When working at a Japanese restaurant, the end of mise en place would always be followed by the sharpening of knives. Every single day, without fail. The thing about high-end Japanese cuisine is that less is more, and the utter simplicity of every dish and ingredient makes attention to detail for even the smallest tasks extremely important. When a dish solely consists of a thinly sliced vegetable in a clear soup, there’s nowhere for a chef to hide. Even when cutting spring onions, my Oyakata used to always complain about how my spring onion slices were always ‘D’ shaped instead of ‘O’ shaped because my knife was not sharp enough and that I had to pay more attention to the minute detail of the dish, even if it was just the simple tasks of slicing spring onions. The spring onions had to be sliced on a soft sheet of magu roll to ensure they were not pressed down on, preserving their ‘O’ shape because otherwise a hard chopping board will press them into ‘D’ shapes.
Right now, I feel the same mindset is applicable to life. Working through the ups and downs of everyday life, I feel the strain of day to day living wearing me down. The willpower to get up in the morning and get things done starts to wane, just like my knives slowly losing their edge. Once in a while, maybe it’s time to take a step back and sharpen my knives again.
Unlike the honing steel used in western kitchens that only take a couple of strokes to realign the blade of a knife, sharpening a knife using a whetstone takes time, with each firm yet gentle stroke shaving off a bit of metal to reveal a new layer. And with each finer whetstone, the edge is slowly polished until it is able to seamlessly cut through any task it is put though. Working to increase your willpower everyday isn’t easy, especially fighting against the constant grind of life, slowly wearing you away. But ultimately just like sharpening a knife on a whetstone, a gentle yet firm effort everyday shouldn’t be taken for granted.