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The "Woman's Knife"

Category: gardening | Posted: Mon Oct 20, 2008 9:18 pm

Several days ago I made a huge pot of split pea soup and relied on my 20 year-old ulu, as usual, to chop the necessary vegetables into edible pieces. Now, you ask "what the devil is an ulu"?
First of all, the implement's name is pronounced "ooo-loo"; it dates back some 2,500 years; is the Alaskan Inuit womans all purpose knife that's used for anything from skinning/cleaning animals to cutting a childs hair and everything inbetween! At one point in time, the ulu was made with caribou antler for the handle and sharp slate rock to cut with, then came the introduction of metal for use as the blade (old, discarded saw blades were once used and honed to a fine cutting edge). The overall design hasn't changed a bit over the centuries, is basically the same as it was eons ago.
When I lived in Southeastern Alaska, ulus were for sale anywhere there was a souvenier shop, were touted as being only available in Alaska. I was in Anchorage for a training seminar, happened into a grocery store that had wooden-handled ulus for $4.98, so purchased one as the price was sure right (these can sell for as much as $200 depending on craftsmanship involved): was one of the BEST investments I ever made!
Because of price, I didn't have much hope as to its cutting ability. Included instructions WARNED of the blades' sharpness, took a few good finger cuts to realize the warning was NO JOKE: I even managed to trim fingernails, once or twice, when I got a bit too careless!
That was 20 years ago, I have GREAT RESPECT for my ulu to this day. I use it CONSTANTLY for dicing, slicing and whatever, have found it to be invaluable in the kitchen! It's been said these can even be used for filleting salmon and other fish. However, since someone gave us an electric filleting knife, I got lazy and never tried the ulu on those projects, but have used it to cut fish strips for smoking..sliced right thru the fish fillets like they were butter! Or my fingertip!
I've had many friends book tours to Alaska and I highly recommended they buy an ulu while there as they'd never regret the purchase.. ONCE they got USED to using it without fatality that is! Ulu's ARE classified as "dangerous weapons" because of blade sharpness, MUST be packed inside checked-in baggage at airports or security will be at your elbow and threatening confiscation..can be a very EMBARRASING situation!! I KNOW! They can be purchased on the internet now, but only thru Alaskan dealers as the ulu is "native" to that State, won't find the TRUE one anywhere else!
Now you also know what an ulu is. For pictures of various types, and a great history of them, type in "History of the Alaska ulu" and go to the Wikipedia site. You really have to LIVE with one to fully enjoy and appreciate it's values tho'..and keep the bandaids handy!

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