Why spend hours scraping a coconut with a knife when you could sit on a device that helps you do it instead? Enter the coconut grater stool, an ingenious blend of chair and kitchen tool that’s especially popular along Africa’s eastern coast.
The coconut grater stool has been around for centuries. It can be simple, sturdy with smooth wood, or designed to fold up (as Tanzania’s Swahili did in the 19th century) and decorated in mesmerizing geometric patterns. No matter how plain or fancy, all stools follow the same basic format: On one side, a wooden arm ends in a serrated blade, which grates the coconut. Users sit facing the protruding arm, then rub a split coconut along the blade. Shavings from the white, fleshy part of the fruit then fall below into relatively even shards.
The coconut grater stool was once a ubiquitous part of coconut-abundant cultures in India, Thailand, and Pacific Islands such as Tonga. Although electric shaving is on the rise, some still turn to their coconut grating stools, for snacks or sport: Several Tanzanian towns hold competitions to see who is the fastest, and best, at using them.