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Monday July 4, 2011

Manual coconut grater takes back seat in modern day kitchens

MY MEMORIES of a traditional coconut grater dates back to the time when I was a little girl, growing up closely with my late grandmother.

She usually assigned me to get the coconuts grated from a sundry shop in the neighbourhood that has a motorised coconut grater. She gave me 20 sen for the chore — 10 sen to pay for grating and 10 sen to buy candies for myself.

Alternatively, I could also choose to stay home to grate coconuts using a traditional, old-fashioned, manual coconut grater and keep the 20 sen for myself.

I usually opted for the second option — not because I was greedy to pocket the money but because of the fear of stray dogs that roamed the area close to the sundry shop.

Manual work: The writer’s mother Lily Jebanesam scraping coconut on the grater.

Sensing my fear, the dogs usually growled and chased me till the end of the road on a bad day, and for a child of six or seven years old this was traumatic.

Staying home to grate coconut manually, not only earned me extra “candy” coins, but I also became an expert. I could grate a full coconut within minutes and grandmother was pleased with it.

We hardly had to buy any coconuts because my late grandfather planted many trees at the backyard of our house.

Although pasteurised coconut milk in cartons and packets were already available in the market at that time, grandma still believed in milk squeezed out of freshly-grated coconuts daily.

“Powdered coconut milk? Pre-packet ones? How is that possible? They must be pumping tonnes of preservatives in it to keep it good for months. It is not healthy. There is nothing like the fresh ones,” grandma would say.

The practice of using fresh coconut milk for cooking has stuck with me till today, although I hardly grate coconuts at home these days.

Easy storage: The coconut scraper is a tool that is very handy in a kitchen.

The change in my lifestyle has caused the old coconut grater to take a back seat, left all alone in the kitchen cabinet. But whenever I look at it, I am reminded of my younger days when life was simpler.

But I also think that a coconut grater is a smart, user-friendly and a useful kitchen tool. It is convenient for home use — easy and cheap, and it is always there when you need it.

It is a good tool to have your child help out in the kitchen, as it is relatively fast to grate coconut even for the untrained hands of a child.

I am amazed by the simplicity of the design too — a metal-grating head attached to a low wooden stool.

To use, just flip open the seat and pull out the scraper head before closing it back and sitting on it whichever way you feel comfortable.

There are also even simpler designs where a grater is attached to a stool without any folding mechanisms involved.

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