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Back to Basics-Antique Stone Cooking and Storage Pots

Human civilization has passed through different eras and epochs resulting in the inventions that shaped our history and culture. Amongst the many ages that we have evolved through Stone Age is definitely one of them. Stone Age was the time when our entire race depended on stones. They used tools and weapons made out of stone. Everything from household items to kitchen utensils were made out of stones. Stone was the most abundantly found natural resource at that point in time. People use to break big boulders, give it a shape and make it look like an object or carve small stones to turn it into something handy.

beautifully shaped antique Granit storage pots
beautifully shaped antique Granit storage pots

After inventing fire, the next breakthrough that our race experienced was stone utensils. When people realized that food tasted good when it was cooked they also felt the need to make utensils that could hold, cook and serve their food. This process gave birth to stone pots which were extensively used by every nomadic group. However with advancement in technology and state of the art inventions these stone pots are being over shadowed and they are on the verge of extinction. These pots now have become artifacts that can be traced mostly in museums or in an antique collector’s house.
 

 

Handmade stone pot created with simple tools of a chisel and hammer
Handmade stone pot created with simple tools of a chisel and hammer

I wasn’t surprised when I went to YK sir’s (his full name is Y. Krishna Murthy) and he is popularly known as YK) house and saw some wonderfully crafted stone cookware and storage pots amongst all the other items that he has collected over the years. He has aesthetically placed stone cookware in his house making sure each of them embraces history and culture. These pots also scream out simplicity and effervescence. The most intriguing thing about this stone cookware is- it is still in use in some districts of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. I was under the impression that the only stone appliance that people use today are those grinding stones which have been made popular by celebrity chefs, thanks to them, they have managed to keep some bit of culture alive. YK sir told that these cooking and storage pots are called Kalchetti (kal-stone, chatti- pot) in Tamil and Ratichippa(rati-stone, chippa- pot) in Telugu. He further explained that some of the traditional families in Tamil Nadu,Kerala and Andhra Pradesh still cook their traditional food items in stone pots. Tamarind juice and cooking in stone pot is a winning combination as you don’t have to worry about the acid in tamarind reacting with stone. Additionally it also helps in retaining the original taste of all the spices used in your cooking.

 

Granite storage pot- top view
Granite storage pot

I personally feel cooking and storing food in stone pots is a healthy choice as it is chemical free. Stone pots take time to get heated and once heated the heat is distributed evenly which makes your food tastier. When food is cooked in the stone pots, the natural minerals that are inherent in the stone are passed on to the food by making the food nutritious and healthy. They take time to cool hence keeps the cooked food warm and tasty for a longer period of time. People who have realized the importance of cooking in stone pots now have an option to buy stone cookware. To know more about stone cooking pots, you will find an article on “Antiques Stone Cooking Pots” in this website. Here is the link.http://ykantiques.com/2012/05/antique-stone-cooking-pots.html

YK sir went on to explain that since time immemorial these pots have been used to store items like tamarind, dry chilies, dry spices, chilli powder, salt, turmeric powder and pickles. Other benefits about these containers are it is environment friendly, doesn’t create any hazard when disposed out in the open. There is no fear of eroding of the layers or corrosion which is quite common in present day non-stick cookware that are Teflon coated or anodized. Apart from cooking vessels the stone storage vessels were extensively used to store food items. It is a known fact that there were no plastic and stainless steel containers hundred years before and those days most of the items are stored in earthen pots, stone pots ,brass and copper containers. Certain items like pickles, salt and tamarind cannot be stored in brass or copper vessels and the choice left was clay pots or stone pots.
Talking about how these pots were made he said those pots were made with two different categories of stones. These pots were always differentiated into cooking pots and storage pots. Cooking pots were made of soft stone which was lighter and small in size making these pots mobile, meaning it could be moved and carried around easily. On the other hand the storage pots were made of granite stone, making them comparatively large and heavy. The stone pots are handmade. The stone is chiseled into a shape of a pot and then storage space is carved out forming a vacant space inside the pot. It is a very skilled job.The artisans who have created these beautiful stone pots have now left their profession since there are no more buyers for their products. Slowly we lost this fine art of carving storage pots out of a single piece of stone with a bare minimum tools like a hammer and a chisel.

 

Storage pot carved out of single piece of granite stone
Storage pot carved out of single piece of granite stone

By nature, stone and clay storage pots do not allow bacteria, fungus and worms to form and survive in the items stored in them. Items like ghee, tamarind, pickles, pulses and other household edible items can be stored even for an year without getting spoiled. Normally these stone containers do not have lids on the top to cover the pot. Stone covers may not seal the top and there is a chance of moist air entering the empty space in the pot. Most of the items get spoiled because of the air which may contain air born bacteria. To prevent moist air entering the stone pot, the opening of the pot is tied with dry clean cotton cloth and tied around with a string. The cloth will absorb any moister contained in the air and also filter any bacteria entering into the pot. As an extra precaution the cotton cloth is dipped into water mixed with turmeric powder and dried in the sun before covering the pot opening.
Turmeric is antioxidant meaning that it has a substance that inhibits oxidation and counteract the deterioration of stored food products. Turmeric is also antiviral, antibacterial, anti-fungal, properties. Turmeric is a great pesticide. If water containing turmeric powder is sprinkled near and around the stone pots, it wards of insects, ants, and termites.

YK sir also tells me that the huge stone storage pots called golem are used for storage of water and as cattle feed vessels in the olden days. These stone pots are placed near the wells to store water drawn from the well. This serves the purpose of a mini water tank from which the daily usage of water is drawn out.

 

Exquisitely carved storage pot used for storage of pickles and other food items
Exquisitely carved storage pot used for storage of pickles and other food items

 

His maternal grandfather was a land lord and he was cultivating his own lands. The golem is kept in the entrance to his massive house and those that enter the house would wash their feet and hands from the water stored in the golem using a brass chombu or lota. This is a hygienic practice followed by most of the households in the olden days. His grandfather had a good number of cattle like cows, calves and oxen and they are sheltered in a cattle shed located within the compound wall of the house. Similar large stone pots are also kept in the cattle shed so that cattle can drink water from these golems. The advantage of keeping these strong and heavy stone pots in the cattle shed is that cattle cannot push or break these pots and provide a lifelong service.

Before the invention of present day ready-mix cattle feed, in the olden days cattle feed consisted of green grass and hey and these are kept as small heaps in front of the cattle. They used to eat the two types of grass as and when they fell like having. Apart from this, the cattle are also fed with a liquid food called Kudithi containing ingredients like rice bran, rice husk, boiled cereal and pulses of two or three varieties like horse gram, all mixed in water. This Kudithi used to be prepared in the stone pots and served to the cattle.

Stone is an integral part of our lives since time immemorial and even now. I am sure you must have had some experience with stone cooking or storage pots used in your mother’s house or grandmother’s house. We love it, if you can share such experiences.

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A Door into the Past

             

Antique main door with carved frame,projected canopy,brass handle, locking chain and turmeric yellow threshold
Antique main door with carved frame,projected canopy,brass handle, locking chain and turmeric yellow threshold

 

Update: Here’s a video we’ve recently done. Do check it out and read the article for detailed information.

Gather around on the rug, its story time!

The sun is beginning to rise with its rays just beginning to filter in through the windows of the house. It wakes up a small boy, all of his seven years apparent in the curiosity his eyes held. He looks out of the window to see the bright green of the fields, and he hears the chirping of the birds and the tinkling of the flowing water nearby.

He wakes up to this every day of his life for the longest time. The house is as much a part of him as is the air he breathes; to have the privilege of living forever in the cradle of beauty and comfort of his home is something that appeals to him very much. It is a thought that stays with him, even later, when he no longer lives there as an adult and wakes to the hustle and bustle of the city.

Years go on by in this fashion, the yearning to go back to this house is strong and pulls with strength like never before. When the time for the move back to this house finally does arrive, alas, it is no longer feasible! The thought of the house, with its thick carved wood doors and windows, spacious halls and timeless splendor lying empty in wait for him disappoints him. A revolutionary idea hits him that if he can’t go to the house, he would bring the house to him. Against everyone’s seemingly sane advice, he brings back bit of his house back, the carved doors that kept him warm at night and the little windows that gave him perspective along with a view.

The wide-eyed curious boy of the story is an antiquities expert who is teaching me the ropes of the business. When I first met him, I figured that I might have trouble finding his house, but it was apparent from the first sight of his home, that it couldn’t have been anyone’s. The front door of the house is one that he painstakingly carefully brought back from his village, complete with the frame that it sits in; and not to mention the windows that only add to the authenticity of the whole look.

Full view of the door and the matching window seated with Ganesh idol
Full view of the door and the matching window seated with Ganesh idol

 

Close view of the door showing the details on the canopy
Close view of the door showing the details on the canopy

 

If you take a look at the picture of the door, you will see it is rather heavy. The solid-ness of the door is off-set by the patterns that are in the individual squares which form a rather delicate geometric pattern on the door. What makes this door as unique is, among other things, it is made of a single piece of wood! Let me now draw your attention to the lovely canopy that frames the door. Isn’t the hand carved detail on the frame a sight to behold?

There are a details on this door, that make it as special as the 140 year ancestral home it comes from, rather uncommon on the opulent doors of the present. The knocker on the door that you see is made of brass, which also serves as a handle. The shape of the knocker and the design of base is almost delicate in its flower like pattern.

The truly most significant aspect of the door, I have to admit, is the carving on the frame, I am not just talking about the pretty canopy on the top but the intricate design at the bottom. The sides of the frame, with the rising cone styled carving, is very typical of the older artists. The bottom of the pattern is a running band that almost gives it a lace-like finish and the actual pattern with its delicate leaves and twirls is a perfect contrast with the geometric pattern on the door itself.

Handmade intricate design and wood work done on the canopy panel
Handmade intricate design and wood work done on the canopy panel

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Closer view of the wood work done on the sides of the canopy panel
Closer view of the wood work done on the sides of the canopy panel

  For me, what makes this door as memorable as it is, is the fact that it is not one door that opens to one side, but two doors that throw their arms open to welcome you into the house. If you have had the opportunity to visit your own or anyone’s ancestral home in a village, you will see that is rather characteristic of that day and age.

Though, just because it looks like a fancy door, does not mean that the artist skimped on the security aspect. It may not be as fancy as the peepholes-security-camera of today, but it has a pretty heavy chain that allows you to open the door partially, to peek out of. It locks from the inside with a wooden plank that fits across the door, effectively barring anyone’s entry into the house.

The beauty of the door and its frame is only enhanced by the turmeric yellow with the vermillion dots that adorn the base of the frame. It is a rather common practice of staining the entrance with the yellow of turmeric, indicating a pious threshold.

For me, what completes the look is the window frame that you see in the picture. It originally started off being a window that has now been re-purposed to a frame to house Ganesha, the God of good beginnings. It almost feels like it is indeed a window, with God himself on the other side, smiling indulgently at you. It is this frame that just ameliorates the beauty of the door, taking you to a simpler time in history.

Back side view of the door with wooden plank across the door and heavy chain
Back side view of the door with wooden plank across the door and heavy chain

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Now to the present builders of houses, it would seem that preserving the past was a great idea, and it definitely is, there is nothing quite like the workmanship of the years gone by. So, if you are redecorating and have access to antique woods and woodwork, incorporating it into your home isn’t the hardest thing to do.The doors I speak of today have the ability to teleport you into the past, where times were simpler, the air was cleaner and the sound of chirping was all the alarm you needed. This young boy in the story did eventually end up living happily, surrounded by all the things which made his childhood special.

 

Article by

Vineetha Rao Suravajjala
Vineetha Rao Suravajjala

 

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Antique Coin Toning And Why You Should Know About It

A lot of antique collectors start off with an interest in old coins. Coin toning is a term used to describe the discolouring of coins which happens due to the oxygen in the air and its effects on the metal of the coin.The word of the day today for the budding numismatist is toning. I’m sure the antiquer in you is eager to figure out how toning applies to you and your love for antiquing.If you have a conversation with someone interested in coins, they will give you varied opinions about toning. For some of them, they think that toning is a good idea; it not only reflects age, but it also can add beauty to the coin itself. But some are of the opinion that all toning does it take away from what the coin is supposed to look like.

More than 400 years old antique coin with green colour toning
More than 400 years old antique coin with green color toning

A Bit More About Coin Toning

Basically, coin toning is a process in which the metal that the coin is made of corrodes over time. But before you start worrying about how it affects your collection, it happens really slowly over years and that too only if it’s not packed in vacuum. Natural toning in fact is very pretty in most cases as it changes colour gradually, but sometimes really old coins can turn very ugly as well. You want to keep an eye out for the coins you pick up or buy.

Things You Should Know

There are a few things here to consider though, if you do like the look of toned coins.There is natural toning that happens over the years, but there is also artificial toning that is done by experts in the field, they are known as coin doctors. So the real question here then becomes “What is the value of a toned coin?(be it artificial or natural toning).

When a coin starts tarnishing naturally, it can turn rather ugly, especially if it an old coin. An old coin definitely has more chances of being sold if it presented better after being cleaned and toned and made to look good, shiny and attractive. But on the flip side, considering numismatists are not crows and don’t look for shiny stuff only, there’s always a chance it won’t be popular with them. It comes down to which side of the fence you fall on, on this.

Should you find yourself on the tarnished side of this fence, considering you are a newbie here, what should you be looking for? Coins turn different colours when toned based on the metal that they are made of. Different metals turn different colours.

1912 year coin with black toning
1912 year coin with black toning

Silver coins – Silver, before it tarnishes to a complete dark black, can take on a very beautiful rainbow colours. Sterling silver also corrodes over time, but definitely presents with a completely different set of colours and tones. This difference is most noticeable in the way ancient British and American silver coins looks different even if they belong to the same age.

In the case of silver, the coins turn colours because of the metals that it has been alloyed with. Ancient silver coins are black because of the sulphides the metal reacts with. Sometimes in the case when they are alloyed with copper, they can turn green.

Gold coins – The same way, gold being one of the most inactive metals to make coins with, can end up with a reddish orange colour. By virtue of being gold, it turns dull before any other reactions appear on it.

Year 1908 copper coin with multi-colour toning
Year 1908 copper coin with multi-colour toning

Copper and aluminium coins – Copper can go from the typical orange-brown to a reddish colour to nearly all brown. And Aluminium, one of the most used metals for coin making around the world becomes a dull grey.

In all these cases, if it is a natural tone, it can add value to the coin.

Artificial Toning

The problem with artificially toning a coin is that when the instant colour is applied to a coin in whatever manner; the coin’s value automatically decreases. So, since recognizing a coin that is artificially toned is pretty hard to identify, you want to be careful about buying it for a lot of money.

There are several kinds of artificial toning:

  • Monster toning (wild toning)
  • Target toning (colours that change from the edge of the coin to the centre)
  • Toning in rainbow colours
  • Iridescent toning

This can sometimes make it make a higher grade based on what it looks like.

Figuring Out The Value Of A Coin

It is not very hard actually. All you really need is a coin catalogue to begin with. Most coin catalogues will not just give you information about the coin, but will even give you the value of the coin. Since they are subject to change every year, just make sure that you consult a current catalogue. ‘The Standard Catalogue of World Coins’ is a good place to start if you are an amateur.

If you have the time and the means to do it, try contacting a certified appraiser. An appraiser is someone who is trained to evaluate coins based on their condition. You can contact an appraiser by talking to your local coin dealer.

Last but not least, here is what a numismatist says about buying coins (both ancient and modern) for amateurs:

  • Buy them only from reputed dealers. That way, you won’t get cheated and won’t end up with fake coins.
  • Make sure you keep the bills and receipts and invoices related to the coins you buy along with their history.
  • If you are getting them imported, make sure they are declared and their history checks out.
Very old coin with beautiful bluish green toning
Very old coin with beautiful bluish green toning

 

Vineetha Rao Suravajjala
Vineetha Rao Suravajjala

Final Thoughts

Just because you see a coin does not mean you have to get it. Make sure you have a full appreciation of what the coin is before you get it.

You are all set then, you are good to go! Happy hunting!

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Antique Brass And Bronze Curry Cooking Pots

Antique Brass and Bronze curry pots in a group
Antique Brass and Bronze curry pots in a group

 

The antique brass and bronze pots shown here are exclusively used for cooking Andhra Curries. In traditional Andhra meal there will be five items invariably  – Muddapappu, curry, chutney, pulusu, rasam and curds or butter milk with lots of accompaniments like pickles, powders, appadam, vadiyalu, ooramirapakayalu etc. Out of all Andhra meal items curry, known as koora takes an important position. It is the main dish. So the success of the meal depends on the success of the curry. Hence dedicated vessels are used to prepare this important dish. I have collected four curry pots and out of them two are from Andhra and two are from Tamil Nadu.The curry pots from Andhra are made with brass metal and called kooraginny and the ones from Tamil Nadu are made with bronze metal and called vengalapannai. Both the varieties have different shape though the utility and the functionality are same. In Hindi language curry pot is called handi.

 

Antique Brass and Bronze curry pots in a row
Antique Brass and Bronze curry pots in a row

 

Andhra Antique Brass curry pots called KooraGinni
Andhra Antique Brass curry pots called KooraGinni

 

Tamil Nadu Antique bronze curry pots called vengalapannai
Tamil Nadu Antique bronze curry pots called vengalapannai

 

The Andhra Brass curry pots have beautiful shape that serve both for functional purpose and aesthetic value.The” U” shaped coking vessel has a thick body so that the heat is distributed uniformly and the curry is cooked evenly.The brass pot has wide open mouth to facilitate easy movement of the ladle that is used for stirring the contents for uniform cooking.There is a wide rim at the mouth of the vessel so that the vessel is not slipped at the time of handling  and to have a firm grip.The wide mouth with the rim also helps in sealing the mouth with a metal plate to prevent the spicy vapors going out of the pot and preserve the moisture.

 

Andhra antique Brass curry pot size. Height 5.5 inches ,width at the moth 7.5 inches -front view
Andhra antique Brass curry pot size. Height 5.5 inches ,width at the moth 7.5 inches -front view

 

 

Andhra antique Brass curry pot size.Height 5.5 inches ,width at the moth 7.5 inches -top view
Andhra antique Brass curry pot size.Height 5.5 inches ,width at the moth 7.5 inches -top view

 

Andhra antique Brass curry pot size.Height 4.3 inches ,width at the moth 6.3 inches-front view
Andhra antique Brass curry pot size.Height 4.3 inches ,width at the moth 6.3 inches-front view

 

Andhra antique Brass curry pot size.Height 4.3 inches ,width at the moth 6.3 inches -top view
Andhra antique Brass curry pot size.Height 4.3 inches ,width at the moth 6.3 inches  -top view

 

The Tamil Nadu counterparts have a lovely bowl like shape with narrow base and wide mouth.There is a grove between the main body of the cooking pot and the opening.This groove is designed for the hand grip and gives excellent aesthetic sense.The narrow base allows the flames of the fire stretch up to the full length of the pot giving the pot uniform heat for excellent cooking results.I have acquired these enchanting pieces from an antique dealer in Madras, now called as Chennai, the capital city of Tamil Nadu state.

 

Tamil Nadu Antique bronze curry pots size Height 4.5 inches, width at the mouth 7.0 inches -front view
Tamil Nadu Antique bronze curry pots size Height 4.5 inches, width at the mouth 7.0 inches -front view

 

Tamil Nadu Antique bronze curry pots size Height 4.5 inches ,width at the mouth 7.0 inches -top view
Tamil Nadu Antique bronze curry pots size Height 4.5 inches ,width at the mouth 7.0 inches -top view

 

Tamil Nadu Antique bronze curry pots size Height 4.3 inches ,width at the mouth 6.75 inches -front view
Tamil Nadu Antique bronze curry pots size Height 4.3 inches ,width at the mouth 6.75 inches -front view

 

Tamil Nadu Antique bronze curry pots size Height 4.3 inches ,width at the mouth 6.75 inches -top view
Tamil Nadu Antique bronze curry pots size Height 4.3 inches ,width at the mouth 6.75 inches -top view

 

The Andhra pots are the family inheritance. These pots were used by my mother and she used to turn out very delicious curries from these beauties. I also understand that my grandfather’s mother-in-law, KavammaGaru (garu is a respectable way of addressing elders), alsoused these wonderful pots for cooking mouth-watering curries. Her special dish was Vankaya karampettina koora. I understand that in our village Someswaram, the neighbours of our house used to plead with KavammaGaru to prepare this special dish and she used to prepare and distribute to them and enjoy such service as a gesture of good will. Even after her death, whenever they think of Kavammagaru, they used to praise her Vankaya karampettina koora. I am presenting the recipe of this wonderful dish passed on from Kavammagaru to my mother and there upon from my mother to my sisters and later to my wife. This antique brass curry pot and the recipe of Vankaya karampettina koora are more than 100 years old .The recipe is preserved and practiced by my wife so that we do not lose touch of this rare delicious dish.

 

How to cook Vankaya Kharampettina koora in Antique brass curry pot

The recipe for Vankaya Kharampettina koora

The speciality of the vankaya karampettina koora is that it is stuffed with a spicy powder of lentils, fenugreek seeds and redchillies. The fine taste of Indian lentils combined with the flavour of fenugreek seeds and the hot taste of red roasted chillies gives this dish a rare combination of taste that is to be experienced. The name Vankaya karampettina koora means the brinjal stuffed with hot spices. The brinjal is also called as aubergine or eggplant.

Ingredients required

12 fresh tender purple brinjals of round shape.

2 table spoons of Sanagapappu (Bengal gram)

2 table spoons of Minapapappu (Black gram)

Menthulu: 1/2 table spoon of Menthulu (fenugreek seeds)

10to12 Medium sized red dry chillies.

Preparation

Wash thoroughly the brinjals with the stalks. Trim the stalk ends.

To prepare the stuffing powder:

Take the antique brass curry cooking pot and heat it moderately on fire.Add ½ a table spoon of oil. When the oil is on medium heat add fenugreek seeds first followed by Bengal gram, black gram and red chillies cut into pieces.Fry till the grams take a golden brown colour and the red chillies take a darker shade of colour.Remove from the heat and cool the mixture in a plate.Put the mixture in a grinder and grind to a granular powder.Powder should not be too fine.It should be granular.

Prepare the brinjal for stuffing:

Take each brinjal and slit the bottom end upwards towards the stem till you reach the ¾ length of the brinjal .Make another similar slit from the bottom of the brinjal this time at right angles to the previous slit thus slitting the brinjalinto 4 sections.  Now the brinjal is ready for stuffing. Now stuff the powder into the slit sections of each brinjal till it holds. Stuff all brinjals.

Cooking the stuffed brinjal:

Heat 2 table spoons full of oil in the antique brass cooking pot .Add the stuffed brinjals one by one.  Stir the brinjals in the vessel so that the oil is smeared to each brinjal. Scatter the remaining powder over the brinjals. Sprinkle ¼ cup of water on the brinjals in the curry pot and cover with a thick plate as a lid on the pot, pour ¼ a cup of water in the plate, keep the fire in low and let the contents simmer on a low fire for  20 minutes.The water in the cover plate gets heated and there is heat surrounding the entire curry pot. This gives uniform heat to the brinjals for excellent cooking and seals the juices and flavors inside the pot. Keep tossing the brinjals occasionally by tilting the curry pot with jerks by holding the rim of the pot with a dry cloth. Stirring by ladle may damage the shape of the brinjal.  Cook for another 20 minutes or till the brinjals are well cooked to a tender soft condition. When you take them into serving dish hold each brinjal by stem or use a flat spoon like atlakada or dosa ladle.

Taste superb with hot rice and ghee or roti.

Ingredients for Vankaya Karampettina Koora
Ingredients for Vankaya Karampettina Koora

 

Brinjals for Vankaya Karampettina Koora
Brinjals for Vankaya Karampettina Koora

 

Fried Ingredients for Vankaya Karampettina Koora
Fried Ingredients for Vankaya Karampettina Koora

 

Powdered Fried Ingredients for VankayaKarampettina Koora
Powdered Fried Ingredients for VankayaKarampettina Koora

 

Slicing the brinjal using a table cutter
Slicing the brinjal using a table cutter

 

Stuffing the brinjal with spice powder
Stuffing the brinjal with spice powder

 

Stuffed brinjal ready to be cooked
Stuffed brinjal ready to be cooked

 

Place the stuffed brinjal in the hot oil
Place the stuffed brinjal in the hot oil

 

Brinjals being cooked in the kooraginni
Brinjals being cooked in the kooraginni

 

Tilt the Brinjals by jerking the pot using a dry cloth
Tilt the Brinjals by jerking the pot using a dry cloth

 

Cooked Brinjals ready for serving
Cooked Brinjals ready for serving

 

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Antique Brass Sweets Carrier
Antique Brass Sweets Carrier

 

This wonderful brass vessel with a lid is used store and carries sweets like Laddu. In my younger days I used to see ladies in silk saris come to our house carrying vessels like this each one holding different sweets. The ladies used to ask my mother to give them a plate and would place on the plate one sweet item from each brass carrier. I used to be enamoured by the shining brass sweet carrier vessels. After placing the delicious sweets in the plate used to close lid and hold the vessel by its handle and leave our house to repeat the same ritual in the next house. Normally, in our village families used to distribute sweets when the new bride comes to their house and this is the way they welcome the new member into the family and declare and introduce to the close community of the village. Each family used to have variety of brass carrier vessels in different shapes and sizes for this purpose. If certain families do not have such vessels, they would borrow them from those who have.

 

Antique Brass Sweets Carrier- with sweet laddus
Antique Brass Sweets Carrier- with sweet laddus

 

Antique Brass Sweets Carrier-showing with the handle upwards
Antique Brass Sweets Carrier-showing with the handle upwards

 

Antique Brass Sweets Carrier-carrier and lid shown separately
Antique Brass Sweets Carrier-carrier and lid shown separately

 

It is a tradition in Hindu South Indian marriages that the bride’s family gives a variety of sweets to groom’s family in a function called Appagintalu (it means to hand over) followed by Tagavu. Appagintalu is an emotional ceremony in which the bride’s family formally hands over the bride to the groom’s family. After this ritual,there is another function called Taguvu in which the bride’s family would give gifts to the groom’s family including variety of sweets like Laddu, Minapasunni, Kaajalu, Palakova, chanividi, Arisalu, Badusha ,sugar candy in the shape of parrots  called Panchadara Cilakalu and the inivitable Chanividi and few savoury items. The variety of sweets and the savoury items depend on the economic status of the family. Even in families with a low budget it is a custom to distribute least three items –Chanivid, Laddu and Jantikalu (Jantikaluis a savoury item). It is a faith that Chanividi brings well being to the bride when she brings it from her mother’s house and feeds the other families who would bless the bride with progeny and prosperity with the sweet tongue after tasting the sweet.

 

Marriage function bride’s family gifting sweet laddus to groom's family
Marriage function bride’s family gifting sweet laddus to groom’s family

 

Antique Brass Sweets Carrier- top view
Antique Brass Sweets Carrier- top view

 

Picture showing the beautiful design around the body of the carrier
Picture showing the beautiful design around the body of the carrier

 

Saari is a tradition in which the bride brings gifts from her mother’s house to her in-laws house mainly on two occasions. That is when she comes first time to the in-law’s house and secondly when she comes to in-laws house with her first baby. It is a practice in Andhra families that the pregnant lady would go to mothers place for delivery. When she is seven months pregnant, she goes to her mother’s house for delivery and will return to husband’s house after delivery, when the baby is three months old or at times seven months old. This is the time she will brings variety of sweets and savoury items for consumption in the family and as well as for distributing among neighbours, friends and relatives. Along with the sweets, the new mother will also bring and distribute a doll to each family along with the sweets called Bommasaari, signifying and announcing the news that she has given birth to a baby. There is a deep significance for each and every sweet distributed during this occasion that has bearing on the developmental stages of the baby. Each item signifies one stage of the progressive development of the baby, from birth until three months and doing of an act for the first time by the baby like- NavvukiNuvvundalu (sweet balls of sesame seeds for first time laughing by the baby), chongakiChakkilalu (a type of roundish starch based fried savoury dish for first time saliva generation), Palukulakichilakalu (sugar candy in the shape of a parrot for the first time talking), moodonelaki muddakudumulu (balls of steamed rice granules for attaining  third month). In third month the baby normally opens the clenched fists for the first time. In celebration of this event Muddakudumulu are prepared. Since Muddakudumulu have short shelf life, normally sweet Laddus are distributed in their place. And the list goes on depending on the interest, enthusiasm and the financial condition of the family. In saari traditions, sweets are distributed in the vessels similar to the Antique Brass sweets Carrier.

 

Antique Brass Sweets Carrier- an angle view
Antique Brass Sweets Carrier- an angle view

 

Antique Brass Sweets Carrier-showing the rivets for the handle
Antique Brass Sweets Carrier-showing the rivets for the handle

 

This bucket shaped sweets carrier vessel is acquired by me from a family in village named Teki in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, India. There is an inscription on this enchanting vessel reading as “DhulipallaLakshminarayanamma”  meaning that this vessel belongs to a lady named with family name “Dhulipalla” and her name is “Lakshminarayanamma”.

This brass pail carrier with the lid is 16 inches tall from bottom to the handle top,and the height without the handle is 8.5 inches. This bucket shaped pot sits on a round rim which is 1 inch high.The top opening of the bucket shaped pot is 10 inches diameter. The handle is a semi-circular brass rod with “U” shaped curves at the both ends which are inserted into the holes of the two riveted brass plates with copper rivets.

 

Picture showing inscription of the name “DhulipalaLakshminarayanamma”
Picture showing inscription of the name “DhulipalaLakshminarayanamma”

 

Antique Brass Sweets Carrier- showing tin coating
Antique Brass Sweets Carrier- showing tin coating

 

This lovely container is coated with Tin inside. This tin coating is also called Tagarampoota in Telugu language and helps to prevent the contents from directly in contact with the brass material since some food items react chemically with brass.This container has the double benefit of having protective tin inside and beautiful brass material with its golden hue outside. The tin coating wears away in certain vessels due to constant usage and cleaning. In such a case a re-coating is necessary for healthy food storage and serving.

 

 

 

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Antique Brass Milk Pot

 

Antique brass milk pot

When my mother came to my father’s house for the first time in the year 1936 after her marriage, her father gifted her few items for her comfort at the new home including a cow and a brass milk pot known as paala tappela into which the milk is squeezed from the cow.  This brass milk pot is 77 years old.

My mother along with their parents came to her husband’s house for the first time in a decked up double bullock cart with all her belongings and the cow following the bullock cart. The care taker of the cow also accompanied the caravan.The list of other gift items are saris,cloths,gold and silver ornaments,brass and copper cooking and otherutensils, sweets,snacks, fruits, flowers and the most important mandatory items – pasupu, kumkuma and chanividi(a kind of sweet made with rice flour and sugar). My mother belongs to a village called Korumilli located on the banks of river Godavari, in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh. Her father’s name is Salapaka Lingamurthy. My Father belongs to village Someswaram named after the presiding deity of the village Someswara Swami with a magnificent temple.

The care taker of the cow, whom we call paaleru, that came from Korumilli village used to take care of the cow and milk the cow into the brass milking pot. After few days he handed over the duties of the cow to a care taker appointed by my father and left our house. Then the new paaleru took care of the cow including milking daily in the morning, feeding the cow regularly and cleaning the cow.His responsibilities include taking care of the paala tappela. The paala tappela is meant to be used only for milking the cow and after that the milk is transferred to another brass vessel for boiling the milk and further usage. Once the milk is transferred, the milking pot is cleaned thoroughly by rubbing with tamarind juice first followed by fine soil with coconut fibre. Then the paala tappela is dried and stored in its usual storage area and used to be removed only the next day morning for milking the cow. The milking is done in the evening also.

Antique brass milk pot-Front view

 

Antique brass milk pot- Angle view

 

Antique brass milk pot- another angle view

 

Antique brass milk pot- top view

 

Antique brass milk pot- inclined position front and bottom view

 

The height of the antique milk pot is 7 inches, the diameter at the belly is 7.5 inches and the diameter at the mouth opening is 5 inches.

For any reason if the paaleru was absent, my mother used to milk the cow.There are two reasons for my mother to take charge of the milking, firstly, the cow is comfortable with my mother since she knows her from a long time and allow her to squeeze the milk. Secondly, nobody in the house has the required skills to handle a cow, and even if they venture for milking the cow, the cow is reluctant to allow them to touch her. After some time the cow became pregnant and after due course of time gave birth to a calf. Now the cow’s milk has to be shared between us and the calf. First in the morning the calf is to be let loose and the calf will run to the mother and have the first course of her milk. After few minutes the calf would be pulled out from the udder of the cow and our milk man would squeeze the milk but would take care that enough milk is left un-squeezed so that the calf has her full quota of the milk.

Antique brass milk pot-inclined position side view

 

Antique brass milk pot-inclined position bottom view

 

Antique brass milk pot-upside down position view

 

Picture showing milking the cow into a pot

The milk that the cow gives till 7 days of her delivery of the calf is entirely different .They are thick and creamy. We use to call them Junnu Paalu. My mother used to cook a sweet from the junnupaalu called Junnu .It is cooked with Junnupaalu, jaggery and black pepper. Its taste is divine.

Generally cows produce milk when they deliver the calf and will continue to give milk till they are dried-off. The cow normally is in DRY condition after 305 days of continuous lactation. This dry season lasts till the cow is with the next calf. Cow has a gestation period of 280 days almost similar to a human gestation time.During the dry season  it will not give milk.Once our cow declared that it will not give milk.So we were without milk.This information has gone to my mother’s father and he has sent another milking cow and the dried up cow was sent back to Korumilli.This rotation of cows kept us with continuous milk supply.My mother’s father used to have lot of cows and in the group there will always be few milk giving cows or lactation cows .My maternal grandfather has no problem in sending a milk yielding cow but I came to know later that he used to have problem with the cows that returned from our house.

My grandfather was a landlord and he also had farms. He also used to have a mini dairy. His paaleru used to take all the cows to the banks river Godavari for grazing the pastures. Godavari river flows in such a way that it forms mini islands in between its streams.There will be lot of green grass on these islands and the cattle have to cross the rivulets to reach the island.The rest of the cattle used to cross the waters easily but the cows returned from our house would be scared to cross the water.The reason being the cows in our house are kept in the house only and they never gone out into the fields and rivers. They were fed with cut grass and they forgot how to graze in the open meadows.

This rotation of cows between the two houses of my father and grandfather stopped somewhere for some unknown reason and our family was buying milk from milk vendors. With the result our beautiful brass paala tappela was not used and given permanent rest. Finally it joined my antique collection and occupies a regal place in our collection as well as in our hearts. Now both my mother and my maternal grandfather passed away long back, but their images and memories flood my thoughts whenever I see this Paala tappela that gave a glorious service to our family.

Milking a cow is an art .First you should establish a friendly rapport with the cow. If you approach her with negative vibes it will sense and will not cooperate with you. If you have a friendly approach she will cooperate and allow you to milk her. You have to sit in a correct posture near the cow with a convenient proximity to the udder and the teats. Youhave to sit on your feet with the knees folded. The paala tappela is kept in between the folded knees and milking is done with both the hands. The paala tappela should be positioned directly under the udder of the cow and the teats are to be squeezed so that the milk directly falls into the paala tappela. This is the traditional and professional way of milking the cow. Now a days people sit on a stool and keep the Paala tappela on the ground under the cows podugu(udder)and milk the cow. However the cow will enjoy giving the milk to a seasoned milk man by his rhythmic squeezing movements. Whereas, it will not enjoy the clumsy movements of a nervous new comer.

The job of paaleru is also to take care of the daily discharge of the cow dung.He used to make pidakalu out of the cow dung. Pidakalu are the dung made to the shape of a round disk and dried in the sun. These cow dung pidakalu are used as a fuel to boil water or milk. For Sankranthi festival as children we used to make small pidakalu called bogi pidakalu in the shape of wadas and we used to make a garland of the Bhogi pidakalu and put them in the Bhogimanta, the ceremonial fire lit in the early morning of Bhogi pandaga that falls one day before the Sankranthi. After dropping the bhogi pidakalu garland in the fire me, my sisters along with children used to sit around the fire and warm ourselves against the January winter cold .The Sankranthi festival generally falls on 13th,14th and 15th  of January.