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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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My Experience With Using Antique Vessels For Cooking And Drinking Water

Here’s a new guest post. Sushma, is an ardent follower of ykantiques.com. After realising the benefits of using traditional cooking vessels, she has discarded the modern kitchenware like pressure cookers and non-stick cookware one fine morning and started using only traditional cookware made of brass, bronze, copper, iron and earthen pots. She proudly says that neither she nor her husband visited a doctor since last 2 years and she attributes this gift of health to her traditional way of cooking. Here is her story in her own words.

 

A Bit About Myself

For those of you who might be wondering who I am, my name is Sushma and I am from Vijayawada. After my marriage I relocated to Hyderabad.  The thing is that, even after my marriage I did not know how to cook. The only thing I could cook was noodles. To add to that, I did not even know how to prepare tea back then. It is my husband who taught me most of the recipes which today I make so wonderfully.

Initially, when I was practicing cooking, it was okay. But with every passing day, somehow I was losing interest. I became an expert in cooking non-veg dishes but I don’t know why I felt that the taste factor in vegetarian dishes is not as dominating as that in non-vegetarian dishes. So I always used to wonder as to how to make vegetarian dishes equally tasty.

Some traditional vessels I use everyday
Some traditional vessels I use everyday

When I become completely vegetarian including even egg, I felt I should do something to bring marvelous taste to veg dishes as well. There is a saying that, “What we eat is what we are,” so I thought to live a better life. I personally feel that vegetarian food is the only food to develop spirituality in human beings.

A Snippet From The Past

Back then in the day, me and my husband went on a short visit to my husband’s home town Penugonda.  One fine day, my husband’s cousin invited us for lunch.  We both went there and to my utter amusement I saw different kinds of brass items. I was really excited to see those. Till then, the only brass items I knew about were the lota and big size round shape vessel used to store water called Gangalam.

 

After coming back to Hyderabad I was curious and started searching for what exactly these brass items are/were used for. Luckily, I stumbled upon  www.ykantiques.com and I was astonished looking at the items and the descriptions given by Krishna Murthy garu for each item. Then, I asked my mother as to why we are not using these brass vessels anymore. She told me that day by day, as convenient and modern methods came into existence, everybody began to shift from old to new without having prior knowledge.

 

My Take On Non-Stick Cookware

I feel that cooking in non-stick vessels will deteriorate the value of food.  That’s why most people are inclined to non-vegetarian food. Even cooking in a microwave oven has a bad effect on the food and one’s health. Also, after cooking, storing food in plastic boxes is also not good.

Indian cooking methods were very ancient and mainly concerned with seasons and temperature prevalent in our country. There are so many scientific reasons why we used to follow certain rituals and traditions. Today, we are not aware of these scientific reasons and are blindly following the west.

Non-stick cookware is coated with a material called Teflon, which causes cancer. This Teflon coating reacts with the food we cook and it abrades and contaminates our food.

 

Aluminium utensils were not so prominent until Britishers came to India.  They used these aluminium vessels in jails for cooking food so that it acts as a slow poison on freedom fighters.  Aluminium pressure cookers are also not good for health. When anything is cooked under pressure, food loses it protein value. In food cooked in aluminium pressure cookers, the protein percentage is 7 to 13 per cent. By cooking food in these vessels, risk diabetes, early signs of old age, stomach problems etc.

 

The vessels which are good for cooking are:

Earthen bowls: 100% proteinis retained

Brass vessels: 97% protein is retained

Bronze vessels: 93% protein is retained

The vessel I use for cooking rice
The vessel I use for cooking rice

 

The vessel coated inside with tin layer, I use to cook Sambar and Andhra pulusu
The vessel coated inside with tin layer, I use to cook Sambar and Andhra pulusu

Even stainless steel contains nickel which is not good for Indian recipes.  That’s why since 20 years there is a drastic increase in the number of diseases at early stages.

 

Storing Drinking Water

Another major thing is drinking water and also storing in plastic containers.  We are de-energizing water as firstly it travels through metal pipelines over long distances. For purification purpose, we add chemicals like bleaching powder etc. thinking that we will get purified water.  Day by day if we follow these type of techniques, ill effects would be visibly seen.

After knowing all these things, I have made many changes to my lifestyle. I will first start with water. Drinking water should be stored in opaque, porous and earthen medium.

Since 80 per cent of our body is water, our ancestors used to store water in mud pots and they lived in sync with the five elements of nature. In order to get energized and purified, they used mud pots.

Drinking water in glasses and any plastic medium is not good for health. Our traditional method of drinking water is by using lota. Water has a property, it cleanses the internal organs. If you observe a lota, the surface area is less, when surface area is less, surface tension is also less. So drinking water in lota is a good habit. Water should never be drunk by in standing position.  In order to avoid joint pains sit and drink sip by sip. To give more energy to water, I started using Himalayan energy crystal. According to literature by crystal experts, the Himalayan crystal amplifies energy and possesses a high energy vibration.

Himalayan energy crystal
Himalayan energy crystal

Crystals, in particular, were used to increase and harmonise energy levels which in turn helped to equip and strengthen the body.  Now-a-days we buy water which is processed and stored for a long period of time. While travelling, we buy bottles.  In early days, to carry water, people used a container which has round body and a narrow neck. In Telugu, we call it as marachombu. This looks like lota, but it has a lid.

Marachombu with lid that is used to carry water during journey
Marachombu with lid that is used to carry water during journey

 

I personally wanted to stop buying water in plastic containers and start using this marachombu. If in case you happen to buy water, pour the water in marachombu and place a Himalayan crystal in it. Now a days, these  processes may look inferior to chemical based and technology based medicines and antibiotics.

While an increase in diseases and illness in this modern worlds has created a necessity for modern medicine and techniques. We should always remember the healing power of the earth.

I will try and write about other aspects that I have learned about and those which I’m currently practicing in my day to day life. If you have something to share or add to this, I would love to hear from you.

 

Sushma
Sushma