Look at that knife. Ain’t she a beauty?

It was a gift from my friend Leigh, an excellent cook in her own right who knows I’d appreciate a heavy-handled Japanese wonder like this one over a bejeweled trinket any day. She gave it to me for my birthday five years ago and I think of her every time I use it to slice through an onion or chiffonade a stack of basil.

Every time.

I treat it with the sort of reverence and love most women reserve for a sumptuous cashmere sweater or delicate silk blouse.

A good knife is a life changer, or at least a kitchen changer. If you don’t have at least one that you adore, save your pennies and make the investment. And when you do, keep it sharp.

I own a number of excellent knives, but my three essentials include the aforementioned chef’s knife, ideal for heavy chopping, cutting meat, fish and poultry, and slicing with precision.

Second to that, a sharp little paring knife is key for smaller jobs: trimming, paring, and coring, particularly tender fruits. It’s also perfect for when your kids are ready to learn their way around sharp kitchen tools. It’s small, like they are, and thus and easy first step.

I’m also crazy about my serrated edge utility knife. Perfect for slicing tomatoes, citrus, and bread, it also did a bang up job cutting these tarragon chicken sandwiches into two-bite tasters for a tea party I recently co-hosted.

So where do you get a reliable knife and what do you look for?

Most of my knives were given as wedding gifts, some 19 years ago, which tells you a good one lasts. They are Wusthoff and came from Williams-Sonoma. Other big name, trustworthy brands include Henckels, Global, and Shun Ken.

On the more affordable end of the spectrum, I’ve heard raves over the Forshner Victorinox chef’s knife along with knives from the Japanese brand Blazen. You might also have luck finding them second hand at your butcher shop or where you get your blades sharpened. Those folks know knives, and if you trust them, might be an excellent resource.

Buying a knife is very personal. Pick it up and see how it feels in your hand. You might also take a peek at this write up on Gizmodo that gives a terrific soup to nuts run down of how to buy and care for knives.

Got a knife you love? Do tell.