While we were growing up in KGF, the houses and Bungalows 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.

Cooking Gas was introduced in KGF only during the 1970s So most of the cooking was done on firewood ovens and a few light dishes would be done on an electric stove. 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 Cook 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 kept 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 Ox tail, Ox Tongue, Beef Roast, Trotters etc which had to be cooked on a slow fire or “Dum” 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!

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