Susan Swan 切菜的艺术
“ You have to modernize，”Eugene Shewchuk， my friend and the owner of Messis， a well-loved neighbourhood restaurant in Toronto， told me over dinner. “You’re too busy to spend hours preparing traditional meals.”
He was right. I was so sick of cooking， I’d happily serve up protein pellets if I could get away with it.
He offered to show me a new way of doing things in the kitchen. But first I’d have to learn to chop. Chop？ What on earth did chopping have to do with cooking？ Everything， according to Mr. Shewchuk， who once ran a 1）bistro in Paris.
For many Japanese chefs， cooking is chopping. Although he doesn’t take things as far， Mr. Shewchuk believes in “the elegant gesture” in cooking， whose 2）rituals are part of the beauty of life. Knives are a big part of this. If you are a master chopper， preparing food becomes pleasurable and even poetic.
He maintains that chopping is a 3）kinetic meditation. He says he could chop mushrooms all day and not grow bored. The focus you need while handling sharp objects brings a Zen-like peacefulness， a hard-won state at the best of times. He gave me a starter knife， a Kaneshige， with a light， thin blade and a 4）pakkawood handle， and told me to show up some afternoon at Messis.
I didn’t see how sharp objects could lead to inner 5）tranquillity. But I had a novel 6）out on submission， an anxious time in a writer’s life. I needed a distraction.
He took me to the back of the restaurant. Bean sprouts were growing in large Mason jars. Chicken 7）stock was bubbling on the burners. Men in aprons were running back and forth. Mr. Shewchuk put an apron on me and set to work on my re-education.
He demonstrated two chopping motions： the Asian-style chop， where a brisk bouncing motion of the wrist propels the entire blade up and down， and the European-style chop， where just the heel of the blade rises and falls in a rocking motion. Some say the European chop is more precise， but the Asian chop is definitely faster.
Naturally， you have to hold the knife properly. Mr. Shewchuk holds it closer to the blade in the 8）pinch grip， which he learned at cooking school. But no matter how you grip the knife， it’s best to hold your fingers primly back so your knuckles protect your thumb.
Feeling awkward and self-conscious， I made all the usual first mistakes. I stuck out my thumb and I didn’t do the European chop vigorously enough—the red peppers looked pretty ragged. I managed better with the 9）zucchini and mushrooms； I didn’t cut myself， either.
Afterward， I ate my reward： a delicious lunch of 10）scallops and vegetables. Contentment settled over me. Even better： I’d forgotten to worry about my book.
Mr. Shewchuk gave me a second， bigger knife， with a 11）magnolia wood handle， and told me to practise with both it and the Kaneshige at home. At first， I was too nervous. Although he called them starter knives， they looked like works of art to me. Light and sharp， they could cut through a page of my newspaper with shocking ease. And I was nervous about unthinkingly scraping the board with my knife， a big no-no （along with cutting frozen foods， opening cans or using the knife as pliers or a hammer）.
Over the course of a month， I waited for a publishing deal and I chopped like a samurai warrior in training. Gradually， I grew more comfortable. I showed some friends my new chops and brought my niece to one of my 12）tutorials. I found myself looking forward to the grounded calm that comes with chopping， its sense of connection to the rhythms of the day.
As we began cutting up cucumbers， tomatoes， 13）avocado， sweet onions， 14）jicama root and 15）kohlrabi， I realized that there was something 16）cathartic about chopping—perhaps it was the pleasure of pretending I was chopping off … well， not the heads of certain slow-moving editors but cutting some less vital body part into a julienne. I was starting to understand： If chopping means imagining that various problems （or people） are getting cut too， that’s just part of the elegant gesture.
“Chopping is a talent like playing the piano，”Mr. Ivan Fonseca， a chef at Messis， said consolingly.“Some people have it and others don’t， but your chopping will get better with practice.”