Ethan Becker first invited me to come visit his house when I met him at BLADE Show 2015. David had just introduced us, and I felt a bit strange in taking him up on it. Time passed, I got busy with the guide season and the whole parenting thing, and I didn’t follow through.
At this year’s show I was caught unaware when Ethan snuck up behind me, put is arm around my shoulders, and said with a grin, “What happened? You never call, you never write…”
Well, I didn’t make the same mistake twice. Today I made good on Ethan’s invitation and made the short drive down to Vonore, TN and spent a wonderful day talking about knives and food, a little politics, and perusing Ethan’s tremendous collection of knives – or his “reference library” as he refers to it.
We started by having a cup of coffee on his back patio. One of the things I wanted to discuss with him was his mental process when evaluating a new knife. I will break down the process in a later, stand-alone post, but it was fun to show him some of the blades I had brought with me.
Ethan and I share a fondness for the novelist W.E.B. Griffin. My favorite Griffin line is “the mark of another man’s genius is how much you agree with him”. I admit to being quite pleased when Ethan highlighted many of the same points I have made in my reviews or have noticed in the course of my testing.
Some of his observations include…
“talk about a step into the past”, “presents well”, “a little steep in blade geometry, but not as bad as a lot of modern knives”,”this is quality goods”
“the most comfortable Russel I have ever held”, “really nice little bird knife”.
“I like the (teardrop) shape of this handle, this is really comfortable”.
“People are going to either like or hate the size of this handle…I like it”, “This is a really slicey knife, great balance”.
“Interesting handle configuration”, “I like the multiple grip options”, “nice heft”
“This is a really useful knife”
After he had finished his coffee it was Ethan’s turn to play show-and-tell. We made the short walk up to his workshop, which is just one of many locations where his “library” resides.
After showing me dozens of blades out in the shop, mostly kukris, parangs, and machetes, we went back to the house where he showed me more still. While I saw plenty of really amazing pieces, it was getting to hold an honest-to-goodness OSS Commando stiletto from WWII that was the biggest treat.
After spending some more times looking at some more knives stashed in random places throughout the house and at momentos from his extensive travels, Ethan made lunch.
For those of you who didn’t know, in addition to being a legendary knife designer, Ethan is also the Editor and Co-Author of The Joy of Cooking, one of the most popular cookbooks of all time. We talked some more as he prepared a delicious meal of pan-fried hamburgers with a port and soy-sauce reduction, a cabbage and arugula salad, and a fresh fruit salad for dessert. It was fun to see this other side of Ethan in action.
Ethan is a true Renaissance man, equally at home in the woods or a 5-star kitchen. I am truly honored that I had the opportunity to spend the day with him. The thing is, it is hard to be star-struck around Ethan – he is such a gracious and approachable guy. I left feeling like I spent the day with an old friend. It is a day I will long remember. Thank you Sir.