives when he has a big event. I don't think anyone would be offended. It kills me to see a hostess hacking away with a serrated steak knife on my 3 pound Miche. Anyone who has experience in a restaurant kitchen knows the value of sharp knives. As Steve has experienced it's easier to take them home and treat them to a freshening.


Eric

xaipete's picture
xaipete

I think it is perfectly fine etiquette to bring both board & knife. Anyway, the host usually has a lot to do and is relieved not to have to find a board, knife, and cut the bread. I once read something like this about flowers--bring them in a vase so that the person you are giving them too doesn't have to stop what they are doing and arrange them. This has happened to me many times; it isn't that I'm not grateful for the flowers, but that I'm probably behind and working at a frantic pace, and then having to stop, find a vase, cut and arrange flowers, is just a big distraction at a critical time.


--Pamela

Marni's picture
Marni

I 've heard the same idea and I agree with Pamela's flower analogy. 


 You could also ask if the host would like you to bring along a bread knife and board when you are asked to bring the bread.  It gives you a chance to explain if they are not familiar with crusty loaves and there are no uncomfortable surprises.


Marni

Marni's picture
Marni

Sorry for this off topic interruption, but the first post, where Karladiane asks her question is not showing up as a new forum post on the left side of my screen.  I only saw it because others responded to it.  It can be found if I go to the "see more posts"  section.  Anybody else have this happen?  I will be glad to go and ask about this elsewhere if I know where to go.  I wonder now if I don't see many posts. 


So sorry to stick this in the middle of everything.


Marni

karladiane's picture
karladiane

Hi all!


I finally got back to my computer to read your replies.  So very interesting and helpful!  Thanks so much to everyone.


And Marni, you may not be seeing the original forum post because I put it under "off topics", so it's actually listed lower down, in "Advanced Topics, Professional Concerns, and Off Topics". 


I couldn't find it at first either!


peace,


karladiane

Marni's picture
Marni

I found your post just where you said it would be.  Floyd helped too.  I rarely scroll down that far, there is so much to read here and so little time!


Thanks,


Marni

niagaragirl's picture
niagaragirl

Bring your own knife? I am almost expected to bring knife and board ;-)


A couple of years ago I found what looked to be a nice, albeit cheap serrated knife at one of the dollar type stores. Bought it, took it home, tried it, worked great. Went back and bought a dozen more. So now I just gift the host with a knife if I know they are not equipped. I also tell them it probably wouln't be good for much else ha ha.


My family has a weird tradition in that with the knife, we also give them a single penny in the box or taped to the knife. It's supposed to be good luck so nothing bad ever happens while using it. Silly, but we always do it because grandma did.

LoaferBob ZzzZzz's picture
LoaferBob ZzzZzz

I love that story Niagara. The penny should be taped to the blade. The notion is that a knife could sever the friendship.

It is also customary for the recipient to give back the penny as "payment" to keep all on the level.

I believe the custom is derived from ancient times when a sword or knife was given to the victor of a battle or duel it could not be accepted unless the loser's blood was on the blade.

However, On my old sailboat I stepped the mast after repairs. As by tradition I placed coins under the mast to pay Charon, the ferryman, who ferried souls of the dead across the River Styx to Hades. The mast or (blade) cut thru the wind. Perhaps the morphed tradition goes back to the Greeks.

OK so I have slicing, stabbing and drowning all wrapped up. Could I be more morbid?? LOL

On manners & sharpening. In my opinion manners are fully displayed when a guest, asked to commit to baking for a host, shows up with thee prize. That you bring your own knife shows commitment to your craft.

I never sharpened a bread knife but have sharpened thousands of blades. I sharpen house knives with stones and oil, manufacturing knives (Eastman Machine knives) with abrasive belts, and scissors at work with a $300 dollar sharpener. Wave blades & serrated blades I let go until tossed. New technology for sharpening these types of blades is at hand. I recently saw two late night TV ads displaying this type of technology.
Regards, Bob

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

is the word that comes to mind. I can't imagine anyone having the audacity to be miffed because I brought them bread for their meal and a proper knife to slice it with. Then again, I probably wouldn't be hanging with them anyway.  :   )


Betty

culinarian_kmw's picture
culinarian_kmw

If they're asking - or you're offering - bread, you could always ask then if they have a bread knife. I do love the idea of gifting with a bread knife. I'll be keeping an eye out for some bargin klnives to hand over with loaves. I've never heard about the penny, though. I was told not to give knives as wedding presents because it would cut their happiness.

pattycakes's picture
pattycakes

I always bring whatever utensils are required to serve my dishes when I go to a pot luck. As the hostess, I appreciate not having to look through my drawers for just the right spoon or pie server. The same applies to bread. The harried hostess should be thrilled, not offended, I would think, that your bread is beautiful and ready to go with the board and the knife.

ejm's picture
ejm

I too think it's perfectly okay to bring a knife AND cutting board along. This way the hosts don't have to worry that your sharp knife will ruin their beautiful cutting board OR if they have a decent knife and decent cutting board, you can just leave you knife and cutting board with your coat. The only thing I would worry vaguely about was making it clear that the knife and board aren't gifts and that you'll be taking them home again with you. Unless, of course, you are going to make a present of the bread, knife and cutting board to people who are just setting up their household...


I also think it's perfectly okay to give knives as a wedding present. We were given a set of very good knives and as far as I can tell, our happiness has not been cut (just celebrated 21 years of marriage). BUT I should also mention that when we were given the knives, we were asked for a penny. The people who gave us the knives had also heard of this superstition and said the antidote was that we had to pay for the knives.


I was out of town visiting my parents recently and made bread while I was there. I was kicking myself that I hadn't brought a good bread knife with me. All the knives there were quite dull for my taste. There was even one of those knife holders with a "sharpener" inside. But it didn't seem to be sharpening the knives at all. Next time we go out there, we'll bring a whetstone along and sharpen all the knives.


-Elizabeth

rainwater's picture
rainwater

If I'm cooking at someone's house....I always bring my own knives...I can cook in any kind of pot or pan......but using terrible knives can ruin the cooking experience.


My serrated knife has lasted a long time, and is plenty sharp....I only use it for bread and tomatoes...and slashing the loaves before baking, but I have to get one of those razor jobs......

deblacksmith's picture
deblacksmith

There is no reason not to bring the knife (tool) if you don't know what the other folks have for sure.  I even take sharp knifes to my kids homes and then sharpen theirs while we visit.


Most serrated knifes can be sharpen a few times.  The design of most of these knifes is that they have a flat side and shaped side.  To sharpen you work only the flat side.  As you do this it increases the angle of the edge and as a result can only be used a few times.  I do this with a belt grinder with a 400 grit belt followed by a honing on a buffing wheel.  (Most folks don't have these tools.)


For what it is worth, besides learning to bake bread, I teach blacksmithing and tool making.


deblacksmith

socurly's picture
socurly

Bringing your own knife shows you care alot about your bread.  If it offended anyone...they must be ungrateful and not worthy of your bread. I have been known to bring my own cake knife and spatula too.  There is nothing worse than someone mashing uo your bread or cheesecake because they don't have the correct tools.


I was given a set of knives as a wedding shower gift. All the ladies in the room gasped! I have never had a good relationship with this person.  I was told to give her a penny, I did but it never helped. My mother says you never give knives as gifts because it's bad luck.  It represents ill will from the person that gave them to you, and severing the relationship. 

pattycakes's picture
pattycakes

Well, I have cursed my entire family if this superstition is true! I have given Global knives to my nearest and dearest--children, nieces, and nephews--for birthdays, graduations, and Christmas--for years.


 


The knives are a joy to use and a gift that lasts for a lifetime. Since I had never heard this story before, I imagine my children hadn't either and will use the knives in good health and that it won't damage our relationship...

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

I first encountered this superstition when I purchased a Laguiole knife at their shop in Paris. It came with a replica of an old 1 sou piece. When I inquired about this, the salesman told me that, in case I planned on giving the knife as a gift, I should include the coin to avert damaging my relationship with the recipient.  


I thought that was pretty cool. I have kept the knife.


David

KMIAA's picture
KMIAA

I think it's fine to bring your own knife.  When travelling to visit my children, and friends, hubby winds up doing the cooking, and one thing he hates is not having sharp knives.  So, he always brings his own knives.  No one seems to care as long as they ate. 

bnom's picture
bnom

I have my knives sharpened professionally once a year at a knife store and they also sharpen my scalloped edge knives.