Monday, May 16, 2011

Ode to a rotary grater

Kathleen Purvis' story last Wednesday on five essential kitchen tools ("5  tools, 5 books, 5 do's and 5 don'ts for new cooks setting up their first real workspace" is a model of what we've come to expect from her writings on food over the years. It's always good, always helpful, always to the point. 

And it reminded me how much we depend on favorite kitchen tools, every bit as much as woodworkers depend upon their favorite woodworking tools.  And how much I hated it when a house fire burned up a tool bag with one of my favorite ratcheting screwdrivers. It had a spherical plastic handle about the size of a tennis ball with square holes on each side, into which a four-inch rod with a choice of Phillips or straight slot screwdriver tips could be inserted; depending on which side the rod was inserted in, the gizmo would drive screws or remove them. It was cheap, easy to use and with the large round handle, fast.  I was sorry to find they're no longer made, or at least no longer available in stores where I've looked and websites I've tried to Google.

And so it goes with the venerable Mouli Grater, one of my favorite kitchen tools.  Sad to say it's no longer made, but you can find them on E-bay and at flea markets in many places. A French company now called Moulinex once made them and we wore out a couple of them making the world's best pimento cheese for family and friends.  It was a simple tool made of lightweight tin -- sort of a tong with a cylindrical rotary grater turned by a little crank on one end.  We used it mostly to grate sharp cheddar cheese into the thinnest of shreds, which is essential in getting the cheese to meld properly with the Chinese hot sauce, mayonnaise, pickle relish and red and green peppers my wife puts into the cheese. My job is to grate the cheese; hers is to work her wonders on the blend until it's ready to try out with a handful of wheat crackers.  More hot sauce? A few more spoonfuls of relish?  I doubt that she ever made it exactly the same way as all the other times, but our friends have come to expect a tub of it when they visit.  I took at tub with me last week on an annual college-pal fishing trip. I had barely walked into the house on Beaufort's front street before one of my buddies looked up and asked, "Where's Martha's pimento cheese?" 

The Mouli Grater image atop this blogpost is from  (yep: no second 'i' in kitchen.) Here's a link:

So it's a shame they're no longer made like they once were. I've read that the availability of electronic gadgets crowded the Mouli out of the market. Some folks didn't like the way the tin would discolor; stainless steel looks better and sells better, I guess.

I know, I know: There are a lot of rotary graters on the market, and we've tried a handful of them. But none compares with the Mouli Grater for ease of use and quality of the cut. We've been nursing our last one along for years, and soon we'll probably be hunting for another one at a flea market somewhere. If you see one before I do, my advice is grab it and hoard it.


Anonymous said...

Mouli used to make excellent Food Mills too, great for getting soups to the right consistency and making tomato sauces as well. I haven't been able to find one by Mouli in a while, though.

Anonymous said...

That orange and green ball screwdriver ratcheting handle allowed for more driving power into hard substances, and grip in removing partially stripped screws. Worked great, and I haven't seen one for sale in years. Would be great for older people and those with arthritis, also.

Anonymous said...

Foley Food Mill.....the Raspberry jam maker's nuclear weapon in spreading consistency. The days when quality cooking tools were made to wear out, not fall apart. Thanks, Jack.

Doug Samut said...

Aah, the Mouli Grater!! My Mom had one for many years before she gave it to me when she found something she thought would be better! To her dying day, she regretted making that gift to me and several times tried to con me out of it, to no avail! Twenty five years later, I still have this marvel of a grater and pray that it lasts until my dying days! it is over 60 years old and still works great! Thanks Jack for reminded us of the value of older things!

Kathleen Purvis said...

Aw, thanks for the kind words, Jack. I've been on the road a lot and missed this until a guy in my church turned around Sunday and started speaking in tongues to me about Mouli graters. It's been an honor working with you, sir.

Kathleen Purvis said...

Aw, thanks for the kind words, Jack. I've been on the road and missed this until a guy in church turned around Sunday and started speaking to me in tongues about Mouli graters. It's been an honor working with you, sir.