This post is not about architecture, I’m not writing about London’s 122 Leadenhall Street, nicknamed the “Cheese-Grater“, but about a very modest kitchen utensil for shredding food. I’m sure you all know the feeling, grating your fingers on the razor-sharp edges of your grater, when trying to use that very last piece of Parmesan cheese, instead of taking a new big chunky wedge…
Nutmeg graters, garlic graters, mandolines… they’re all still used or found as decoration in every kitchen, either in the old version or the ultra modern one. I couldn’t resist the charm of this old French, vintage grater at one of the local vide greniers and got told when buying it, that it was “the real thing” used here in France, not just a fake one. It is, so the seller said, still easy to use, comfortable to hold, efficient and simple to clean and store. You can use it in the kitchen for its original purpose or just as a memorable decoration. Tin graters date back to the early 1800s.
France walks hand in hand with its history, all the way: in the Middle Ages the French grated nutmeg and cheese to flavor crusts. They used the bread rasp, shaped like an iron file, to scrape the bottoms of blackened loaves or to grate breadcrumbs over the surface of their soups.
The inventor of the cheese grater is of course French and the invention dates from 1540 due to François Bouillier, an eccentric Parisian. France first had a cheese surplus as the meat demand dropped and dairy took over, hence the mass of cheese varieties in that century. Then popularity dropped and cheese became hardened over time, but it sold very well once grated. Dairy stocks started to diminish and cheese became a luxury product, with graters only to be found in the kitchens of the rich. The grater later disappeared from the French cuisine altogether, only to come back in for example the Alsace region, said to be the origin of the mandolin in the nineteenth century. The inhabitants had to shred loads of cabbage in order to make their famous sauerkraut. The Provence, on the other hand, is known for its garlic grater.
Do you shred, mince, grind or pulverize in your kitchen, in order to create culinary savory dishes? What do you use your grater for, with patience and diligence: carrots, lemon peel, radishes, beets, potatoes, zucchini, zucca or squash, ginger, nutmeg, for excellent salads or casseroles? Or are you a sweet tooth: a chocolate grater person for desserts or coffees? Maybe you are the cheese fanatic, deciding upon the hardened cheese to use: Pecorino Romano, Parmigiano Reggiano or Parmesan for the Italian lovers among us or will Cheshire cheese, Red Leicester, Cheddar cheese or Edam cheese do?
I’ll leave you deciding over that last shred of my post