Betsy Lindell


Yes, yes, yes. We all know what it is, but how many times have we stopped to admire its beauty? On a sunlit afternoon in my parents’ kitchen I appreciate the form of this box grater. 

It reminds me of Donald Judd, a sculptor who began producing work in the 60’s that revolutionized the way we digest art. He used affordable material such as aluminum and stainless steel to create boxes. Displayed together, each box was “a unique object in space”. Or if you prefer: volumetric art. The slight variations in his cubes as well as their connection to the floor or wall, transformed the room itself. He believed the negative space was as important as the positive. The light is an active ingredient. Where it plays on one surface and fails to reach another, changes our understanding of the form. 

I have seen his work on a trip to western Texas and the boxes proved irresistible. I was not allowed to touch them, but someone else did. I saw their oxidized fingerprint on the aluminum.
Now, maybe a grater is just a grater, a ubiquitous design created during the time of Enlightenment when cheese was king. But just think what a grater can do for us! It can un-orange the orange, take the zest, the skin, the part most people peel off and throw in the thrash and turn it into a flavor heavier than juice and lighter than flesh. Something fresh and strong.

A grater is not a new idea. It’s actually been around since the 16th century. It was invented by a Frenchman, Francois Boullier and popularized in America four hundred years later. During the Depression, Jeffery Taylor rolled out a shower drain as his prototype and gave it a name: grater, as in greater than the sum of its parts. Today the famous grater is used by almost every culture to carve out anything from a potato to a coconut. It’s simple, artful and perhaps most important: affordable.