As a little girl I remember spending lots of time standing on our apartment terrace overlooking our Paris street, watching people come and go, in and out of stores. I loved the ordinariness of it.
It was the vendors who came to our street who I remember with the most fondness. They represent Paris in my memories.
One man would call out from his cart, “Les carreaux cassé” (broken windows). His cart was full of glass ready to replace a broken window. He’d walk down the street calling until someone called back requesting his service. Then I’d watch as he disappeared through a courtyard door, off to fix the broken window.
Another vendor had a cart with a sharpening wheel. He would yell, “Aiguiser ses couteaux” (sharpen your knives). Then at the first response, he too would disappear into a building to sharpen his clients’ knives.
These are childhood memories of a Paris that I love, a time past that was part of that era.
A few years back when I was staying in a rental apartment in Paris, I heard through the open kitchen window a man calling, “Aiguiser ses couteaux.” I leaned out the window, hanging half my body outside, scouring the street for a past memory. And there he was, pushing his cart, calling out to make his presence known. I was thrilled. Time passes but not everything goes with it.
The other day my husband announced we needed to go to the Mamaroneck farmers’ market because he’d found a knife sharpener. I was delighted. I’m embarrassed to admit our knives were not in good shape—not only dull but some of the tips were broken off. I was sure the only way out of this mess was to buy new knives or go to Paris.
We wrapped everything up and went to the market. At the entrance was Jack Knife, a van with a man sitting in front of his wheel surrounded by knives. We handed him our assortment and as he unpacked them, he shook his head slightly. Then he looked up, smiled, and said, “I can fix these.” Thank you, I thought. We watched him for the next 20 minutes as he fixed and sharpened our knives. No more broken tips or dull blades.
Cooking requires sharp knives. Sharpening isn’t expensive and the result makes cooking easier and safer. Don’t put it off; look up knife sharpeners on the internet and find one near you.
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