I met my first Mouli grater in about 1977, and since then I have never been without one. There are other plier-style graters that are prettier, sharper and made from finer metal, but none of the many that I have seen have the appeal of the cheapest, crappiest tinned-metal Mouli.
My first Mouli (circa 1978) was almost identical to the one I have now (shown here in the slide show) but it had a wooden and not a plastic crank- handle.
After 3 decades of consanguinity, I've got more than enough reasons to love the Mouli. For starters, the Mouli (I assume the word is a diminutive form of moulin, the French word for "mill.") is more faithful than really good dog. It requires no special care, asks for nothing and it never fails to deliver a shower of perfectly grated cheese (Find me a dog who can do that!). I'm always thankful when a tool delivers exactly what it promises. However, when that tool also happens to be really cheap (the Mouli in the photo was 7 dollars) , exceptionally homely and rare (I have not seen one in someone else's home since the early 1980's) I'm not going to be able to be objective about it.
The following slide show shows my Mouli grater in action. The occasion was dinner tonight (8/9/08; please ignore the date on the show) at my home. It was a solo dinner (my wife is in Las Vegas, my kids are in New York) of pizza with summer squash, onions, tomato, Pave d'Affonois (goat) cheese, Mozzarella and, of course, grated Parmesan. The wine was Dolcetto d' Alba.
Hey, if you know anything about the origin of the typeface used on the Mouli would you mind dropping me a few lines? I'm making myself nuts trying to place it in time. It looks a lot like type I've seen on late 19th century French advertising posters, but it smells of the stripped -down mechanical aesthetic of post WWI futurism. Anything you can tell me about will be appreciated! -bdG