LPTHW: Exercise 4: Variables and Names and Knives

And we’re back!

I had to take a couple weeks’ break from Coding with Knives and other creative projects because I’ve been dealing with some things in my personal life that have demanded just about all of my available energy. Awesome friends and deliberate self-care means I’m slowly getting back to a place of relative normalcy, but like all things, it’s a process… and there are bumps in the road, plenty of ’em. The key is to stay present and keep moving forward.

LPTHW’s exercise four introduces variables. In this exercise, we print simple phrases with variables inserted:


Zed also has us run Python from the terminal as a calculator, using variable names to do calculations.


Really just not a big deal at all.

So what else is not a big deal – at least, once you have the right stuff? Chopping things. That’s right, today I’m talking my namesake: cutting boards and knives.

First, cutting boards. What are you currently using? The countertop? Decorative glass? The plate you intend to serve your food on?

Over the years, I’ve seen all of the above – and each time, I shuddered. If YOU answered YES to any of the above, you should not feel ashamed or judged, but you should stop cutting things immediately, run to a store with a home goods department, and purchase a set of bamboo cutting boards.

I love bamboo because it’s renewable, cheap, sturdy, and easy to clean. Bamboo is also incredibly strong! I have been using the same suite of bamboo cutting boards for years with a very sharp chef’s knife and they are in fantastic condition. As an added bonus, I’ve found that bamboo does not seem to retain as valiantly as my solid wood cutting board the odorousness of things like garlic, onion, and ginger. This is helpful when you use these ingredients frequently.

Please note that while my cutting boards have seen all manner of plant matter, from kohlrabi to wakame, I do not handle raw meat in my kitchen (or ever) so I can’t speak to that experience.

Moving onto knives!

There’s a reason you see the same knife in all of my pictures:

Chiffonading collard greens

Chiffonading collard greens

Slicing into spaghetti squash

Slicing into spaghetti squash

Dicing roasted peppers

Dicing roasted peppers

This is because for 98% of tasks – cutting, slicing, dicing, and mincing – I use the same high-quality chef’s knife: a 185mm Super Series MAC SA-70 Utility Knife.

MAC Knife SA-70, Utility Knife, 185mm blade

A chef’s knife is by nature a multi-purpose tool, intended to help you accomplish a variety of tasks in the kitchen. It’s absolutely worth investing in one and paying to have a professional sharpen it. (Yes, I’m in the camp that suggests you don’t sharpen your own knives – deal.) I use MAC knives because once upon a time my friend Matt let me borrow his to prepare multi-course meals for two hundred people and I fell in love. I received my own as a gift in 2010 and have been using it almost daily since. Here’s a link to see the series and another to consider purchasing.

The MAC Knife is not inexpensive, and I’m convinced that anyone who cooks regularly should make the sacrifice of $100 or so for a decent tool. But if, for whatever reason, you are not able to spend that kind of money right now, I suggest a suitable alternative: the IKEA 365+ GNISTRA Vegetable Knife.

IKEA Gnistra Vegetable KnifeCompared to my svelte MAC knife, it is a bit heavier and clunkier, but make no mistake: this $15 bargain is a versatile knife that takes well to professional sharpening. And it’s better made than you might expect. The first time I had a professional sharpen my knives, he of course oohed and aahed over the MAC. But when I pulled out the IKEA knife, he admitted that it was much better quality than he anticipated.

So there you have it! Cutting boards and knives: essential. Make it happen!

4 thoughts on “LPTHW: Exercise 4: Variables and Names and Knives

  1. hehe, reminds me of a tweet from the JQuery guy

    @jeresig “My 7 year old started learning JS on Khan Academy, and said ‘dad, how many variables do you have in your programs? variables are so cool!'”


  2. Pingback: LPTHW: Exercise 5: More Variables and Printing and Prepping Collards | Coding with Knives

  3. Pingback: LPTHW: Exercises 7, 8, 9, 10… and kale! | Coding with Knives

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