Wednesday, 17 April 2019

A revisit to memory lanes when utensils were down-to-earth

Picture by M.Elavenil
Caught in the rat race of modern age, the present generation, which is used to the utensils and containers made of metal and plastic, has little chance to know the cultural character of the yesteryear earthen utensils. Still, a home maker recollects her early days of using the traditional kitchenware and their cultural bond with the social life in rural Coimbatore.
“When the monsoon festival Adiperukku was celebrated after the flooding in river Noyyal at Perur on the 18th day of the Tamil month Aadi, it was a tradition to buy new earthenware utensils for home. The practice of buying a new pot for making Pongal is still followed on the Pongal festival, which falls of the first day of the Tamil month Thai” says S.Rani, a homemaker from Irugur and a native of Perur.
Listing the names of the earthen utensils bought for cooking rice and curry and storing curd and butter milk, Rani points out:
“The Kongu Tamil expressions of the earthen utensils as Saapaattu Chatti, Thatai Chatty, Kuzhambu Chatty and Sunda Chatty are no longer heard from the decline of pottery.”
In an age when weddings were conducted at home, Rani says that great quantities of rice and curry were cooked in the large earthen vessel called Moda. It was a time when pressure cookers were once things of luxury in Coimbatore.
“Before the arrival of frying pans made of stainless steel, the ones that we used to fry ground nuts were the broken pieces of earthen vessels. Instead of the Piramanai, a small ring-like cane stand for earthen water pots, we used the Valliyodu or Vaapadu, which is the corruption of the Tamil expression ‘Vaayodu’ – the neck of a broken pot” explains Rani.
Rani has many such typical terms from the vernacular of Kongu Tamil,whose etymologies are hardly found even in popular Tamil dictionaries and lexicons.
“We used to mention the pieces of the fibre from the stem of a palmyra leaf as Simbu. In the days when the earthen idly maker was in use, pieces of Simbu would be placed in a criss-cross pattern on each plate of the utensil to separate the batter spooned on it”
“The potter in our locality would be busy making earthen kitchenware for every home. There existed even a barter system in our village. The potter, in return for his supply of utensils, was paid annually with measures of rice, dhal and other grains, when Perur flourished in agriculture those days” Rani winds up


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