The Old World Charm of Rustic Indian Pounders & Grinders!
Tags: Ancestral Home Visit Experience, Ancient Cooking Technique, Ancient Hand Operated Millstone, Ancient Kitchen in India, Best Culinary Experience, Cooking Vacations in India, countryside experience, Culinary Vacation in India, Food Culture of India, Indian Grinding Stones, Mortar and Pestle, Offbeat Farmstay Vacation, Pata Varvanta, Pounders & Grinders, Rural India, Rustic Farmstay Experience, Traditional Kitchen Tools
Being the archetypal city kid, every summer I used to visit my grandparents at our ancestral home in coastal Konkan. What still is a vivid memory to me is the cool smoky kitchen with an open fire furnace in the corner & monolithic tools made of stone & cast iron adorning the walls & wooden shelves! On our first visit, I had asked my mom if it was Fred Flintstone’s kitchen after seeing the massive flour grinder made of stone (Jata) & a small bench fitted with a sharp iron coconut grinder! And these memories of my innocent questions still create laughter in my family.
Over the years, many of this equipment are getting shifted to the lofts & stores in our modern kitchens as mixers & food cutters sat on our shelves. Having said that, the rustic taste & fulfilling experience of using these stone crafted Jata’s or Pata Varvanta (Grinding Stones) & Ukhals / Khalbattas (mortar & pestles) is yet unmatched and can be the best cooking vacation in India.
Traditionally women folk in the house used to get together around the Jata (stone flour mills) in the afternoons & grind the wheat & rice flour at home for their daily needs. I have even heard that there used to be specific 2-4 liner verses called “Ovi” to be sung while doing this job. These unwritten legacies would be handed down generations of women in the family orally. The Ovis were not just religious Bhajans but also fun catchy songs about saas-bahu conflicts & more..!
Enlisted below are some more traditional kitchen tools which reigned in the past which can be seen on your cooking vacation at farmstay in India:
1. Ancient Hand Operated Millstone (Chakki/ Jata)
The Chakki or Jata was basically two round stones fitted on top of each other with an inlet on top to put in grains to be ground to flour. Traditionally women folk used to gather around a Chakki & operate it in groups of two by sitting across each other. The fine flour spills out of the sides of the round stones which is then collected in containers & stored for future use. Jata is still used by few ladies in the rural parts.
2. Pata Varwanta (Grinding Stone & Rolling Pin)
The Pata Varvanta was a must have for every Chutney to be made & every spice paste to be conjured to make the curry more delectable! This simple equipment consisted of a flat stone base with a cylindrical smaller stone on top for carrying out the grinding. Every day this contraption not just lent spice to the cooking but also added flavor & wholesome balance of rock minerals & salts. The red hot chilies, shallots, garlic and coriander seeds ground to a paste not only made mouth-watering dishes but also lent a tingling aroma to the whole kitchen! opportunity to use these grinding stone is a perfect offbeat cooking experience while on your cooking vacation at farmstay.
3. Stone Mortar & Pestle
The Ukhal or Khalbatta is an inseparable part of the ancient cooking technique. The base is a sturdy bowl crafted of stone while the Pestle is a long shaft with round stone ponders at the end or a cylindrical club made of stone. The Khalbatta is ideal for pounding the groundnuts, chilies & garlic to make the spicy groundnut chutney or coconut chutney. Ukhal is the larger version used for threshing & pounding of grains to remove husks or pound chilies, Haldi & coriander seeds to spice powder.
Today in urban India, over the years the music of the grinding has stopped. The fading grinding stone has been exiled to a corner of the kitchen. It stands against the wall and stares silently into space. I think it envy’s the whirring of the blender, which comes to life every day and sometimes even the blender looks lonely when my mother takes a dollop from the ready made packets of ground spices and puts it in the food.
We have come a long way…But the past has been glorious & surely worth a visit once in a while!
You can still hear this grinning music planning a cooking vacation at farmstays around your place and taste food prepared using these stone grinders & pounders. The nostalgia will take you back to your own fond childhood memories of smoky kitchens, granny’s stories & running around farms. So why not visit a rustic village farmstay this holiday season & introduce your kids to the Fred Flintstone’s kitchen tools just like I was?