Requiem For A Cheese Slicer

Do you get attached to gadgets, gizmos and other things that have been in your life for awhile? I know I do. And when one of them breaks it makes me sad. It happened to me just recently. And it involved a cheese slicer. What, you may ask, is so special about a broken cheese slicer? Well, it’s like this . . . .

When my sister and I were cleaning out my mother’s house, we came across all manner of things from our childhoods. Most of them were things that we sighed over as we put them in the box destined for donation to whomever we could get to take them. I am more sentimental about some of those things than is my sister, so I ended up bringing more of them into my house. The bright side is that my own children will have no connection with those items at all, making the decision to pitch or donate them much easier. But I digress.

As we went through the kitchen cabinets and drawers, we came across all kinds of things that jogged memories. Mom was never much of a cook, so both of us had much better equipped kitchens than our mother ever had. Still, there were some things. Like the wooden salad set with a big bowl for assembling and tossing the salad, and four small wooden bowls from which salads were to be consumed. I am not sure how one of the big wooden forks lost one of its wooden tines, but that set was around for our entire lives. I did not take it, as I was never much of a fan of salads. But when I opened the drawer where she kept the little assorted kitchen gadgets, I saw one I simply had to have – the cheese slicer.

I have no idea where it came from or when she got it, but it was from a time before I remember. Did it come as part of a set? Was it a wedding gift from a thrifty friend? Or was it purchased in a hurry on a Tuesday evening because there was some cheese that needed sliced the next day?

I have shared previously that Velveeta was pretty much the only cheese my mother brought into her kitchen. Could it have been a promotional slicer with a box of Velveeta? It doesn’t matter, because every time I ever went to slice a piece of Velveeta, that simple little wire cheese slicer did the trick.

I never saw a brand name of any kind, but it was clearly of fairly high quality. At least for today. In 1960 or so it was probably the cheapest cheese slicer a busy housewife could find. It was a simple affair – a one piece handle and a steel wire kept taut by the tension built into the handle. The metal finish was worn to a smooth surface that was always pleasant to the touch and felt so easy to control.

“The cheese slicer! Can I have the cheese slicer?” was my question to my sister that day. “Wow, the cheese slicer. Go ahead and take the cheese slicer” was her generous response. And so I did.

I probably had the old reliable cheese slicer in my own kitchen gadget drawer for maybe seven years. We had a couple of others, but this was always my go-to. It is amazing how many ways there are to slice cheese. We have a slicer that shaves pieces off from a block of cheese, and another wire slicer with a roller on it that kind of regulates the thickness of the slices. My old slicer relied on operator skill to get thin, uniform slices of cheese. “Anybody who can’t manage to slice cheese with this slicer has no business slicing cheese” is something that went through my head whenever I ignored the other options and grabbed Old Reliable.

But disaster struck a couple of weeks ago. Marianne wasn’t feeling well, and asked if I would make her an omelet. There was a block of Tillamook cheddar in the fridge – our first, after we came across it on a Costco run awhile back. We normally get the one in the Kirkland packaging, but decided to splurge. “Damn, but this cheese is hard” I thought as my old slicer gamely forced its way through the block that seemed to include some epoxy in the recipe. I think it was on the second slice when I felt the little “tink” and the sudden lack of resistance that came from the poor old wire saying “Hey you, I’ve had enough.”

I could blame Marianne, but I think it would be safer to blame Tillamook. Yes, the cheese is really good. But shouldn’t there be a package warning? “WARNING – Not Suitable For All Cheese Slicers” maybe? Or “Heavy Duty Cheese Slicer Required”? Or “If Your Cheese Slicer Can’t Handle This, Stick With Velveeta, Bub”? Any of them may have made me think twice before sending my little slicer into the ring with such a fearsome opponent that landed the fatal blow. Of course, the Tillamook people might reply that had I been more used to quality cheese than the cheap, nasty stuff I have been buying that none of this would have happened because I would have known better.

I have not thrown the poor broken slicer into the trash just yet. The German Farmer part of my brain says “All it needs is a little wire and it will be good as new.” But getting that little wire attached looks to be more than child’s play. So I will set it aside and think about the situation.

I looked online and other people less sentimental than me are selling similar slicers on the Bay of E and such. I have not thought about actually going to a store and looking at new ones. That seems disloyal. And wasteful. Maybe I just need to use one of the other slicers we already have. Unless we buy another block of the Tillamook. Then I had better also look for the little Tillamook-branded chain saw that is surely to be found wherever quality kitchenware is sold.


34 thoughts on “Requiem For A Cheese Slicer

    • I will have to do something – I find myself being irritated at the available choices for the job that currently sit in my kitchen drawer.


  1. My grandmother had a very similar cheese slicer and I remember my mother using it when it retired 40 years ago. Even if it cannot be repaired, you definitely got an amazing amount of time and use from it.

    Perhaps it could be repurposed into a wall hanging? Some people collect trivets and hang them on the kitchen wall, so why not a cheese slicer? With its build it could easily double as a trivet.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It really would make a pretty decent trivet. This is one more of those times when I wish I was a good welder. I’ll bet a really careful zot would have it all fixed up. Or would completely ruin it.


  2. The “heart tug” of this story is the process of going through your moms house when everyone was passed. My mom didn’t die that long ago so I remember this story for myself, with what I always refer to as Victorian Era Melancholia. BTW, interestingly enough, the kitchen junk drawer seemed to be a focus for my other sibs, and many old but well remembered bread knives and pizza cutters that were actually repurposed wall paper trimmers were quickly snagged before the estate sale.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That was the hard part of that process – seeing all of the little items that carried pleasant memories. I wanted to bring them all home, but that would just be silly – and would take my tendencies to accumulate things to a new and entirely fearsome level.


  3. I feel it, I have my parent’s bread knife in the basement. I needs a handle repair (and has needed it for about 5 years) but I haven’t pitched it yet. Of course my first thought was you should go to the hobby store and get a piece of piano wire to repair the slicer, but I don’t want to encourage you too much.

    I’ve actually never used a slicer like that, we’ve always had the Dutch type that looks like a spatula with a knife edge in the middle. It probably wouldn’t help with the Tillamook though, it tends to break the corner off of really firm cheeses.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have to figure out if I can pry those little metal tips from the frame to see how the wire attaches inside them. Isn’t it amazing how the mind can justify spending hours on a task that can ultimately be solved with a few mouse clicks on Amazon?


  4. Such a heart-tugging story! My own mom died at 72 in the waning years of the last millennium. I have few mementos of hers, save for some pictures and the Parker pen and pencil set she presented me with when I received my Associate’s degree.

    If the cheese slicer brings back fond memories, I say repair it! Perhaps there’s a YouTube video on how to make a similar one that would be helpful in repairing yours? If you could find a craftsman that could do it and the cost wouldn’t be totally outrageous, go for it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You made me look online and I came across a new model of a similar design, only made of stainless steel with a wire that can be adjusted/tightened/replaced. And for only $12.99 on Amazon. Maybe the new one would make me remember the old one and thus keep the nostalgia factor going.


  5. Great posts. My Mom directed her four surviving children and a daughter-in-law to conduct a football type draft to dispose of everything in her house that she had not already bequeathed. It took parts of many different days to empty that house. I am looking at a random salt shaker displayed in my den as I type this. The process was difficult, exhausting, and sometimes contentious. But ultimately it was a cathartic bonding experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is where I chime in and say, I’m familiar with Tillamook cheese, from living around the U.S., but have to say, rarely see it now that I’m back in Wisconsin! I’m so awash with small batch, small cheese company offerings, many that have won international competitions, that I probably couldn’t get through them to get to the national brands! Now I’d like to try it! Also reminds me of the classic “put down” : Hard Cheese!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. That was fun but I feel deprived, never having owned a cheese slicer, although I have a rather useless cheese grater. I either use a knife, buy sliced cheese or get the people at the cheese place to slice it for me. I don’t think we have Tillamook cheese here in Canada, (I goggled it) and our last kitchen specialty store Kitchen Widgets (now there’s a name) never reopened after the pandemic. But now I feel I must look for a cheese slicer – there must be some around as those charcuterie boards are so popular. There are several things I would like from my mother’s kitchen someday – a set of sharp steak knives from the 1970’s – her hash/meat grinder (does anyone make hash anymore), and her rolling pin (from all decades of pie pastry).


  8. I still have the circa 1975 Mary Proctor toaster my mom got at a yard sale probably 20 years ago, she gave it to me since I’d recently bought my condo. I am not a huge toast guy, but it still works perfect.

    As for childhood items, my wooden living room coffee table and the two light gray wingback chairs were in my parents’ living room when I was a kid. No plans on replacing either.

    By the way I had totally misplaced the link to your blog, only rediscovered it this evening. Hope all is well. I know you’ve pretty much abandoned fb.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think I may still have the toaster my parents got as a wedding gift in 1958. It outlasted both of them, though I might be afraid to plug it in with the original cloth-insulated cord.

      Yes, I have not been active on FB for awhile, and hope you are well too.


  9. Wow – we have never had a cheese slicer, having only bought sliced cheese – I am definitely missing something. Although I love cheese, I have never had Tillamook cheese. I Googled it and I would probably like it as I like cheddar cheese. Growing up in Canada and after we moved to the States in 1966, we never became apple pie à la mode fans, always sticking with the Canadian tradition of a slice of sharp cheddar with the pie (melted on it if the pie was warm). My kitchen is a country kitchen, so there are several cooking items around. Not long ago I parted with my mom’s sifter and masher. I’m not much of a baker, so no need for the sifter (except sentimental reasons) and I buy instant mashed potatoes. My mom mashed up potatoes and turnip with that heavy-duty-beauty masher she had.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have always heard of the cheese-on-apple-pie thing, but that was never common anywhere I have lived. I think I will stick to ice cream. But then if given a choice between cheese and ice cream by themselves, I would take the ice cream almost every time. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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