I am a graduate student who has recently gotten very into cooking (I have always been into baking but until the last couple years, nothing else much).
I am not a vegetarian but I very rarely cook meat. I am more likely to cook fish, but it is still pretty rare. Mostly I cook food that is kosher dairy and I chop a lot of vegetables, but I'm not exceptionally good at it. I live in a house where we all cook for each other and most of our kitchen equipment is shared, but I'm planning on getting the knife for me to keep. My housemates are good about washing and drying knives promptly. I also am the culinary officer for our local Hillel and cook Shabbat dinner for about 20 every week. Usually I would be cooking in a different kitchen with different knives, but sometimes I cook dairy meals at home so I suppose that is relevant.
I chop lots of onions, garlic, peppers, sweet potatoes, and squash. I also mince a lot of ginger. We have a low-end Santoku which works ok for most of what I do (except squashes). I may be interested in a good Santoku in the future, or alternatively I might just get a different sized chef's knife of the same kind, but either way I am not looking for that right now. Now I want to get a knife that is generally useful but is in particular good at cutting squashes (we most eat butternut, acorn, and kabocha). For that purpose is an 8" or a 10" knife better?
I have read a lot about carbon and stainless, and while I am probably sufficiently OCD about my kitchen equipment to use carbon steel, I think I'm only really interested if it makes a big difference in quality:price ratio for my purposes, given the maintenacne required. I am assuming that a particularly sharp knife that won't chip (carbon steel is that, yes?) is good for squash, and I don't really have to use it on tomatoes and whatnot since I will also have either a stainless Santoku or a stainless chef's knife. On the other hand I am not a professional chef and don't really know what I am talking about, otherwise I wouldn't be posting here. I am definitely going to keep any knife I get at this price as sharp as I can and take good care of it to the best of my ability. I don't know how to hone and sharpen a knife but I intend to learn.
Finally, we come down to brands and profile. I am not too worried about whether I get French or German, since I haven't been trained to use either so I have to learn either way. For squashes I am worried about Japanese since I have read that they are prone to chipping when cutting things like that, although if there are any kinds of Japanese knives that cut squash particularly well I would like to hear about them. If I learn to use a Santoku and one kind of chef's knife, is there one of French and German that complements it better or is easier to learn alongside it? For reasons to do with keeping kosher I want a knife forged out of a single piece of steel with a full tang. I have seen recommendations of Wusthof Classic and K-Sabatier as good brands of German and French knives respectively, and would love to hear about more. Wusthof seems to be a lot more expensive than K-Sabatier, but I'd be willing to consider it were I convinced it was better for my purposes or better in quality. Being a grad student, I am not exactly awash in money, but I am prepared to pay up to $150 for a 10" chef's or $120 for an 8" if I really think the difference is worth it to me, although I would prefer to spend $100 or less. The knives I am thinking about right now include the K-Sab Bellevue (90 dollars for 10"), the K-Sab carbon steel knife (70 for 10"), and the Wusthof Classic (150 for 10"). Any other suggestions?
Once I choose a knife, what do I need to buy to hone and sharpen it, and where is a good guide for how to do it?
For future reference, how big is the difference in honing and sharpening Japanese vs European knives, and how much extra would it cost to get the special honing rod if it is required? Do Wusthof/K-Sab/etc Santokus need the same special treatment with honing as, for example, Global Santokus? And do they compare in quality (noting that they are noticably cheaper, like 90 dollars instead of 120)?