Cooking, and food, were passions I shared with my dad. Every Thanksgiving, while the rest of my family stayed far away, I would spend the day with him in the kitchen – dressing the turkey, preparing casseroles, peeling potatoes. When I moved into my first apartment in college, had my own oven for the first time, he gave me a binder filled with his favorite recipes. He taught me everything I knew.
We were a family who loved to eat, whether it was home cooked meals or a night out someplace nice. Food was important to us. So, when my dad found out he had cancer, he started to make a list of all of the restaurants he had always wanted to go to, but never had. It was a page full of places ranging from greasy hot dog joints to 3-star experiences.
When he passed away, a year later, he left behind that list.
At that moment, the untouched life list I had started crafting became all the more important. There were so many things I wanted to do in life, wanted to learn, wanted to see, but always put off for one reason or another.
Some items on my list were big and complicated – travel the world, learn to surf.
Some, small – visit a popular museum, learn to cook my favorite food.
But no matter how trivial the item seemed, it was something I wanted to accomplish. I didn’t want to leave a list behind.
Today, my ever-growing life list contains over 200 things, and, so far, I have crossed off 26 of them.
One of the skills I’ve always wanted to learn was how to properly use kitchen knives. I like to think that I can cook decently, but I never really knew how to correctly hold a knife and cutting vegetables into anything resembling uniform pieces was well beyond me.
Last October I had crossed another item off of my life list at The Chopping Block: learn to make gnocchi. It is one of my favorite foods – one of those things I almost always get at Italian restaurants or would buy pre-made from the frozen foods section because it seemed like something too difficult to make from scratch.
After the class though, I realized that it was much simpler than I ever thought and was able to make some of the best gnocchi I’ve ever eaten. So I decided to return to The Chopping Block to cross “learn to properly use kitchen knives” off of my life list.
One night in September, I gathered with other students at the Lincoln Square store for the two and a half hour knife skills class. Our instructor taught us about the different types of knives, knife safety, and knife care. Then the rest of the class was hands on – we each took a chefs knife, trading between vegetables to see and feel the differences in brands, and learned different techniques for cutting everything from onions to carrots to garlic. In the end, I walked away with bags full of vegetables cut more perfectly than any vegetables I’d cut in my life, a newfound confidence in the kitchen, and one more life goal completed. And yes, I did learn that I have been holding my chef’s knife completely wrong for my entire life.