Sharpening 101: Love and Care at “Ai and Om”

I have taken many cooking classes, however this is the first time I came across  a knife sharpening workshop being taught in Vancouver.

I am completely clueless on this subject matter; I usually hone them with a steel (learn through YouTube and not sure exactly what I was doing) and take them out for service when required.

Our kitchen knives are our best friends;  they are the most used tools in the kitchen, come to think of it, we spend a lot of time prepping our ingredients!

You may think these days we can practically learn almost anything on YouTube, so why a workshop?

It is a personal decision based on the way how I learn,  I also happen to enjoy exchanges and connections with people in general (at times flipping between being an introvert and extrovert).

On this particular subject matter,  I have tried to watch videos, I realize I need to see first hand in reality how it is done with instructions and thorough explanations.

So two weekends ago on a Sunday morning I overcame my fear (of the unknown) and spent two hours, together with three other students, learn about the basic principles of knife sharpening through Vancouver Chinatown’s Ai and Om Knives‘ ; the workshop was taught by local chef and shop owner Douglas Chang.

Ai and Om Knives carries a curated selection of Japanese knives and accessories; the first time I came across this specialty shop was actually through Instagram. When they opened last summer in August (official opening in October),  I paid a visit and purchased my treasured nakiri bocho , a Japanese knife specifically used for cutting vegetables.  My first experience at the store was very pleasant and positive so I subsequently subscribed to their newsletter.

I was truly elated when I saw their workshop schedule recently,  I signed up immediately through email without any second thoughts.

My Nakiri bocho, the perfect fit

On the day of we all brought their own knives for sharpening, fees were paid ($75.00 for the session) before the workshop started and  I also purchased the split whetstone (discount given to students who signed up) , I was a bit scared and I was all ready to go,  not knowing what to expect!  The workshop was taught at the back of the shop where our “sensei” (teacher) spent the first half explaining clearly the technical terms and principles; he later proceed with a demonstration and sufficient time was allocated for our own hands on practice.

I admit initially I was overwhelmed and didn’t know where to begin as there were just a lot of information to remember and understand; in the spur of the moment I decided not to overthink and calmly focus on what our “sensei” has explained earlier, breaking it down step by step (the precis writing skills acquired back in secondary school really helped to pick out the “Key” words and points) and slowly got into it.  Although the technicalities are very important, if we put all things aside, the process itself is actually very simple and rustic,  it just comes down to the knife, the stone, your own concentration and focus.

Personally at that moment the lesson transcended into something more enlightening, I was engaged in  a short “self-realization” journey, directing my own focus to be “in the moment” and learn how to appreciate the simplicities in life.  I found the process to be very calming and therapeutic, I enjoyed it tremendously, much to my own surprise.

I was enjoying the process and did not even think of the results until  it was time for the true test to see if I achieved what I was taught: to test and see if the knife will slice through paper effortlessly.  I was absolutely thrilled when my nakiri “swished” through the paper….. I was more excited about the fact that I overcame the fear of another “unknown” .

I am not going to get into the details of knife sharpening as I have only learnt the basics and currently digesting what I have learnt;  I assure you the session was informative and in the end you will be equipped with enough basic information to start sharpening your knives at home, and gained a better understanding of the art of knives and sharpening techniques. Hats off to local chef and owner Douglas Chang; he is very knowledgeable and articulate speaker who shows great patience and exerts a calming presence. Thank you very much for a very meaningful and eye-opening lesson.

My other thoughts on this experience: Never stop learning and practice definitely makes progress! Take good care of our kitchen tools will definitely help us to become more efficient with our meal preparations; improved efficiency will ease our minds, our focus will become clearer, and time will then be saved.

And time, perhaps is the most precious gift,  spending time together with family and friends is the true expression of love and care.

 

Note: Ai and Om Knives is located in the heart of Vancouver Chinatown, 129 East Pender Street.  Besides selling knives, they also carries a range of accessories , provide knife sharpening services and hosting workshops. Check their website for more details.

PS Note to my dear friend James; My knives will always be sharp from now on (OO).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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