Cheese has long been a staple of many diets around the world. For centuries, cheese has been made in a variety of sizes. In the middle of the 16th century, however, people were starting to get tired of having to hand-carve the hard cheeses that were being produced. These cheeses were tasty, but took a lot of work! Then François Boullier had an idea: what if a tool could be created that would grate foods into fine pieces? This would solve the problem of the hard cheese and help prepare other foods as well. That was the foundation of thought behind the invention of the cheese grater.
Some people also give credit to Isaac Hunt for the invention within the same decade. Whether they did so simultaneously, worked together on it, or one came before the other, what matters most is that we have a very useful tool for the kitchen today.
What About the Modern Cheese Grater?
There’s a funny thing about inventions – sometimes they just don’t seem to catch on like you would think they should. The cheese grater would help families stretch their budgets and use up the excess cheese that was being produced, but it didn’t catch on for almost 400 years in some areas of the world, especially in the United States. Then, at the height of the Great Depression when it was difficult to find food, a man named Jeffery Taylor created a new cheese grater.
How did he do it? He put in sharpened holes into the metal drain of his shower. Graters will still being produced and people were still using them consistently, but it took another time of desperation for them to become an integrated part of society. His invention took off, hopefully without the shower drain residue included in future models, and this allowed home cooks to make their dishes look bigger and more fulfilling.
Why Did the Cheese Grater Fall Out of Favor?
For a period of time in Europe, it was thought that meat consumption was not the way to go. Instead of consuming meat, fruits, vegetables, and cheese became the focus of many diets. This caused cheese inventories to rise because farmers converted to dairy herds to keep earning a living. This all changed in 1555, however, when a drought decimated farms. Cheese that was once abundant became non-existent quickly. By 1580, cheese was such a luxury item that the thought of grating it became taboo.
Today you can find cheese graters of many different sizes, shapes, and designs. Some work with small bits of cheese with a hand crank. Microplanes are available, while traditional box graters and slicers are still widely available as well.
Truth be told, we likely have all three men to thank for this useful tool in the kitchen. Whether you’re shredding cheese or zesting an orange, take a moment to thank them for their creativity as you create your next brilliant dish.