sharp knives, fresh bread, and (good) timing.

September 24, 2018

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.

Our beloved bread knife. (And other things.)

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  • Reply Connie September 24, 2018 at 12:05 pm

    beautiful post. one tiny thing – four knives or five?

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE September 24, 2018 at 12:07 pm

      four plus the one I went back upstairs to get! five total.

      • Reply Connie September 26, 2018 at 8:10 am

        Ahhh thank you!

  • Reply Ann September 24, 2018 at 12:24 pm

    We usually give bread to rest and walk hours 6-8 after baking. My grandmother used to say that you can not eat hot bread, it’s bad for the intestines. And she knew the bread, 80 years of bread and buns baked.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE September 24, 2018 at 12:39 pm

      We do, too, but sometimes you just have to do what moves you, even if that means a loaf only sits for an hour or two!

  • Reply Janean September 24, 2018 at 2:20 pm

    Ooo, I might skip over some morning from Crown Heights in hopes of catching the red truck! I’m open to miracles… (Posts like these are my favorite from you — they make me feel awake, curious and encouraged! )

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE September 24, 2018 at 2:55 pm

      Well, jeesh! Same goes for comments like these! This is the first time I’ve seen him on our street, though we see him frequently in the neighborhood! Keep yours ears open! You never know!

  • Reply Emily September 24, 2018 at 3:20 pm

    Lovely post and images. Hope those kiddos feel better soon!! My 3-year-old just finished his second week of preschool so he and his little brother both have colds now, of course. But every time they get a cold I have a little moment of thanks that it’s not a stomach bug! Sending healing thoughts your way!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE September 24, 2018 at 4:27 pm

      Ha! Totally! Well wishes to everyone!

  • Reply Megan September 24, 2018 at 3:23 pm

    I love these pieces. They leave me feeling warm, full and calm. Like reading yoga. More please.

  • Reply Mims September 24, 2018 at 5:30 pm

    I looked for a picture of dominic and found this instead
    what a character! i was hoping to see his eyebrows. Thanks for introducing us.

  • Reply Huma September 27, 2018 at 8:35 am

    Your descriptive writing kind of took my breath away – it’s so timeless. And conjures up something I’ve never seen here in London. And I hope you guys are all over the worst. We had two bouts of it with three kids over the end of the summer (one while on holiday), fortunately only lasting a couple of days at a time, although our reflexes were not that fast and many a morning on holiday was spent doing laundry. But hey-ho, the laundry was close to the beach and soon everyone was better again. Wishing you goodness x

  • Reply Jessica Large September 27, 2018 at 6:27 pm

    There’s something that feels so romantic about the fact that you get your knives sharpened on the street corner by a real live person. Sorry about the churning bellies, though.

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