Sunday, June 15, 2008

Grinding for everyday cooking

Near Gate 3 of Jama Masjid, I saw this little iron pestle. It was part of doctor's toolkit, used to powder roots and herbs (much more interesting than writing out boring prescriptions!).
.
It reminded me of a similar, but larger iron mortar and pestle in my grandmother's kitchen. Every year, large quantities of spices would be ground in it. The pestle was about 4 feet high, and you had to stand in order to bring it down hard on the mortar. A woman from a nearby village would come visit our house, she would spend all day grinding. We'd hear the rhythmic thwack of the pestle and sneeze when the masalas tickled our noses. We all tried our hand at it, of course. The pestle was amazingly heavy, and we were full of admiration for the woman who hefted it so easily with one hand.

These days, I don't see iron mortars and pestles in Indian cities. We've mostly switched to ready-made masalas. You can still see some stone grinders, though.

My mum has a tiny stone mortar-and-pestle, which she uses to make fresh garam masala for cooking. I have a small one too, that I use for crushing garlic, green chili and ginger. Every time a green chili crunches satisfying under the pestle, it awakens something atavistic in me. Take that! I want to say. And that! And that!

My motorised grinder isn't half as fun!

2 comments:

sands said...

Nice post, motorised one isn't half the fun and is zero the pain too :-)
To satisfy the very feeling you expressed I use a small morter and pestle to grind ginger and garlic.

Garam Beni said...

What a lovely blog!

The only time I've ever 'experienced' this most grandmotherly piece of kitchen equipment was when we learned the Hindi alphabet in nursery and KG. (O se Okhli!)
We did have one set in our kitchen too, just a foot high but obscenely heavy nonetheless!