On a quest to find a working cheese grater


Pat holds her $20 cheese grater that doesn’t grate cheese. Photo provided by Pat Van Dyke

I could live just on cheese. I love grilled cheese sandwiches, potato cheese soup and any casserole topped with cheese. There’s only one problem: I hate to grate cheese. Actually, hate isn’t strong enough, I abhor grating cheese.

I tried shredded cheese. As a cheese connoisseur, I noticed that it didn’t melt the same as freshly grated cheese so I did the research. Shredded cheese is coated with powdered cellulose, potato starch, and natamycin so that the pieces won’t stick together or mold. It didn’t sound very healthy, so I scraped the idea of shredded cheese.

I began my quest for a cheese grater early in our marriage. I’ve had them all and have the scars on my knuckles and fingertip to prove it. Then I learned about food processors.

So far, I have owned three food processors and have killed two. You might think that “killed” is a strong word to use, but that’s what I did. I read the warnings about grating soft cheese in the processor. I saw the pictures of soft cheese with a huge X placed over it, but I ignored it all. Twice, I threw caution to the wind and grated my soft cheese in a food processor. Each time, it worked for a while, but after a few short months, the food processor clearly indicated that “enough is enough,” stopped the turning grater mid cycle, gave out screeching sound and kept trying to spin with a glob of cheese stuck on the grater and smoke filling the air.

All I could do was to pull the plug, take out the glob of cheese and give the processor a proper burial in the big black trash can on the side of our house.

Then I attended the San Diego County Fair and everything changed.

I hadn’t been at a county fair for years and was amazed at all of the new gadgets to slice, chop, and (believe it or not!) grate. I didn’t fall for the slicing and I ignored the chopping; but when I saw the grating vendor, I rushed to the display.

The vendor had piles of grated cheese on his table and was grating more: the smell of cheddar and parmesan cheese filled the air. He gently turned his “cheese grater” and the cheese fell out easily. This was the no-effort-cheese-grater for which I had been searching. I was the gullible woman for whom he had been searching.

I only asked him one question and I was hooked. “Is it easy to use?” “Just watch,” he said

I watched him grate the cheese until he asked, “Do you want to try the grater?” My warning system totally went out of gear and I started to pick up some cheese. He held my hand back. It was here that I should have discover that “We have a problem.” But I didn’t. I really wanted that cheese grater.

You would have thought that I was at “Dr. Wilson’s Memory Elixir Old Time Medicine Show.” I was falling for it hook, line, and sinker. We had now drawn a crowd.

“I’m sorry, but you can’t grate the cheese. Only I, as the demonstrator, can grate cheese because of the health codes in San Diego County. It’s the law. But you can grate some crackers.”

My warning system should have detected a problem; but somehow, it missed it. This is where by gullibility hit the roof. “Cheese vs. Crackers? That’s close enough. Bring on the grater”

He put the crackers in the container and I turned the cylinder. I have never grated anything so easily in my life. It was smooth and fast. The crowd cheered!

Convinced that this was exactly what I needed, I bought two. One for $20 or two for $30….The decision was easy. One for me and one for a gift.

I would tell everyone I knew, “I found this at the fair.” A musical would be written on my experience.

The next day, I gave my new cheese grater a trial run. I put in a piece of cheese. The cylinder wouldn’t turn. I pushed, turned and pressed. I determined that maybe the cheddar cheese was too soft, so I tried parmesan. The cylinder moved, but the cheese was too hard and didn’t even touch the grater.

Finally, I did the inevitable. I reached for a box of crackers! Not any cracker….only small pieces of stale saltines. Now all I have to do is find a recipe that calls for grated stale saltine crackers.


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Pat Van Dyke