After completing one of my media-relations seminars in Vermont in the late-90s, my friend Jane Kirby picked me up from the Inn at Essex for a visit to her farm in nearby Charlotte. Our friendship dates back to the ‘80s when I was the food editor of the New Haven Register, she was the food editor of Glamour and we both were (and still are) registered dietitians.

As I got into her car, we began yakking and didn’t stop until she dropped me off at the airport the next day for my flight home. We covered life, work, divorce, food, nutrition, our kids, her farm, my seminars, her cooking school…

Jane mentioned that she had opened The Vermont Cooking School shortly after she moved there from New York City to teach nutrition-centered culinary arts to home cooks. She held her classes right in her kitchen and by the grills in her backyard. She translates the science of nutrition into the pleasures of eating.

As we began prepping the food for dinner, she grabbed a kitchen tool that until that time I hadn’t seen. It was a long thin piece of metal, about the length of a ruler, with hundreds of tiny sharp edges for grating. She held the tool in one hand, a lemon in the other and rubbed the sharp edges against the peel of a lemon. Voila! She had fine zest shavings to add to a sauce for the about-to-be-grilled asparagus.

That simple sauce, by the way, is one I’ve reproduced countless times when I grill or roast asparagus. I just thin some mayonnaise with a little fresh lemon juice, add the zest from the lemon and some cayenne pepper to taste. Simple. Delicious. And quite addictive with the asparagus, I should add.

“Where did you find this?” I asked, wanting one of my own. Once I realized how easy it was to use, I began to think of other applications and couldn’t wait to experiment.

“Let me send you one,” she offered, as at that time she was selling them through her school.

Once I got my hand on this practical kitchen tool, I began experimenting with it, wondering how I ever lived without it.

I learned that this Microplane grater began as a woodworking tool. A frustrated homemaker had poked around her husband’s woodshop for something to zest an orange; the graters have been used in the kitchen ever since.

Since Jane sent it to me, I use the tool to finely grate garlic, shallots, ginger, cheese, nutmeg and—of course—citrus (lemon, orange, lime) rind for zest.

Thanks, Jane!

(Scroll down to see photos of Jane on the farm)

Bryan: I love kitchen tools that are multi-use and the Microplane is one of the best! This sleek product easily fits in any kitchen drawer (or utensil bowl) and replaces cheese graters, lemon zesters, garlic presses and more. The grate is quite fine, though you can buy different size variations if you want. I am an enormous fan of grilled asparagus and have frequently used Bonnie’s cayenne aioli recipe and my Microplane to garnish. (Aioli is a garlic mayonnaise — btl ) Additional fun uses include adding fresh cinnamon to hot chocolate, parmesan cheese to pastas, ginger to stir-frys and garlic to anything. Zesting citrus is a primary use. I’m very glad to be rid of my single use zester and very happy to have a multi-use Microplane now in my kitchen drawer.

Eric: The number of little nicks, cuts and scratches I’ve acquired while working in the kitchen is probably equal to the number of meals I’ve ever created. I’ve never been ashamed to admit I can be a bit clumsy while working in the kitchen, and over the years I’ve become accustomed to the occasional “finger wound” from the knives, ovens and utensils, but nothing gets me more nervous than working with a grater. For years I would get around using the grater by fine-tuning my dicing skills and becoming a master with the garlic press, but over time the practicality and time savings of the grater got me to put down the knife, open the drawer and pull-out the Microplane. Since then, making my mise en place for a catering event, or even just cooking dinner at home, has become much less time-consuming when creating soups, dressings, sauces, marinades, etc. I would recommend this product to anyone, of course only after they have conquered their grater fear.