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Sunday, October 22, 2017

OLD FASHIONED KITCHENS IN KGF – SOME NOSTALGIA



OLD FASHIONED KITCHENS IN KGF – SOME NOSTALGIA

In the olden days and even now-a-days, most of the houses in Kolar Gold Fields didn’t have attached kitchens or kitchens that were part of the house. The kitchens were always built off the dining rooms with a small covered passage in between. This was because all the food was cooked over firewood and hence the kitchen had to be separate from the main house so that the smoke, fumes, soot, etc didn’t get into the house. Like the rest of the house, the walls of the kitchen too, were painted white, but the ‘white washed walls’ would get quite black with the smoke from the firewood ovens in no time.
 I remember that the fires in the ovens were always kept going in our kitchen. At any given time, one could see glowing coals in the ovens. When she needed to start cooking the food, our Ayah would blow through a long narrow metal pipe (or tube known as an ‘Oodankol’ in the Tamil language) on the embers to rekindle them. A huge aluminum pot filled with water was always on one of the ovens so that there was a perpetual supply of hot water for use whenever needed. 
Besides the wood stoves and open ovens, we also had iron ‘Sigris’ that were fired with coal. Some dishes such as Roasts, etc which had to be cooked on a slow fire or “Dumm” were left to slow cook over the Sigri the whole night. There were no pressure cookers in those days and hence they had to slow cook for several hours to make them soft and tender.
 Our kitchen had a number of shelves filled with lots of aluminum vessels or dekshis in various sizes, frying pans, etc. The big dekshis were for cooking the Biryanis, roasts, etc, while the smaller ones were used for cooking the curries, fries, pepper-water, etc. Separate dekshi or pans was kept for each type of dish that was prepared.
There were also a few cooking utensils made of mud which were called “Chatties”. These Chatties were used mostly for baking Hoppers and for preparing Fish curry. A special ladle made out of half a coconut shell with a long wooden handle was used to stir the Fish Curry in the Mud Chatties!
 After each cooking session, the utensils would be covered with soot from the wood fire. Our ayah would scrub the dekhis and pans with a mixture of powdered charcoal and soap and some ash from the oven. After a good scrub they would once again shine brightly like polished silver.
The enamel dining plates and dishes were also washed using ashes and 501 Bar soap in those days. The glass crockery however was washed with liquid soap specially procured from Spencers! The brass items such as the water pots, pans etc, were scrubbed with a mixture of brick powder, salt, tamarind or lemon rind to leave them sparkling and shining like gold!


Since there were no refrigerators in the olden days, all the left over food, milk, etc were stored in the “Meat Safe”. A meat safe was a compulsory   piece of furniture in Anglo-Indian homes in the olden days and every family a couple of them. We had 2 Meat Safes in our Dining Room. The Meat Safes were wooden storage cupboards with steel wire mesh on 3 sides so that the air could pass through and keep the food that was stored in it fresh. The back of the meat Safe was of wood. Since the weather was cool in those days and there was no pollution,  everything remained fresh in the meat safes for more than a day. The legs of the Meat Safe were placed in ceramic bowls filled with water or germaxin powder or Ant powder to avoid ants from getting at the food in the meat safe. The Meat Safe’ was also quite necessary to protect the food from cats and mice as well.
Another kitchen appendage that has also disappeared with the older generation is the ‘Wooden Provision or Ration Box / Chest which occupied pride of place in the passage just outside the kitchen door. This Provision Chest / Box  was about 5 feet in height and 4 feet in breadth and housed tins of the various provisions and condiments that were required for Anglo-Indian cooking.  It was divided into many compartments for rice, and dry provisions such as Dhal / Lentils, Red Chillies, Cumin seeds, coriander seeds, spices, jaggery, etc. While these ingredients / provisions, gave out their own unique smells, a combination of all of them together was just heavenly. The smell from my Grandma’s Provision Box still lingers in my mind even after all these years!!

Sadly the Meat Safe  and the Provision Box are now a part of history as they are arely seen in homes these days. People prefer to have fancy refrigerators at home instead of Meat Safes!!


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