Cooking For Geeks Book Signing Tomorrow!

There's a new cookbook, Cooking For Geeks,
that I'm in love with because I'm one of those people that likes to
know the science behind food. The author, Jeff Potter, is an engineer by
trade, not a food scientist. So smartly, he doesn't pretend to know all
the answers, but instead interviews dozens of people who are experts in
their field to fill his book with great stories and useful information.

I'll do a more complete book review later, but I wanted to
let you know Potter's only Southern California book signing happens
tomorrow, October 5 between 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. The event is free, and
autographed books will be available for purchase $35, cash only. Location after the jump!


It'll happen at the Machine Project, 1200 N Alvarado St., Los Angeles, (213) 483-8761.

One example of his expert research involves knives.
Did you know that before World War II, there was only one knife shape made for
the butcher trade? It was the large, curved and fairly wide blade called the cimeter. Now,
there are many shapes – breaking knives, stiff boning knives, flexible boning knives and
so on. Potter interviews Buck Raper, the manager of manufacturing and
engineering at Dexter-Russell, America's largest and oldest cutlery
company. From the book:

At what point is a knife
effectively used up? [Buck shares with me the photo shown below.] I
cannot believe how much the bottom knife has been sharpened away
compared to the new knife on top. What's the story with this actual

Photo courtesy Jeff Potter

Whoever was resharpening that knife was very, very good. It came
back to our customer service people for replacement from a mom-and-pop
butcher shop. I train our sales force, and one of the questions they
ask is how long is a knife useful. I show them this. That's pushing the
ridiculous. I would think that that knife had seen about five or six
years of service.

We usually find in a restaurant that a knife is good for six to nine
months. With professional cutlery, and in particular with packing
houses, they'll need a wide blade for breaking down a side of beef. They
need a large curved knife, which we call a
cimeter steak knife.
When it starts out life, it's about 2 1/2″ wide, and when it gets down
to about 1″ or 1 1/4″ wide, it's no longer suitable for breaking down
the big sides of beef. So then they use it for the smaller cuts, and
call it a
breaking knife. When they wear it down to about under an inch, they use it as a boning knife.

Photo courtesy Jeff Potter

So these knives actually go to a series of different lives? As they get smaller from sharpening, they get repurposed and reused?

They get narrower, and they get shorter. People find different
applications for them. The poultry industry still does that. What I'm
talking about is mostly pre-WWII. After WWII, people started coming to
us and saying, “Hey, can't you make this shape from scratch?” So we
started to create the same shape as the worn-out knife. You wouldn't
have to wear out a giant cimeter; you could just buy a breaking knife
off the shelf. A lot of our traditional knife shapes have evolved from
large blades that were worn down and used for different applications,
and then we started making a blade with that shape.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *