This past Easter, I arrived at my parent's house early in order to help my mother cook before my brother's and sister's families arrived with all the kids. My youngest brother was also there. We were in the kitchen, which opens up to a small sitting area with a sofa and my dad's cozy chair, buzzing around taking my mother's orders. As we worked, we chatted. Italians are not about to work in silence after all. Somehow the conversation came around to how horrible it is to try to cut or carve meat with a dull knife. Both my brother and I said we needed to invest in a good knife as we're both active cooks.
We didn't even notice that my dad, who had been sitting on his cozy chair, disappeared into the garage. When he came back, he had with him a butcher's carrying bag. This is one of those bags that has many compartments for holding knives, rolls up, and ties on both ends to hold everything in place. He laid the butcher's carrying bag on the sofa and unrolled it; it's approximately four feet long when unrolled and had a bunch of butcher knives in it. This would be a good time to say, my father is not and was not a butcher by trade. However, like many Italian and other immigrant families, we buy meat in, let's say, bulk and there are various family projects that, let's say, require this equipment. Don't let your imagination get away with you! I'm talking about things like prosciutto and sausage making and obtaining the traditional Easter lamb. The point is, the fact that he had these knives wasn't really a surprise.
My dad started pulling out different knives, all bigger than anyone not cooking an entire animal at one time would need. He selected one for my brother and one for me. Turned to us and said, "Be careful these are really sharp. You'll never need another knife again. Now give me a quarter." The quarter was payment for the knife because, of course, Italians have a superstition about gifting knives. If you are gifted a knife, it means the person giving it to you will eventually stab you in the back. Metaphorically, of course. To avoid this, you make a small payment, such as a quarter or a dollar, to the person giving you the knife. This payment counts as "buying" the knife rather than it being "gifted" which wards off the superstition.
After getting his payment, my dad wrapped each knife in a towel, secured both ends with an elastic band, and told us to put them in our trunks when we drove home. Then, he walked away to put back the butcher's carrying bag. Conversation over.
When I got home, I grabbed the knife out of the trunk of my car not really thinking much of it. As I walked to the house I suddenly realized this might appear odd to an onlooker. I stiffened, looked around, and started praying the neighbors wouldn't notice I was carrying a machete sized carving knife wrapped in a towel into my house. I don't think anyone did.
For the record, the knife is very sharp and cuts meat very, very well. Thanks dad!