Traditional Ubiquitous Kitchenware

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#1 Sep 16th, 2014, 17:36
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  • brishti is offline
#1
Not only about Indian kitchens - it's what was/is mandatory in your grandmother's and/or mother's/father's kitchen - wherever you are.
Age old traditional - hand-me-downs - stories & reminisces.


In my grandma's Bengali kitchen - never saw either a knife or a peeler.
The 'boti' a nasal 'bow' - then 'tee' was used to peel / chop / slice / grate.

It is a long curved blade on a platform held down by foot; both hands are used to hold whatever is being cut and move it against the blade.
One cut anything from a shrimp - to a pumpkin, on it.


The more traditional boti - was all metal

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Nineteenth-century Kalighat painting of a woman cutting a whole fish, possibly a carp, on a bonti. Courtesy of Biswaranjan Sarkar, Calcutta


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The platform changed - and it was easier to rest the foot on the wooden board.
The edge of the boti changed to being serrated... this was used for grating coconuts.

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Then came the folding boti - easier to store - and safer when stored, since the blade was not upright.

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By the time mom got into the kitchen full time - the boti transformed even more.
The wooden platform vanished - the blade had a screw by which one could attach the blade on a table.
Somewhat easier - as one didn't have to sit on the floor - and one could do it all, standing up.
Sorry - am unable to source an image anywhere. If someone can, please post it. Thank you.



Have watched Maa slice wafer thin vegetables on the boti - could compete with any French or Japanese knife skills.
Old school Bengalees still don’t think a knife can ever be as efficient as a boti,
even though it is so scary because the blade faces the user’s face and not away from it.



An excerpt from Jhumpa Lahiri’s short story - Mrs. Sen’s.
In Lahiri’s story, Mrs. Sen’s boti becomes an object of fascination for the young boy Eliot.


" He especially enjoyed watching Mrs. Sen as she chopped things, seated on a newspaper on the living room floor. Instead of a knife she used a blade that curved like the prow of a Viking ship, sailing to battle in distant seas. The blade was hinged at one end to a narrow wooden base. The steel, more black than silver, lacked a uniform polish, and had a serrated crest, she told Eliot, for grating. Each afternoon Mrs. Sen lifted the blade and locked it into place, so that it met the base at an angle. Facing the sharp edge without ever touching it , she took whole vegetables between her hands and hacked them apart: cauliflowers, cabbage, butternut squash. She split things in half, then quarters, speedily producing florets, cubes, slices, and shreds. She could peel a potato in seconds. At times she sat cross-legged, at times with legs splayed, surrounded by an array of colanders and shallow bowls of water in which she immersed her chopped ingredients.

While she worked she kept an eye on the television and an eye on Eliot, but she never seemed to keep an eye on the blade. Nevertheless, she refused to let Eliot walk around when she was chopping. “Just sit, sit please, it will take just two more minutes,” she said, pointing to the sofa… …

She had brought the blade from India, where apparently there was at least one in every household. “Whenever there is a wedding in the family,” she told Eliot one day, “or a large celebration of any kind, my mother sends out word in the evening for all the neighborhood women to bring blades just like this one, and then they sit in an enormous circle on the roof of our building, laughing and gossipping and slicing fifty kilos of vegetables through the night.” Her profile hovered protectively over her work, a confetti of cucumber, eggplant, and onion skins heaped around her. “It is impossible to fall asleep those nights, listening to their chatter.” She paused to look at a pine tree framed by the living room window. “Here, in this place where Mr. Sen has brought me, I cannot sometimes sleep in so much silence.”
"



:brishti
#2 Sep 16th, 2014, 17:44
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#2
Nice write-up Brishti. A similar thing is used here too, except that the wooden platform is raised from the ground, so you can comfortably sit on it. Usually there are separate ones for vegetables and fish.
#3 Sep 16th, 2014, 18:28
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In Bihar this instrument is called a hăsu(v)ā; a sickle is called a hăsiyā and a crescent-shaped ornament worn around the neck is called a hăsulī. In other parts of the Hindi belt the first two are interchangeable.
#4 Sep 16th, 2014, 18:53
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#4
In Maharashtra, this is known as wizhi...the zh pronounced as the Tamils do. My mother still uses it.
#5 Sep 16th, 2014, 19:42
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#5
Tamil: Aruvamanai

Yes, we have one, but it isn't posh like Brishti's collection of pics.

Whilst I remember the ladies in my guruji's house doing all their veg chopping on one these, as far as I can remember the only person I've seen use it recently is the fish lady, for cutting and cleaning fish.

Key to this kind of tool is that it is designed for life that is lived at floor level. No chopping boards on kitchen work surfaces at elbow hight, the floor is the worksurface.

Here's another floor-use tool: What this one for? The quiz is only open to non-Indians, as any Indian will answer immediately...

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Sorry it is such a bad photo. Here's the business end...

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#6 Sep 16th, 2014, 20:28
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Haha, that's a nice one Nick, we use the same thing at home too. But we've managed to learn to use it without sitting down on it
#7 Sep 16th, 2014, 21:48
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That's quite a gal in that first pic.

#8 Sep 17th, 2014, 00:31
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#8
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nick-H View Post ... Here's another floor-use tool: What this one for? The quiz is only open to non-Indians, as any Indian will answer immediately...
Is it a cricket bat?
#9 Sep 17th, 2014, 00:55
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Hmmm... I'm not sure what a cricket bat looks like?
#10 Sep 17th, 2014, 02:34
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Quote:
Originally Posted by piyukamath View Post Haha, that's a nice one Nick, we use the same thing at home too. But we've managed to learn to use it without sitting down on it
This is the version for those who prefer to operate it in an upright position. We had something similar at home.


Nick's looks more like an instrument of torture.
#11 Sep 17th, 2014, 02:58
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#11
Is it some kind of juicer.... it looks like you could use it to mush up orange / lemon / lime to get the juice from...

Failing that - I agree with Golghar, could be some kind of torture instrument..
#12 Sep 17th, 2014, 03:01
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#12
(It's a cricket bat).

Also check out this thread for kitchenware: Sama's pic titled "Breakfast Time" subtitled "taken at homestay outside Jodhpur, Rajasthan"
#13 Sep 17th, 2014, 03:07
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#13
Or a kind of peeler?

Although the photo Golghar posts of a similar item doesn't look like it would peel much.

I'm curious now... Nick better come back and answer this otherwise I'll be awake all night searching for 'Indian kitchen tools' on google images.... this kinda stuff bugs me until I get answers!!
#14 Sep 17th, 2014, 03:11
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#14
Both Nick's and Golghar's tools do the same thing. Think girl, think.
#15 Sep 17th, 2014, 03:15
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#15
Phew... No mention of Zen Gardens from Ms Fang

(Hmmm... I'd better stop this, or I'll be proving Ms Tuesday right)

People... This is certainly not a rare thing in India, nor is the job that it does. Golghar's more sophisticated version reminds me of the breakthrough I had when browsing a kitchen shop, that any gadget that looked just really strange was probably related to the same common Indian produce.

The one in my pic came from Kerala. Surely you don't need more clues?

Quote:
I'll be awake all night searching for 'Indian kitchen tools' on google images
To my surprise, it's not there in the first few pages, at leat.
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