The notes of the grinding truck bell rang through our open windows just as I’d taken my first bite of peanut-buttery toast. Clang, clang, clang. Clang, Clang. I left my breakfast behind, sloshed my coffee as the mug hit the counter, and tucked four kitchen knives into the bottom of a canvas tote bag before I raced down the stairs. When I got outside, the truck was already at the end of the block, but the shadow inside moved and turned. I’d made it, just in time.
I handed over my knives for inspection while another neighbor lined up behind me, meat cleavers in hand. Different tools for a different kitchen and two strangers wielding benevolent knives on the street corner on the first weekend morning of fall.
“Can you sharpen a serrated bread knife?”
The gentleman inside the truck nodded without speaking. Then: “Of course.”
Of course. I took the stairs two at a time on the way back up.
Four wheels whirred inside the truck, which is, if there were any doubt, pure gold. Red, if we’re getting technical, but the painted on pictures of things that might need sharpening—knives and scissors, hedge pruners, and hockey skates—are as good as gold to me. There are oil stained cardboard boxes flattened on the truck floor—like the kind that used to sit under cars in my grandparents’ garage to catch drips. Inside, the knife grinder uses his words sparingly, but spares no movement of his eyebrows.
After a few minutes, five sharp knives. One of them in particular is so impressively sharp I could only nod and agree when the grinder referred to his own work as masterful.
In the afternoon, James let his first loaf sourdough loaf of the season rise on the counter. We nearly lost our starter earlier this year when hot weather and long days outside spelled neglect. (Starter salvation via sourdough pancakes.) This weekend, air crisp enough to justify a cranked oven. At dinner: warm bread, a knife to slice it, and the juices from a September ratatouille to get sopped up.
In the middle of the night, a stomach bug and two kids with sweaty hair and churning bellies. Stomachs are emptied over bowls and pots. We’re saved from a trip to the laundromat by fractions of a second and quick reflexes.
It all comes down to timing and care, doesn’t it?
For the curious:
Twenty years ago, an ode to our Brooklyn knife grinder.
This post includes affiliate links. Reading My Tea Leaves might earn a small commission on the goods purchased through those links.