Thursday, December 24, 2009

The good knife—and other unquestioned "truths"

In earlier posts, I’ve mentioned how I had scorned some of my mother’s opinions, only to find myself thinking her way decades later. Here's another example.

Whenever I’m hand-washing my kitchen knives, I reminisce about conversations with my mother in the late 90s, when she was selecting a set of knives for us for our anniversary. She named two common brands she considered inferior—her disdain was so strong, she might as well have uttered “ptooey!” after each one. Then she announced, “Wusthof!” And that’s what we received—and appreciated.

This morning, as I wiped the sponge over my Wusthof paring knife, I found myself thinking, decisively, “These really are the best knives…” But would I have thought this way with no earlier maternal prompting? Maybe not. Or maybe so. They are fine knives.

Now I’m wondering what other, more significant biases—good and not so good—I hold without question, ones that didn’t come from my own research. There are probably hundreds (thousands?). I promise to notice them for what they are as they come up. But will I be able to see them objectively and then form my own opinions?

I was past 60 when my mother passed away, so I lived through many years of her strong opinions. (More often than not, these opinions were informed and good ones; this was hard for me to admit.) It’s challenging to re-examine such long-held beliefs and come to different conclusions—without feeling a little guilty. But I’m going to give it a shot.

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