Grated cheese is an important ingredient in my kitchen: first of all, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, then Montasio, Gouda, and other cheeses.
I use only authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano and whatever cheese I choose for a specific dish, I grate it immediately before use. To support my position, I am calling Gordon Edgar, cheesemonger at Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco. In his autobiography, Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge (2010), Edgar writes:
“Parmigiano Reggiano: Always buy this. It’s the real thing. Even the best domestic Parmesans are just sad imitations… Some Reggianos are better than others, but all are top quality. For the sake of Sweet Cheesus, don’t buy it pre-grated, unless you are doing a large event.”
As a child, I looked forward to being given the task of grating cheese for pasta. As I grated a chunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano, the pleasant nutty aroma of the cheese would fill my nose. Then, I would reward myself with a small morsel of the cheese, my special appetizer. Some of the cheese graters I used were interesting tools. My favorite cheese grater (grattugia) was in the kitchen of one of my aunts: it had a circular grating surface screwed onto a container, a setup that prevented accidental scattering around of the precious grated cheese.
Another food that I grate on-demand is bread. No amount of praise for a specific brand of packaged breadcrumbs (pangrattato) will convince me that this is an item to be purchased. I bake my bread and make breadcrumbs with it any time I need them.
In my California kitchen, for a while, I made do with a flat grater, but it was not very comfortable. Then, during a visit to Italy, I found a grater (manufactured by a French company) that works nicely, a variation on the rotary grater.
The piece of cheese or bread to be grated is inserted into the hopper and kept in place by the feeder. Turning the handle rotates the drum, which grates the food. The food particles drop into the small bowl that functions as the base of the hand-powered appliance.
The only limitation of this grater is that the piece of food to be grated must be small enough to fit into the hopper. Another grater I have overcomes this limitation by having a flat blade and also a container to hold the grated food: although smaller, oval rather than round, and with the container made of plastic rather than metal, it functions like my aunt’s grater mentioned above.
Holding the container with one hand makes the grating more comfortable than with a simple flat grater. The name of this grater references storing the cheese, but I only grate as much cheese as I need for the dish I am preparing, so no storage is required.