The Shy Herb Chopper (£23, clippings.com) is a semi-circular blade, fastened at its extremities with pivoting handles that double as connective sheaths.
Being cutting edge doesn’t mean being a show-off.
Is there a more beautiful word in the kitchen than mezzaluna? It sounds as if it is describing an operatic singing range or a bout of mid-afternoon nostalgia. It makes me melt more than a silver-haired couple renewing their wedding vows in the rain. I’m less keen on the English equivalent, “herb chopper”, which has no more poetry in it than “scouring pad” or “salad spinner” – and actually less, because it contains the word chopper. This one is by an Italian company, Vice Versa, which has a habit of putting inane mottos on its packaging. “If you can’t convince them, surprise them,” declares the box. I can think of 10 scenarios in which that is catastrophic advice, but I like it anyway.
Then there is the name, expressing a level of anthropomorphism I’m completely on board with. The device’s “shyness” relates to its handles – when folded closed, they enwrap its sharp edge like hands in a muff. That’s not all they do. This thing may be shy, but it has seriously impressive arms (essentially making it the Rafa Nadal of the herb-prep game). Rotated fully back, they form an excellent grip for single-hand use. They also open halfway, for double-handed choperation. I love this technique, a see-sawing pump action reminiscent of a railroad handcar. It’s fun, and chops with satisfying crunch. Most mezzalunas (mezzalunae?) have bulbous grips; these are flat-ended, so the device can sit up on them. This reduces its footprint, but more importantly makes it resemble a headless being throwing its arms wide. It’s quite cheering, and less horrific than I’ve made it sound.
“But really all you need is a knife!” I hear from the back. It is an objection so standard I’m giving it an acronym, Brayniak. It is valid – herb choppers aren’t strictly necessary. But if you want one, this one, with its smooth opening action and tiny locking magnets, is a classy bit of kit. What is it they say about the quiet ones? If you’ve got it, hide it.