Thoughts from Dr. Joe: Cutting to the chase

Last week we were shopping for clothes for the girls when, out of the clear blue, Kaitzer exclaimed, "Joe, I need a new knife!"

Hmm! We've been married for years and I never knew Kaitzer carried a knife. Sometimes we learn about another through serendipitous moments.

I thought only guys carried knives. However, I could readily understand one's need for a knife, as I've carried a pocketknife since I was 6. You have your wallet, your keys and your trusty pocketknife. When I'm in the woods I take my old K-Bar and my Gurkha knife. Makes me feel like Crocodile Dundee.

"Joe, Williams-Sonoma is having a sale." Kaitzer said. "Let's look in there."

My face lost all color, my hands turned white, my eyes dilated, and deep within my sub-conscious, I exploded. 'Noooooooooooo'! I felt like I was dropped from a 10-story building. Splat!

Until that bomb was dropped I had this vision of Kaitzer, the girls and I pursuing Buck, Swiss Army, Case and Gerber knives.

I read somewhere in the teachings of Buddha that to find the road to inner peace, one must accept their fate. So I accepted it and reluctantly entered the Williams-Sonoma store. It didn't work.

The shop was bursting at the seams with women excited to have found their Nirvana. In this wonderland of cooking gadgets the kitchen is the shrine, the cook is the priest and the table the altar. I began to think how Kaitzer felt when I took her and the girls down every aisle in Hartman's Hardware in Mission, Kan. I have to tell ya, it's different, it really is. Hartman's was there since 1926. Walking through the Hartman's door was like stepping into the past. Incidentally, Kaitzer loved it. They had the best collection of Radio-Flyer Wagons I'd ever seen. It appeared as though everything there was stamped, "Made in America."

I was the only guy in Williams-Sonoma. Whether it was my sour face or the fact that I looked helpless, all the sales ladies asked if they could help me.

We found our way to the knife section. I felt like Charlie in Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. There were a million knives, a knife for every possibility under heaven. They even had a clam knife, a knife for peeling ginger, apples, strawberries and even jalapeños.

My mom had one knife that she used through 65 years of marriage. She got it as a wedding gift from the Sears catalog in 1938. She used it for everything from making pies and cutting ravioli, to threatening to skin me alive for chewing tobacco.

Father Robert Capon said, "The root of many a woman's failure to become a great cook lies in her inability to develop a workmanlike regard for knives."

Hey! What's a salad dressing emulsifier? How the heck did I get through high school without one? And who knows what a yellow corn zipper is? I promise if I ever use a pizza stone scrubber, I'll throw myself under a garbage truck!

I began to laugh when I saw all the assorted wooden spoons. My mom used the same spoon to stir sauce, make soup, cakes and even beat the bejesus out of me at least once a week.

Do we really need these gadgets, most of which are manufactured in China? The useless rows of unnecessary technology make us slaves to triviality, which masks itself under the guise of efficiency. Are we becoming so specialized that we fall prey to the placebo of connivance and ease?

Finally, I think we all had enough and left without buying one of the many assorted knives. It appears they were all made in China and other countries; Kaitzer couldn't find one that was stamped "Made in America."

There is a world of difference between Williams-Sonoma and Hartman's Hardware in Kansas circa 1926. But unfortunately we're not in Kansas anymore!

JOE PUGLIA is a practicing counselor, a professor of education at Glendale Community College and a former officer in the Marines. Reach him at

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