At the end of a 60 Minutes show, Andy Rooney takes his time to complain about stuff. I guess you get to do that when you've been around as long as he has. Once, though, he did something rather fascinating: he emptied out his kitchen drawers and complained about all the useless junk inside. Like antediluvian junk. Circa the Hoover administration at least. He had egg slicers and olive pitters and strange metal contraptions the uses for which have long been forgotten. Then, after his griping, he returned everything to the drawer and, the implication was clear, put it all back in the kitchen. Which is an interesting object lesson.

We all have, lurking in our kitchen drawers, strange and wonderful things. But how useful are they? OXO vegetable peelers and microplanes: very useful. Sushi mats and pastry brushes: maybe. Gnocchi boards and meat pounders: not so much. Here's one tool that you may have rolling around in the back of the drawer, or maybe impaled in that Henckels Four Star 9-Piece Block Set like some Arthurian metaphor. A sharpening steel.

Sharpening steels; Credit: Photo credit: Amy Scattergood

Sharpening steels; Credit: Photo credit: Amy Scattergood

If you've not used one, they're very handy, not least because you look so terribly cheffy wielding one about. They do not actually sharpen your knives, but instead realign the edge and thus lengthen the time required between actual sharpening. Many steels are called diamond steels, as the rough surface contains actual diamond dust. (Even so, most steels are quite inexpensive, usually under $25.) Using a steel takes practice, but it's easy to get the hang of it and, once mastered, it's a fantastic party trick. They're also fun to collect. Here are a few I've found at flea markets, from old butcher shops and estate sales.

Got anything particularly interesting in your kitchen drawer? Let us know. We can always write to Andy Rooney.

LA Weekly