I grew up in my grandma’s then 100-year-old house in Pajifond, Margao. It was entirely built with mud walls, hipped timber roofs, and Mangalore tiles. There are many stories to scribble about this house and its surrounds ( The hill, the military camp and TB Sanitorium). Today, let me dedicate this article to just the kitchen.
We had a huge kitchen that was divided into two parts by a tin corrugated sheet partition against which was placed an open shelving unit that carried all of granny’s hidden treasures (More on this later!). On the far side was the cooking platform with the ‘chulas’ (3-stone arrangement for supporting earthen pots, with fire below). Under it was the firewood store and next to it was the huge ‘bann’ (Brass water pot) that could take 22 ‘bindulam’ (brass pots to draw water from the well … about 7 litres). Believe me when I say that my grandmother filled this ‘bann’ every day starting at 5.30 am sharp. Our well was 22 hands deep (approx, 25m) and she did this ritual all the way up to age 83 and had to stop after her partial paralysis. Our ‘nahnni’ (Bath room), was placed just next to the ‘bann’ so that one could reach into it with a ‘tambio’ (small pot, which drew a liter of water from the ‘bann’). There was always fire and burning coals under the ‘bann’ and the coals were useful particularly during the rainy season when the ‘solieeh’ (dry salted fish…kitefish?) were placed on the coals for roasting. After roasting, these were doused with pure coconut oil and served over hot rice and ‘ankvaar coddi’ (Plain curry with coconut and onions, dry mango). Sometimes even ‘papads’ (thin spicy wafers) were also roasted on the coals. I particularly loved to see the ‘papads’ curl up in the heat as if they were alive and cringing from the heat!
Hanging directly over the cooking platform, was a timber crossbar with onions and garlic, meticulously entwined by their dry shoots, tied to the bar. Hundreds of ‘rosary’ sausages also draped the bar, getting naturally smoked/dried. In the corner of the platform lay a dozen earthen vessels of various shapes and sizes. The ‘doule’ (ladles made from coconut shell) and the ‘niunnio’- straw covered rings to rest the ‘butkule’ and the ‘kunnim’ (earthen vessels) on the rings, since they had a round bottom.
When ‘pez’ (congee) was made at 10am in the morning, the ‘buttkulo’ (Earthen vessel) was kept on a ‘neunni’ (Straw ring) with a ‘maltul’ (small earthen bowl) covering the top, with ‘chepnnem thoram’ (Pressed green mango in brine) in it. In my village of Utorda, my gran would boil raw mangoes and then put them in brine. Those too would taste really good with congee.
Fruit skins and other organic waste would be dumped in the ‘kodem’ (A large-mouthed earthen vessel) kept under the ‘Mandd-kirponnem’ (Not sure it was called this… but it was an arrangement of timber frames to strain rice water in the ‘kodem’. This collection of rice water and organic waste would make excellent food for pigs, called ‘Donn’).
We had no water connection in the early days and so, a ‘sotel’ (flat brass pan) and a bucket of water would be kept at the window, with ‘katho’ (Coconut husk) and ‘gobor’ (Ash) to rub on the dirty vessels.
Right behind the cooking area was a table with the famous ‘gurguleta’ (earthen cock shaped vessel to hold clean water). The rest of the table held clean glasses, plates, saucers, crockery, and cutlery. We even had a ‘bule’ (Kettle) with a padded cover to keep the tea warm!
Once, a cobra claimed the wood store below our cooking platform as his home but the hissing gave him away. We had to call a ‘jaadhu mantar’ guy to catch it and take it away!
I hope to write more on this topic soon …