Magazine article Insight on the News

Back on the Cutting Edge: The Laguiole Knife-The Imperative Tool of the 19th-Century French Peasant Farmer-Now Has Become a Symbol of Uber-Style. (Cuisine)

Magazine article Insight on the News

Back on the Cutting Edge: The Laguiole Knife-The Imperative Tool of the 19th-Century French Peasant Farmer-Now Has Become a Symbol of Uber-Style. (Cuisine)

Article excerpt

For my birthday this year, the Husband gave me not one but three Laguiole knives. This might be viewed by certain friends as a continuation of those early anniversaries when, having presented me with a TV set and then a shortwave radio, I was tempted for his birthday to buy him a little black dress.

Not that the presents weren't enormously generous. It's just that it is a rare woman who relishes the gift of anything useful.

Laguiole knives, however, are an exception. A folding knife, it was invented in 1829 in a town of the same name in the Aveyron region of France, south of the River Lot. The combination of razor-sharp, tempered-steel metal riveted into a resilient haft of horn or wood quickly made it the imperative tool of every peasant farmer.

These days, they've become a symbol of uber-style among those who are attuned to such things, due perhaps to the neat bas-relief bee that sits at the point where blade and haft meet and an appreciation of the nifty mechanism which forces the blade to collapse.

A Laguiole knife--pronounced "layole" in the region--is presented to each president of the French Republic. Sonia Rykiel is said to own one. And Philippe Starke, who seems unable to leave the slightest thing untouched, has refined the design for the 21st century.

They come in many sizes. The smallest of mine, only a little longer than a standard Swiss army knife and the most popular in general, incorporates a corkscrew first added in 1880 with the exodus from the Aveyron countryside of peasants toward Paris. …

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