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The History of the Grater

The History of the Grater

Who doesn’t love hash browns, especially when you’re hungover? Amiright !? Now, imagine making them without a grater, and hungover! Could you imagine cutting small strips of potato, HUNGOVER? Who is the mastermind behind this creation? Who do we owe our most heartfelt THANKS for simplifying our culinary lives?

Going Wayyyy Back

In the mid-16th century, disease in meat (ewww) was a huge concern, so farmers began focusing on dairy instead. This led to a massive surge in the supply of cheese across France. Ironically, this became too much of a good thing and often times cheeses went hard over time, due to lack of consumption.

Hand-carving hard cheese became a lot of work - like, Crossfit hard. So hard.  That’s when François Boullier realized something needed to be done, circa 1540. So he started a GoFundMe (atta boy)  and used pewter to make the first ever grater (wanna peek? It now sits in the Musee de Havre in France). Sidenote: Some claim Englishman Isaac Hunt thought of it first, around the same time, while others say he only created a similar tool.

Then It Got Dry...Real Dry.

In 1555, Europe was hit by a massive drought that destroyed farms and depleted dairy herds. Think Oregon Trail bad. This put an end to the abundance of cheese and sale of prune juice dropped by like 74%.  By 1580, cheese became a luxury only the wealthy could afford- those bastards. In fact, cheese even disappeared altogether from French cuisine for a long period. IMAGINE! Due to its exorbitant costs, grating cheese became taboo, which automatically caused graters to lose all their market value. Sad day.

Nothing Like A Disaster To Bring it Back

During the Great Depression, food had become scarce, and people focused on making the most with what they had. In the 1920s, Jeffrey Taylor from Philadelphia, who owned a cheese store with plenty of hard cheese, decided to revisit the idea of graters. He made his prototype using a metal shower drain (hopefully a new one, because o.m.g.). He filed down the drain holes to sharpen them. Soon enough, its popularity soared and Jeffrey began selling them in his store. BOOM!

The Grater Now

Since then, various designers have made their own versions of the grater...even ones for your feet! It comes in all shapes and sizes, using not only metal, but even wood and bamboo. They’re used to grate pretty much everything from cheese to carrots, oranges to nutmeg. What started with one French guy deciding to do something about all the extra cheese laying around his house, revolutionized cooking forever. I wonder if Francois imagined that even five centuries after he made his little shower drain contraption, it would continue to be in almost every single home across the globe, becoming the reason for one of the world’s most favorites breakfast dishes...HASH BROWNS!

So, the next time you’ve grated Parmigiano-Reggiano over your pasta, or decide to make your own hash browns, don’t forget to thank Francois, Isaac and Jeffrey. Bless their little hearts.

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  • Amalee on

    YES YES YESSSS. I love food history and how learning about it increases my joy and appreciation for food!

  • Missy on

    Love the info and the writing style! #speakstomysoul #kindredspirits


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