Thursday, November 01, 2007

More Capon: Men and Knives

"We commonly define man as homo sapiens, the knowing animal. Yet long before he left traces of his knowing, he was busy, as men have always been, misplacing tools. It is by the hammers and the axes he never quite could keep in sight that homo faber, man the maker, betrays his presence in the depths of history. The oldest fingerprints in the world are those on tools; and of all tools, the knife reigns supreme. … All the kitchens, and half the pockets in the world are filled with knives…

"I grant you that I have overstated the case: Not all men have pocketknives. I was carried away by the force of my upbringing. I was raised, you see, in a tradition in which it was considered improper for a man to be without a knife on his person. (Seriously. I hound my sons to carry one, just as my father hounded me, and his father him, and so on, world without end.)

"My grandfather had a number of dicta, all of which were aimed at delineating how a gentleman should comport himself. One of them was: No gentleman should ever be without a pocket knife. You would have to have known him to appreciate the full paradoxicality of the statement. He had the most elegant manners of any man I ever met, but he was ready for anything – fish or cut bait, figuratively or literally – at a moment’s notice. I give you one more of his dicta to help you take the full measure of the man: A gentleman should be able to prepare a light supper without removing his jacket.

"Obviously, you would have loved him."

- Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb, pp. 53-54

1 comment:

Paul Merrill said...

My boys do love their knives!

I have a few myself, but I don't carry one in my pocket anymore. I like to travel light...