Oof, knives. Most of us buy a block, enjoy their sharp edges for a few months, then live with the disappointment of owning a large collection of dull-ish blades. That means secreting fire tears every time you chop an onion, serving sad BLTS stuffed with squishy tomato slices, and avoiding prep-heavy dishes like chopped salad or tuna tartare.
I had a drawer full of dullards when we started creating this knife-sharpening class at ChefSteps. I learned then what steel sensei Bob Kramer lays bare in his recent interview with Bon Appétit's Adam Rapoport: that (sorry) your knife block is kind of a sham. Kramer says home cooks really only need two knives—a general all-purpose sort of affair (such as a chef's knife), and a paring or utility knife for detail projects like peeling garlic. Sure, there are a many more dreamy blades you can add to your collection, like a bread knife or a big scary cleaver. But the point is, it's way better to have two great knives than 12 meh ones. And the most important thing is to keep them sharp. The class I mentioned above has detailed instructions on doing that, but if you're not that into the whole thing, do like lazy me and just learn to hone your knives—super easy—and then just making sure you send them out for sharpening once a year.
But we're at the third paragraph now, let's get to the fun part: Shopping for incredible Japanese knives. I was lucky enough to get this one for Christmas last year. I cherish that fellow, and look forward to picking out a paring knife to keep him company.* My current paring knife is a $20 jobby procured in the home section at QFC. It works...okay. Mostly because I keep in well-honed, I'd wager.
*One thing that's important to keep in mind is that if you buy a carbon-steel knife, you gotta keep that MF dry at all costs or it'll rust up on you right quick. So no leaving it on a wet cutting board while you wine and dine. This knife is like your kid, okay? You gotta keep that kid dry.