On our recent trip to France the Heroes stocked up on Opinels. Joseph Opinel, a blacksmith in a long line of blacksmiths, invented the beautiful, beechwood-handled pocketknife in 1890. This writer wanted to buy a different model every time we visited another vendor. But the Euro did not favor this American tourist. In Bourg d’Oisans, while Luke Hero shopped for a new chapeau, my eyes spied the couteau d’office, or paring knife (pictured above). Every Christmas I remember my mother saying, “I am the easiest person in the world to by presents for. Just get me some dish towels or a new paring knife.” Obviously, I had to buy this beautifully made and simply designed knife. In fact I had to buy two because they only came in packs of two. The kind vendor, after admonishing Luke for mishandling a hat, warned me that I was perhaps mistakenly purchasing two instead of one. But I would have bought a dozen or two if my copy of Europe on 5 Dollars A Day was still accurate.
The classic Opinel pocketknife has been exhibited in the Museum of Modern Art (known as MOMA to her friends) as a masterpiece of modern design. Another masterpiece of modern design, or art rather, Pablo Picasso, used his Opinel to carve his sculptures. We can assume he used other tools as well. In 1909 the crowned hand logo was introduced. Maybe that is the tattoo design I have been waiting for?
One of the many great qualities of the Opinel is the carbon steel blade (stainless steel is also available but we prefer carbon). As Julia Child said, “If you’re afraid of butter, use cream.” But she also said, and I am paraphrasing: you do not want a knife that holds an edge. You want a knife that you can sharpen. Carbon gets sharper than stainless. If you clean a fish with your carbon Opinel, clean it and dry it as soon as possible or the blade will rust and the wood will swell making it temporarily impossible to open the knife. One last thing: If traveling, be careful to pack your knife in your carryon or the airport security will take it. That is what happened to my first Opinel.