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Sample Response:

The prompt has asked me which kitchen utensil I would choose to be, if I had the option. This is an interesting question, which could be viewed from a number of different perspectives. We could consider versatility, precision, and durability, and likely many other qualities. With these qualities in mind, I think I would choose the standard chef’s knife. This is usually a knife that has a clean edge (i.e., not serrated), approximately 8 inches (20 cm) long, and about 1.5 inches wide. The blade itself is mostly straight, with a deep curve toward the tip, and it is most often made of steel. As well, the blade has clever indents which keep sliced food from sticking to it, allowing air to flow in between the blade and the object being sliced, meaning it was thoughtfully designed. If you ever watch cooking shows and see a chef quickly slicing, chopping, or mincing vegetables, you’ve likely seen a chef’s knife in action.

Chef’s knives are remarkably versatile and have many creative uses beyond what is intended. While they are superior for slicing, dicing, chopping, mincing and other standard kitchen moves, they can also be used in many novel ways. A quick “thwak” of the sharp side of the blade into an avocado pit will allow for easy extraction, and the dull side of the blade can be used for creating dents in difficult-to-open jars, breaking the seal and making opening the jar quite easy. The curve of the blade at the tip means that it can be used for hefty jobs, such as splitting open a large, stubborn squash, or delicate jobs, such as peeling fruits or decoratively carving radishes or strawberries. As well, the flat sides of the blade can be pressed into minced garlic to create garlic paste, and the dull side is said to be useful for cracking coconuts (though I’ve not been brave enough to try this myself!). If you need to open plastic or taped packaging, a chef’s knife is usually sharp and sturdy enough to do this with ease, and it can be used for similar trimming jobs around the house. It can even be used to slice through paper or cardboard, if needed. So long as it is kept sharpened, it can be used for many tasks.

In addition to its versatility, the chef’s knife is often precisely balanced during the manufacturing process, ensuring optimal comfort, balance, and precise control, so that any food preparation work can be done quickly, effectively, and safely. The precise balance is meant to allow the cook to very rapidly process foods that need to be broken down (sliced, diced, minced, etc.), and to do so safely, with a good grip, given that the blade itself is extremely sharp. The ease with which this knife is employed makes it superior to paring knives, steak knives, and other common utensils, and it is very easy to sharpen, as opposed to serrated blades.

Lastly, the chef’s knife is remarkably durable. Often made of folded steel, a good chef’s knife can last a person their entire lifetime. While not all blades are made this way – and those that are often come with hefty price tags – even mass produced, “stamped” blades will last for many years. This allows a person to become deeply familiar and comfortable with the blade, increasing their skill over time.

So, if I were a kitchen utensil, I’d be a chef’s knife. In particular, I appreciate how versatile the blade is, and the fact that it is adaptable for use in any number of contexts. The care that goes into the manufacturing of such knives results in a tool that is remarkably precise; although it is a rather large piece of kitchen equipment, its range of usefulness is extended on the sheer basis of its precision and balance. I also like the fact that it is a remarkably durable tool, capable of lasting a person’s entire lifetime.

These qualities – versatility, precision, and durability – can also translate into the context of medicine. As physicians, we will certainly specialize in particular sub-disciplines, but we must be able to constantly adapt to new circumstances and new contexts. The flow of work differs greatly, for example, between rotations in a hospital setting and in private offices or clinics. Oftentimes, physicians must work in multiple contexts, and thus must adapt day-by-day to these very different areas of practice. As well, with meticulous note-taking and reviews of complex medical histories as an everyday part of the job, precision is fundamental in ensuring optimal patient care, where nothing is missed or overlooked. Finally, such shifting contexts and need for constant vigilance can easily lead to burnout, if a physician is not practicing appropriate self-care and building up their durability. This is a difficult and demanding (though also rewarding) profession, and the ability to shoulder that stress, to compartmentalize personal issues with which we may be struggling, and to keep our own well-being in mind as a priority, are all necessary to build up our own durability, which in turn will ensure optimal patient care, and thus optimal patient outcomes.

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