Laguiole Pocket Knife

Laguiole Pocket Knife

[Laguiole Pocket Knife]

All right, I’m back! Technically, I have been back from my vacation for ten days, but as soon as I returned, I left again to be a witness at the wedding of two of my favorite people in the world, an honor and a duty that I took very seriously, although they ended up requiring very little work from me — the purchase of a pretty dress, the signing of a registry, and, at one point, the making of a salad dressing.

No sooner had I touched ground after the ceremony and assorted celebrations that I found myself aboard the Eurostar, whooshing my way to London for two booksigning events, a few nice meals, and an elating food shopping session at the new Kensington Whole Foods store, with the best food shopping companion one could hope for, one with the curiosity of a child and the stamina of a marathon runner.

It took me a few days to recover and attempt to catch up with three weeks of unanswered emails — the gods of the Internet are chuckling, presumably at the absurdity of such an ambition — but here I am now, ready to take over the world or, at the very least, refill the gaunt shelves of our fridge and start cooking anew.

And just like every child deserves cool gear to start a fresh school year, I have acquired a new little helper: please meet my Laguiole pocket knife.

Eleven centimeters* when folded, twenty when it stands at full height, it has a rosewood handle, a Swedish stainless steel blade, and a hand-forged, hand-etched spring adorned with the signature bee (some say it is a fly; I say feh). It is sharp, it is beautiful, and I haven’t been this knife-proud since my father bought me a tiny opinel when I was eight.

My knife was purchased directly at its birthplace, in the gray-slated village of Laguiole** in the Aubrac region, whence come, among other edible marvels, an eponymous and delicious breed of cow, a dish of mashed potatoes made springy by the addition of fresh mountain cheese and called aligot, as well as a spit-roasted cake called gâteau à la broche.

We happened to drive through this breathtaking area en route from Dordogne to Les Vosges, having decided to take a detour and be awed by the Viaduc de Millau, the tallest vehicular bridge in the whole wide world, yes siree. From there, we were relatively close to Laguiole, home of Michel Bras, a fine AOC cheese, and tip-top cutlers. It was quite natural for us to make a stop there.

Understandably, this being a last-minute trip, Michel had not thought to hold a table for us, but the kind lady I talked to on the phone directed us to Le Méjane in the nearby village of Espalion (“They don’t have a star, but they deserve one”), where we had the most enjoyable meal of our vacation.

The next day, our self-appointed mission was to get a set of table knives, something we had been dreaming of for years. We had entertained the notion that we would simply enter the village, locate the knife shop, and buy our knives, but as we walked up and down the main street, it soon became apparent that the process wouldn’t be quite so easy: every other business on that street was a knife shop, each window offering more options than the other and threatening to overwhelm us impromptu buyers. But we kept a cool head, followed our hearts, and were quickly drawn to one artisan in particular, whose knives, simply and elegantly designed, were exactly what we’d been looking for.

We chose our set of six and matching cheese knife, and went for wooden handles, which should be regularly and lovingly nourished with linseed oil: these knives should never ever be put in the dishwasher, on penalty of buckling and splitting and other horrifying pains inflicted upon their innocent handles. (If the dishwashability of a table knife is a non-negotiable feature for you, you might consider getting an all stainless-steel set.)

We gladly accepted the offer to take a short tour of the workshop, and this allowed us to discover the many steps involved in the crafting of a single knife, and learn that each knife is made by the same cutler from start to finish, which I find very moving, for some reason.

And then, it occurred to me that I could no longer live without my own personal folding Laguiole knife — you know, for picnics and such. I pointed at the one that was calling my name in the display case, held it in my hand, pondered its heft, stroked its wood, unfolded the blade, snapped it shut again, and called it mine — I even went so far as to have my name engraved on the blade.

My enthusiasm was infectious enough that Maxence got one, too, so that we now have his-and-hers, ebony-and-rosewood Laguiole knives, like all self-respecting couples should.

A word of caution, should you be tempted to join the club: the term Laguiole, as applied to knives, has not been trademarked or protected in any way, so there are plenty of cheap imitations out there, mass-produced elsewhere and from mediocre, if not downright worthless, materials. Before you buy, inquire about where and how the knives are made, and, if possible, buy them from a store where they’ll let you examine them, checking the details of their finishing and feeling their weight in your hand.

* That’s 4 1/3 inches when folded, 8 inches when not.
** The “gu” is silent: Laguiole is pronounced “lah-yoll”.

  • stef

    Glad to have you back! Cheers a une nouvelle annee de bonnes recettes “clotildiennes”!!

  • http://blog.bubblebrothers.com Julian

    I have one too – a present from a school French exchange partner – and still love it as much as ever. I’d love to get the Laguiole corkscrews on to our list – but there’s already an Irish importer, and they are so expensive…

  • http://www.mostlyeating.com Sophie

    That’s a beautiful knife Clotilde. I remember that I have seen these bees before but had no idea about their origin – my Mum has a set of their steak knives with multi-coloured handles.

    I’d love to hear about what you bought at the Wholefoods store when you get settled back in. I’m definitely off there for a visit next time I’m in London!

  • http://www.estouest.blog.lemonde.fr est

    welcome back clotilde and long life to your new toy!

  • Karen

    What dress did you pick? Let us see.

  • http://bretzeletcafecreme.blogspot.com/ Flo Bretzel

    Laguiole, l’Aligot, Michel Bras et la maison d’hôte de la propriétaire de Tartine et Chocolat, au moins 4 raisons de faire un détour dans cette région magnifique.

  • http://www.lastcrumb.com Rose

    Oh, another item for my wish list! I love the beautiful pocket knives, but I didn’t know you could also get table knives as well.

  • Melanie

    Just wanted to say how very much I enjoyed hearing you speak at Books for Cooks last week. It was a thoroughly enjoyable and inspirational evening (so far I’ve delighted my husband with the lamb meatballs, the apple tuna pate, the mushroom and cantal tartines and, of course, the eponymous cake). I’m very much looking forward to your next book so he can return the favour of all this cooking and take me to Paris!

  • http://sprinky.blogspot.com lottie

    What a lovely talk at the Lansdowne Club! I often read and don’t comment but wanted to say how lovely it was to hear you speak about your book and life. And great knife, too.

  • http://kellytheculinarian.blogspot.com Kelly Mahoney

    What a busy couple of weeks! I like your new find, I’ll have to do some research.

  • http://www.comme-une-bulle.blogspot.com Céline-marine

    I love Laguiole too! Here is a post I made, with pictures of mines (knife + corkscrew). The Forges de Laguiole have a beautiful factory designed by Starck, well worth the visit too…

  • http://www.oswegotea.com Michele

    Clo, I’ll keep my cross trainers ready for our next marathon shopping expedition. However, next time we’ll have to bring bigger bags (on wheels maybe) and hopefully find better coffee to recuperate with afterwards!

  • http://www.badaude.typepad.com badaude

    Aren’t they gorgeous! as they’re not readily available in the UK, I use a Swiss Army hunter’s knife, which has a corkscrew and bottle opener as well as a bone saw and various blades. It’s obviously designed for hunters who, having shot their pheasant, immediately get down to turning it into a gourmet meal accompanied by a bottle or two they just happened to have with them…

  • Mel

    I adore Laguiole – we were lucky enough to receive steak knives, a cheese set & a carving set as wedding gifts earlier this year – I’m looking for any excuse now to serve steak, cheese or roasts!

    I love my little Opinel, too, for picnics.

  • http://lefrancbuveur.blogspot.com lefrancbuveur

    bien retrovouvée et nous attendons d’autres recettes deliciueuses!
    le franc buveur

  • http://www.alwaysace-thelatebloomer.blogspot.com Alice

    Hi Clotilde, so good to see you back in town again! And catching up on everything… Sounds like you had a wonderful vacation and some great book signings in the UK too. I love Laguiole knives; I have a dinner-table set, but they were a gift a few years back — I’m not even sure if they’re authentic, but I think they are!

    I know I’ve been quiet for quite some time, but I just wanted to pop in and thank you again for all the wonderful things you have done, for writing such a great cookbook. I finally, finally baptized it a few weeks ago by baking the lemon sablés a few times and posting them on my blog… I’ve also already made the zucchini crumble several times, and my boyfriend loves it! Plus, I just picked up a copy of the book for another friend of mine. I have a feeling it will make for a great gift idea for years to come… I should have stocked up!

    All the best to you, merci encore pour tout.

  • Wouter

    I actually prefer the look, price and practicality of Opinel; I own a few standard, ‘rusting’ nr 8 knifes and one beautiful new Inox and olivewood ‘Effilé’ knife, for that more luxurious occasion (read: good restaurant – bad knife ;-))

    Apparently the Laguiole brand is rather badly protected, there appear to be several factories including a few that produce absolute crap, for sale here in the Netherlands and at high prices too!

  • Pam

    I was passing through the Auvergne at the same time as you and longing to buy a set of steak knives. I have a Laguille penknife which I absolutely love. I am glad that you answered a question about authenticity though as I saw inferior plastic handled “bee ” knives in a gift shop in Salers which I could not believe were genuine ! It is a beautiful region and I adore vieux cantal cheese and aligot!

  • http://lastcrumb.com Will

    I love my Laguioles! I now have the pocket knife as well as the corkscrew and I think they are the most beautifully crafted knives (and corkscrews) I’ve ever seen.

  • Chris

    I have owned two of these knives, purchased at a store in Paris near Les Halles that sells all sorts of Laguiolle knives and corkscrews.I have loved them both. They have a heft and feel to them that is unique. Mine had bone handles and were delightfully sharp and useful.
    Sadly, I lost the first one when we moved from Paris to the United States a few years ago. And then the second one I bought was confiscated going through airport security. In fact, it’s worth noting for your readers that the blade length you purchased, which I believe is the same as the one the security officer took from me, is long enough so that he was obligated to file a report with the Dept. of Homeland Security. (So he said, anyway.)He then threatened that if I was ever found with another knife blade of that length, I could be prosecuted.
    Anyway, I have not had an opportunity to buy another one, but if readers give in to the temptation of purchasing one of these beautiful things, they should be sure and pack it in a checked piece of luggage when bringing it home.
    I also own a corkscrew by Laguiolle and I love it. It works as well as any corkscrew I have ever had and is a great conversation starter because it is so unusual.

    • Anonymous

      On my way to Paris in May, and would love to know where to buy these knives….(name of shop and street, if possible) Thanks so much
      Sherry

  • Mrs Redboots

    We passed through the Auvergne in the spring and have fallen in love with it. One day we will go back to explore it properly and to taste aligot (have you a recipe?) and maybe treat ourselves to some knives…

  • Neil

    Welcome back, Clotilde. I too have one of these and love it.

  • trillina

    Silly, girly comment: Which dress did you end up buying?

    I live the Robe Bicolore (grey/black)….

  • Ken

    Anyone know where I can get one of these knives in the US?

  • camille

    très drôle j’étais justement à Laguiole le week end dernier ou j’ai eu l’immense chance de séjourner 2 jours chez Bras en une occasion bien particulière. C’était magique, emballant et particulièrement délicieux. L’endroit est totalement en accord avec ce qu’il cuisine et tout ça fait de ce lieu une étape extraordinaire! et quelle région!

  • http://thelovelyemily.blogspot.com Emily S.

    So nice to have you back! You seem refreshed.

  • http://aioliandco.blogspot.com Laurent

    Waow! A genuine Laguiole. Now I’m thinking about buying one during my next trip to France. Will take care to pack it into a checked luggage though in order to avoid getting in trouble with Homeland Security! Thanks for the advice Chris.

    By the way Clotilde, is there an upcoming tour planned in the US to promote your new book or will we have to wait for your next book to see you in New York? :-)

  • http://windowseat.travelocity.com Charlie

    Clotilde, what a beautiful knife! I have carried a Swiss Army Knife since I was about 6, starting with the smallest little black pen knife. I have now had the same solid red “Super Tinker” for about 10 years (after my beloved “Climber” was stolen). I still can’t take it on a plane, but otherwise I always have it with me and find I use it daily.

    Cheers,

    Charlie

  • http://www.studiowellspring.blogspot.com studio wellspring

    gorgeous knife! never thought i’d say that about a pocket knife, and now i really want one.

  • http://www.steamykitchen.com Steamy Kitchen

    ohhhh….I have knife envy.

    wait. that sounded really weird.

    I have a knock off set of steak knives – b/c I can’t afford to buy the real set.

    sigh.

    maybe one day?

  • http://divineambrosia.blogspot.com Annemarie

    I have a few of those knives myself – a steak set and a cheese set – and i do love the feel of the little bee under my finger. Congrats on the book signing in London – shame I was on holiday myself, otherwise would have come to get your signature!

  • http://skinnygourmet.blogspot.com Erin

    Welcome back! Congrats again on the book tour. I found out about your site a few months ago because our local B&N did a display on your cookbook, so great publicity. Enjoy the pocket knives, they are so clever and very handy.

  • http://burntlumpia.typepad.com Marvin

    welcome back Clotilde! I’m a bit of a pocket knifeknut myself and have a few pocketknives. But you’ve definitely piqued my interest in a Laguiole now. I can’t tell from your pictures, but is there a locking mechanism on the blade when it is open?

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Marvin – There is no locking mechanism per se, but the blade stays open thanks to the piece of metal in the handle that acts as a “spring”.

  • http://www.ParisBreakfast.com ParisBreakfasts

    BRAVO! I’ve always admired Laguiole’s wine openers from a distance and wanted to visit..though I wish I had the slightest idea how to pronounce it.
    The copies are sold all over Ebay.
    Bravo on you successful trip to London as well :)

  • http://www.bleedingespresso-sognatrice.blogspot.com sognatrice

    That’s a gorgeous knife, which is something I never thought I’d say a few years ago but since I’ve been with my southern Italian mate, well, he has me looking at pocket knives in a whole new way. Here every man (and quite a few women) seem to carry them just in case they run into a salami and a chunk of bread–and they are wise to do so!

    In fact, you just gave me a great idea for a birthday present for him.

    Grazie mille :)

  • http://www.carablack.com Cara

    thanks for the tip on using linseed oil for the handle…welcome back

  • http://thehungerseattle.blogspot.com Stephen

    Beautiful pocket knife. Perfect for camping, picnics, and hiking.

  • Rosalind

    Clotilde, did you write the Wikipedia entry for opinel knives? It reads (charmingly) like your style.

  • http://www.merisi.blogspot.com Merisi’s Vienna for Beginners

    Congratulations on your successful London trip! Is the new “Whole Foods” store identical with the American one that goes by this name (my favorite store in Washington DC was Fresh Fields, acquired by Whole Foods now).
    You make me long for a pocket knife, too! :-)
    I got the Laguiole steak knives in Ivory.
    P.S.:
    Never ever take it on a flight to the US, the confiscate it if you forget it in your hand luggage. Been there, done that. :-(

  • http://inside-the-shell.blogspot.com tut-tut

    A beautiful little knife; I covet it!

  • joyofcooking

    I happened upon a deal too good to be true recently on Laguioles. I suspect they are fakes. But they sure do look pretty.

  • chorizo

    Hi Clotilde – good to have you back! Is this the pocket knife? It would make a great gift for anyone (me!). Got this info from the Benoit l’Artisan site, but am not sure if it is the pocket knife: Laguiole 11 cm Bois de Rose mitres inox
    Ref : 112MIB AFBDR
    Abeille forgée – Bois de Rose – 11 cm – 2 Mitres Inox

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Chorizo – Yes, it seems to be the one!

  • http://www.swirlingnotions.com swirlingnotions

    I bought my husband a Laguiole wine opener made out of a barrel stave for Father’s Day, with this year’s FD date engraved on it . . . he had just begun his new career in the wine industry and we were flying down to Guatemala on Father’s Day to pick up our daughter, so it seemed a perfect gift. So many celebrations to pull the cork for!

  • maraya

    Clotide,
    Super site.Your passion for food is infectious. In Paris with family.wonder if you can help me locate a store with Laguoile pocketknives? Would love to have one.

  • l’ex voisin d’en face

    Autant te dire que les larmes me montent aux yeux à la vue de ce petit bijou qui me rappelle mon pays. Même le mien n’est (presque) pas aussi beau…enfin va falloir les mettre en concurrence…un Cantal jeune serait une proie parfaite !

  • marylin

    Wonderfull Laguiole knife !
    I also purchased a Chateau Laguiole corkscrew made with wood from the Versailles Garden (I also got my name engraved on it !) it is wonderful and I always keep it in my purse. My laguiole can be found here : laguiole

  • Judie

    Hi Clotilde, I have found many Laguiole products at our TJ Maxx and Marshall’s discount stores. They are always priced at around $5 or $10, because no one knows what they are(save me!). They are beautifully packaged in wooden boxes and I believe them to be the real thing. Would you know for sure? I use my beautiful rosewood corkscrew every night.

  • http://www.missionfoto.com James

    The Laguiole knife deserves a retelling of its historical staus. The small town of Laguiole sent more men to Napolian’s army during the war than any other and as a result, Napolian granted the local knife maker the right to use his personal seal, the Honey Bee, on the backspring of the pocket knife! Look closely at your knife and you might also find a “Shepherd’s Cross” on the handle as well. The knife would have been opened and stuck into the ground outside the shepherd’s tent at night with the cross facing outwards to ward off spirits while he slept. More than just a pocket knife…

  • Andrew

    Oh I adore the Laguiole knives ever since I was given one sharp enough to shave with, sharp enough to perform surgery with, at a resto in Normandy.

    It was to eat liver with.

    Have you ever seen an entire calves liver?

    My friend Malcolm & I promptly did what men down through the ages have done when warned “be careful the knives are very sharp” we tested the blades with a thumb, they were sharp, very sharp, sharp enough to draw blood. Do women do this? I think testosterone may be a factor.

    It was with great regret that I relinquished the knife at the end of the meal (but not the end of the liver).

    I swore to myself, over coffee, that I had to go to Laguiole itself and buy myself a set of those knives, the perfect tire-bouchon (no mere corkscrew this) and a pocket knife to replace my ageing Opinel.

    Alas, I still haven’t made the trip. Perhaps next year?

  • Lisa

    Oh I was just searching for Laguiole and came across this – we actually bought our Laguiole forks and knives from Benoit L’artisan too – I found his atelier to be the least intimdating and most welcoming and the tour really made it feel more special! Now I am on the hunt for a wedding present….

  • http://www.eatlivetravelwrite.com eatlivetravelwrite

    Here’s what I bought my husband for his birthday this year!

  • http://successfulbankruptcy.weebly.com/ San Antonio Bankruptcy Lawyers

    These knife is so cool. Perfect gift for the holidays.

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