When I went to restaurants as a child my favourite moment was the "say when" of the waiter cloaking your red spaghetti in a white cloud of parmesan. They would have to do the hard graft of grinding a block of cheese against a slab of metal with holes in, and only human decency stood between you and a mountain of fluffy goodness.
I now realise that these waiters probably weren't using the same blunt IKEA box grater which I rattled over penne throughout my years as a student, but a proper cheese grater which produces perfect ribbons of parmesan with even with most feeble of wrist action. This epiphany came to me after I bought a microplane grater last year and saw that zesting a lime or putting the top layer on an aubergine parmigiana doesn't need to result in a trip to the chiropractor.
I had heard people wax lyrical about the power of microplanes in the past, but really, who spends £24 on a cheese grater? I chalked it up as one of those culinary extravagances, like an ice cream machine or those funny rubber resting docks which you place soup ladles in to stop them splattering the counter.
I was wrong, it turns out; spending a little bit more on something can vastly improve its results. Who knew? On buying my own microplane, I couldn't believe the time and sweat I had wasted on my crappy grater for so many years.
The fine blade is perfect for grating ginger or garlic without turning it to mush, or for grating dark chocolate over ice cream. I never would have done this in my former, far less fancy life, but seeing the frills of chocolate falling like snow onto my bowl makes me feel like a graduate of the French Culinary Institute, even if the ice cream was half price and looks slightly freezer-burned.
It turns out that £24 is not much for an easier life. Especially one where you never have to "say when".
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