The auction had been going about 10 minutes. At stake was a custom engraved mahogany cutting board and 9″ Miyabi birchwood sujihiki knife donated to Collaboration Kitchen by FireHouse Boards. On the one hand, it was exciting to see the bids reaching into the high hundreds of dollars, all of which would be donated to the charitable cause du jour. On the other hand, the manner in which the bidding reached that level, a $10 bid at a time, over and over and over again, was grueling. Tucked away in a corner, camera in hand, waiting to snap a shot of the eventual winner, my ADD and all the other initials kicked into overdrive.
It’d be easy to blame my next action on all kinds of things, a momentary lapse in judgment; bad math; inattention. The real answer was (D), none of the above. Ever a sucker for anything artisan-made of wood, steel or leather, in no particular order, I had been eyeballing that cutting board and knife for weeks, ever since a picture of it popped up on the CK Facebook page. I even knew the exact value of the pair. I had set a go, no-go threshold in my head above which I was determined not to bid. That threshold had passed a couple hundred dollars back.
So, as the numbers agonizingly crawled over broken glass toward the $900 mark, I, of course, ignored all of my resolutions, stepped out of my little self-induced cubby, shot my hand in the air and called out, “$1,000!” in a way over the top attempt to put a halt to the bidding in my favor.
Four things happened.
Fishmonger Tommy Gomes, auctioneer and chief collaborator, looked at me kinda slack-jawed, at a loss for words for possibly the first time in his life.
Another guy, the only bidder I could see from my sheltered vantage point shrugged his shoulders and sat down.
Fluffy Unicorn, standing in the middle of the crowd with her hand poised to place another bid, looked over and gave me the most withering WTF gaze I’ve ever received.
I get a lot of those.
Everybody else hyperventilated from laughter.
Great. I just paid $100 more for the board than I needed to, ’cause I guarantee FLuffy Unicorn was gonna take that thing down. I didn’t even know she was the other bidder, although it did kinda explain the $10 bid at a time thing, if I’m being honest.
Fast forward a year or so. Other than taking that board out of the box about once or twice a month to rub it, oil it, smell it and hug it a little, it remains unused. It’s so damn beautiful. I can’t bring myself to put a knife mark in it.
Since then, I’ve ordered two more boards. One for my friend, A Broad in Seychelles, as a gift for her fairy tale wedding, somewhere in the Indian Ocean, most likely with the Skipper presiding, Ginger and Mary Anne as bridesmaids, the Howell’s as witnesses, Gilligan losing the ring and the Professor inventing a whole new shade of blue for the sky. Seriously, she’s living a real life fairy tale fantasy.
The board was the easiest gift I’ve ever picked out, especially considering it was Fluffy Unicorn’s idea (she’s so good at that stuff) and all I had to do was come up with some words to engrave on it. The rest, I left to Firehouse Boards owner and artisan carpenter, Jess Hartnett, who has a full laser engraving system to personalize pretty much anything but your dog. And, I wouldn’t test him on that, ’cause he’s got the talent to make you and your dog regret it.
Anyways, The Broad messaged over a picture of her board on receipt, which we had sent accompanied by the coolest aluminum cups ever, gifted her by Jess. In response to my exhortations that she must actually use the board, she also sent another picture Of the board with a bunch of veggies on it. Yeah, that ain’t gonna cut it, Girl. Put some marks in that board!
So, she did.
Then Jess told me he had a little bit of wood left over from The Broad’s board, a special piece of reclaimed walnut he’d been saving for just the right project. Reclaimed, when talking about Jess’ boards, is a bit redundant, since all of the materials he uses are sustainable, mostly sourced from a local mill that works with trees that have had to be cut down. Around these parts, trees need to be cut down for a lot of legitimate reasons, most of them having to do with rot, fire or safety. Jess, a 30-year veteran fire captain, recently retired, is pretty in tune with that kinda thing.
A 30 year veteran fire captain…
Anyways, Jess says he wants to play around with this board for me. Do some inlay. Do I have any ideas? Sure, says I. Here’s a picture of a beautiful gyuto and santoku I picked up on a recent trip to San Francisco. Think you can make this work? Ha ha…
Stunning, ain’t she? It’s the most gorgeous piece of wood I own. And, this one got a cut in it with the knife it was inspired by the second I set in on the countertop. It was the only honorable thing to do. Cheers, my friends!