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Thursday, 25 November 2010

Retrograde Design

I like toast.  Almost every morning, I start the day with two slices of toast with various toppings.  I used to slather the warm toast with a thick layer of butter, and quite often that would just be enough.  Hot buttered toast.  Superb.  Unfortunately, my beloved, my doctor and my high cholesterol level have combined to make this favourite delicacy almost a thing of the past.  Butter has been replaced by Alpha-One Rice Bran spread, which, to be fair, isn't too bad, with a slightly buttery taste.  My beloved uses a spread called Flora Pro-Active, which tastes disgusting.  I tried it last week by mistake, and it had more in common with engine oil than butter.  It was even worse than the margarine I can vaguely remember from the 60s.

Hot buttered toast in many forms has always been my favourite, and I can remember eating it with Marmite (as a 3 o'clock tea in the Officers Mess), or with Patum Peperium (always a favourite of my daughter), or with Sardines (always in rich Olive Oil in those dim and distant days, none of this healthy spring water crap), or with Honey.

You would think that making buttered toast wouldn't have changed that much over the years, but it has.  It's become a little bit more difficult.


Because the bloody silverware designers are obsessed with form over function.

I have in my cutlery drawer, two knives I inherited from my Gran.  They are bone-handled and have a long broad blade with a semi-circular tip, similar to those shown in the picture below.

Like all bone handled knives, these are not dish-washer friendly, as we discovered when the handles started to spilt, and the shank's a bit rusty.  But we keep using them, old as they are, because they are perfectly designed for their function.

The blade is long enough that it can butter one big slice in one movement, or even get jam out of the bottom of a jar.  The handles (even splitting as they are) give good grip, even when slightly smeared with butter.  The blade is broad enough that it is easy to control the rate of spreading.  The tip is not pointed.  It is a smoothly curving, symmetrical curve, that doesn't dig into the toast.

We have looked everywhere, but no modern manufacturer of cutlery seems to make this type of knife.  I don't think I'm alone in this viewpoint.  Everytime we visit an antique (or junk) shop, we always look for such knives.  We've seen many types of older bone handled knives, but usually the smaller variety, not the big ones we want.  The proprietor usually comments that he doesn't see the ones we want very often.. I think everyone that's got them in their possession hangs onto them, because they're so useful.

If it's so bloody obvious, why the hell doesn't a modern manufacturer make them.

Beats the hell out of me.

Please note that no pictures of nude, semi-nude or even fully clothed women were used in the making of this blog.  It's not an addiction.  I can fight it.


  1. I too have a few of these good old designed knives in the drawer - for my personal use - and if any other bugger even thinks about using them or as my wife once suggested "throwing out these old things" they will get a cricket bat right up their nighty.......

    Maybe I should go into retro cutlery manufacture????

    Good to hear - but not so good to see - you're fighting the good fight on gratuitous imagery!!!

  2. We have several of those flat, bone-handled knives. There is just nothing more perfect for buttering toast or bread.

  3. I too have a few of those perfect knives, they remind me of my grandparents and going to stay at their place and eating toast (without the marmalade that my grandparents seemed to always have on theirs) Those knives are perfection - someone should bring them back.

  4. Just cut out the butter: no knife needed, problem solved.


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