By Nancy Todd
Shhhhhhh. Listen. You may hear a shrill whistle, twittering up the scale and back down. This is a sound of old Spain, and still occasionally found today. That call means the Knife-sharpeners are pushing their motorcycles through the quiet plazas and streets of neighborhoods. They are sounding the message to restaurants, bars, and housewives that they are ready to sharpen knives for the cut of the tissue paper slice of ham, cheese, or to filet a fish.
The Knife-sharpeners can be found in Barcelona, Madrid, Toledo, Seville, other cities and villages throughout Spain. However, they are becoming fewer and fewer as more people buy a rig at Ikea for home sharpening.
These men are clever jerry-riggers and are utilizing the motor on their motor cycles to operate the grinding wheels. They used to use bicycles. Their whistles are small, with several tubes that make their distinctive sound. I consider myself lucky to have seen a few and always listen for that whistle.