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Leite’s Loves…Laguiole Steak Knives

My husband E likes to give big gifts. Extravagant gifts. Thoughtful gifts. Like a patootie-kicking mountain bike. A week in Paris. A Macbook Air laptop tucked inside a vintage leather messenger bag so I can call the city’s endless park benches and sunny stoops my office.

I veer toward less pricey gifts. Practical gifts. Gifts inspired by a farmer’s daughter’s frugality. Like a virtual surprise birthday party with friends scattered across several continents. A private bourbon tasting of rare bottlings for him and a buddy so he knows exactly which brands are worth the splurge. And, this past Christmas, plastic utensils.

Uh, let me explain. Last December, the loss of a loved one left us thinking presents weren’t exactly a priority. Still, I thought coming home to a little something under the tree–left bare in our rush out of town—would perhaps create a moment of loveliness, something to help soothe our raw and frazzled edges. So I did what I, and every rational, rationalizing woman I know, instinctively do when circumstances scream for some measure of found happiness. I splurged at Anthropologie.

It was a modest extravagance, as extravagances go. A set of six steak knives. Steak knives that were swoon at first sight. Steak knives that flaunted stately blades of sturdy stainless steel and curvaceous handles fashioned from, of all crazy things, lollipop-colored PVC.

The knives are crafted by forge de Laguiole, the legendary French house whose artisanal craftsmanship can be traced back two centuries and whose unparalleled elegance I’d coveted the past two decades. Though the company tends toward more masculine designs drawing on wood handles, a nod to their beginnings as makers of pocket-knives for sheepherders, this psychedelic set was unlike any other Laguiole creations I’d seen. Yet I’d recognized that luxurious curve immediately.

Utensils, yes. Utilitarian, not so much.

At least not to me. E’s reaction as he unwrapped the box was one of…well, his response wasn’t exactly swooning. Let’s just say it was one of surprise. Bemused, eyebrow-raising surprise. Holding a slender knife—the magenta one–daintily in his rugged hand, his expression said everything. Flimsy. Silly. Girlie. “They’re not terrible,” he finally said halfheartedly.

I kept them anyways. Call it woman’s intuition, call it the lure of something unabashedly and irresistibly bohemian, call it me just knowing my man and his patience for what I find to be lovely. All it took for E to appreciate Laguiole’s stylish blade and its ability to slide through a single steak—ribeye, grass-fed, washed down with bubbly—as if it were silk. He’s since come to appreciate the knives more, having experienced how they work just as deftly on takeout chargrilled chicken from across the street and, quite frankly, how the colors on our wooden dining table please me. Now he finds any excuse to use them, such that I let our Lauguioles out on the counter, their jaunty handles jutting out of an antique canning jar, mostly because I like to watch E as he muses over which color he selects on a given night. Although as befits the thoughtful guy that he is, he always lets me select first. I have to say, I consider that moment to be a gift.

Laguiole steak knives are not currently available at Anthropologie, although the set of six knives in psychedelic colors is available elsewhere, including the very reasonably priced Whisk and, not surprisingly, at Amazon, albeit priced at a slightly more indulgent splurge. The knives can also be found in more muted colors at Wine Enthusiast. The full array of Laguiole steak knives, in traditional wood grain or crazy colors, can be found at the source, Laguiole.