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Michael B. Musgrove
9 min readAug 11, 2021

Keep Your Knives Sharp!

This is a life lesson that I’ll bet so few people do it’s not even funny. And the topic may even come across as funny. But it’s pretty serious, as someone who, like many of these “Life Lessons” has ignored them and paid the price. Chefs and serious cooks already know the fate that awaits those that don’t keep a regular knife-sharpening agenda. And I tend to think the general public that abide by this rule is looked upon as fastidious oddities that belong in a traveling show.

But it’s so important, no matter what your cooking skill level and desire to cook from home is. Unless you derive pleasure from removing digits, chunks of your hands, feet, fingers, and frequent visits to the emergency room complete with loss of plenty of blood. If you manage to hit an artery, yours or someone else’s, including the begging dog(s) below, death may be involved. It’s that serious.

There are 2 good reasons to keep your knives sharp. But first, you must at least have some knives worth sharpening. I also would like to state here that it’s very possible to learn to sharpen your knives yourself. I have access to whetstones and oils and the equipment to sharpen them myself. But I’d rather not use my precious knives as playthings to experiment on, when having professionals that can do it correctly, inexpensively.

Growing up, I learned to cook from my grandmothers and mother. And I can’t remember my grandmother who won 1st place in the family as “Cook Extrodinaire” having anything fancy whatsoever. Which stands to reason, seeing her sometimes humble, sometimes lavish background and that she was more farmgirl than cosmopolitan. And I still have some knives that were my mother’s, which are cheap wooden-handled things I’m sure she bought at K-Mart. They don’t get used much, if at all, but I don’t dare throw them out seeing as they were my mother’s. But wooden-anything tool-wise in the kitchen is a bad idea these days because it harbors bacteria so much and warps. (But yes, I admit I have a quiver of wooden spoons which hearken back to the 1960s and possibly 50’s and 40's.) A well-maintained end-grain wooden butcher block is an exception to this rule.

Michael B. Musgrove

Featured in HBR (Oct. 11), MBA, published author and marketing professor. To start with.