On tools

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Tools may be the most undervalued elements of our everyday lives.

For my birthday, I received a rotary grater. It’s a long metal clamp with a rectangular box on one side. A metal cylinder covered in small holes and sharp metal parts fits inside a hole in that box. A small handle allows you to spin it around, as you press down on a piece of cheese or vegetable.

It’s a new toy, and I was eager to play. I made Alsatian potato cakes – Krumberkichle – tzatziki, and carrot salad, nostalgic dishes from the past.

As I slid pieces of carrot and potato through the machine, I noted that each offered a different experience. Sometimes, the cylinder spun effortlessly, dropping nice long strips of white and orange into the bowl. Sometimes, it took effort, and a change of hands, for the rotor to grip. Sometimes, I had to replace the piece of hard vegetable two, three, four times, before I was able to properly grate it.

I will get better with time – tools need some getting used to. But not only. my childhood kitchen came back to mind, my mother would often complain about the grater ‘not working’. Whatever tool we’re using, sometimes, things do not work. Some pieces require disproportionate effort, whether we’re biking, writing, or grating. And that effort is often indirect. It’s not a matter of pressing stronger or spinning faster, but patiently replacing the carrot, as often as it needs. Or, if nothing else works, take it out of the metal box and bite on it, or throw it in the bin.

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