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knife etiquette

I live in an apartment with several other people, and we all contribute to the kitchen. I am a bit of a foodie (obviously, seeing as I read chowhound) and I brought a bunch of my favorite kitchen equipment, including my super sharp chef's knife. The other day I saw my roommate mincing garlic with my knife, and I'm pretty sure she has no knife skills to speak of. I was terrified watching her fingertips get so close. I don't care if she uses the knife, but I do not want to be responsible for any chopped off fingers. I tried to tell her that it would be better to curl her fingers under but she ignored my advice. I don't want to come off as a snob/know-it-all, but how can I tactfully tell her that she really needs to use proper knife skills?

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  1. Personally, the only person other than myself that uses my knives, is my Lady and she knows how sharp they are. She won't touch my Shuns, she knows how wicked sharp they are. What I did was purchase an inexpensive Santoku, that holds a good edge and I gave it to her. I sharpen it for her but I don't use it. Buy your roommate an inexpensive decent knife, give it to her and explain that she can use her own knife because you are concerned about her hurting herself with your knives because they are sharpened sharp and even you cut yourself if you are not concentrating on the job. Also have her watch the Shun video on Alton Brown's web site.

    1. Assuming you aren't actually just a control freak, tell her to get her own knife or leave her alone. If she's damaging the knife (ie, trying to cut through bones or thwacking it hard on inappropriate surfaces) tell her to stop using it and probably, start keeping it in your room (playing favorites among a group of similarly situated people gets ugly fast.) Keep in mind that if she's old enough to be living on her own and knows how to mince garlic, she has probably figured out how to wield a knife to her satisfaction, if not yours.

      1. After nearly taking the tip off my left index finger I now employ the claw and have learned to do it well. You learn a lot from experiences. You gave her proper advice. You have no responsibility for her irresponsibility.

        1 Reply
        1. re: scubadoo97

          I DID take the tip of my left index finger early last year. My elder son found it in the coriander I'd been chopping! The real fun started when the hospital used silver nitrate to try to stop the bleeding. I still don't understand what my kids found so amusing.

          Roomies should probably not be exposed to a knife which can do that.

          Incidentally, Nigella's Cuban Cure bean soup which I was making will never again taste the same as that batch did. I hope.

        2. i'd keep my knife in my room. she might sue you if she hurts herself. (yes, i know it is hard to believe a lawyer would take such a case, ha!)

          not a sermon, just a thought.

          edit, in light of thew's observation:

          roomie who has hurt herself with your super-sharp knife, talking to lawyer: "sivang never told me how dangerous it was, how sharp it was! you should've seen the blood, everywhere. oh, it was so shocking, i thought i was gonna bleed to death, just from that little cut. omg! i was weak, and dizzy. thank goodness my other roomie showed up to take me to the emergency room. it is still healing, see? it's taking such a long time, i can't really type at work. my workouts are on hold. i really am just having a hard adjustment to this. it's even numb sometimes. i don't know if it will ever get better. will you take my case? she never warned me!"

          sivang to own lawyer: "i warned her, i tell you. i warned her more than 3 times!! i tried to help her by demonstrating how to use it, even"

          cut-roomie, to own lawyer: "sivang showed me a way to cut, but it was dangerous -- and that knife, it is probably only for professionals. and now look at this big cut!!"

          4 Replies
          1. re: alkapal

            Please! I am always thrilled to hear the delightful ways people can fugure out how to blame a situation on lawyers. The truth is, if she is using your knife and cuts herself, there is no liability, unless the knife has a trick handle that folds up while you are using it if you don't know where the button is. My greater concern would be the potential for damage to a good knife when used by someone who doesn't have good skills. You expressed concern, which was not innappropriate. Now you need to decide whether your conscience will bother you if she cuts herself as that's the only responsibility you have.

            1. re: chazzerking

              chazzerking, i am a lawyer. i know how clients are, and how they game settlements, and how juries are, blah blah blah. it is greedy, lying clients that is 1/2 the problem.

              1. re: alkapal

                sorry for my backward syntax! 1/2 the problem is bad clients, 1/2 the problem is bad lawyers. 1/2 the problem is judges who don't dump frivolous suits. ;-)

                1. re: alkapal

                  Not to get off point, they're no worse than insurance co's that lie, manipulate or just delay to force settlement. But my point was there's no liability for letting an adult use a sharp knife, except for the damage they do to the knife.

          2. truth is she's less likely to cut herself with a really sharp knife than a duller one. give her advice, but you cant force her to listen. after you've warned her, she's kinda on her own.

            1. I know you have some affection for your roomates, but personally I would be more concerned for the knives. I had a houseguest bend the tips on my expensive and favorite chef's knife and slicer when he chose those to try to cut through a slab of raw spareribs. I have never been able to straighten them out without risk of breaking the tips off. It IS worth insisting that you show her how to hone, what surfaces to cut on and how to choose the right knife. That is your prerogative as the knife owner -- her fingers, however, belong to her.

              Your roomate will be fine. The Lord takes care of nuts, drunks, babies and inexperienced cooks. She will either get better, or cut herself and learn the hard way.

              1. Having watched a host of friends with an even larger bunch of house-mates, i think you should consider keeping only "generic" items for communal use. I have heard tales of burnt pans, melted utensils, dulled knives, broken plates and glassware, and countless pieces of flatware ending up bouncing in the garbage disposal. Either designate a shelf for each housemates untouchable items, or keep them in your room. Not only will you save your cherished cookware, but some friendships as well.

                2 Replies
                1. re: KaimukiMan

                  agreed. I went out of town for a weekend, and came back to a sink full of dirty nasty dishes, with my good chefs knife in the bottom, rusting!!!

                  1. re: tzurriz

                    nobody respects my knives as much as i do. knife abuse, thee biggest underreported domestic problem. ;-)

                2. Get a good knife guard and keep it in your room.

                  I went out of town & came back to find my house mate had been turkey hunting. There were feathers everywhere and my good Wusthof chefs knife covered in crud - now serrated. He had hacked the bird on a slab of marble out back. He was quite lucky he wasn't home when I discovered it! He did eventually replace the knife, but the replacement never really felt exactly the same in my hand.

                  I never got any of the turkey either....

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: meatn3

                    meatn3, that was "adding insult to injury"!

                  2. A roommate with 10 fingers and a sharp knife will crave fresh garlic cloves.

                    A roommate with 9.5 fingers learns to live with garlic powder.

                    Live and let live, I say. If the roommate cuts herself, so be it.

                    1. Id say let the roomie learn the hard way about knife skills/safety. Its typically a lesson that is learned fast.

                      As long as they are not damaging the knives, Id let them use them at their own risk.

                      1. A good knife is like a gun (always treat it as if its loaded) or power tool (always treat it like it is energized), if you friend cannot learn from words then let her learn from someone else's knife-when she cuts off a finger she might throw it and ruin the blade.