Monday, March 17, 2008
To kick off RCI Bengal, I decided to showcase two essential instruments from the Bengali or rather Indian Kitchen. One of them you see here today. I am not sure if this was used all over India, so please enlighten me.
I know for sure that almost all respectable household in Eastern part of India carry it and though it has been relegated to the dark corner besides the “alu-piyaj er jhuri” after the advent of shiny Anjali knives, it is till brought out on good days when Ma’s knee doesn’t hurt that much and there is ample time to sit on the floor and take care of the myriad veggies.
Yes I am talking about “The Boti”, a unique cutting instrument, used by Bengali women where you have to squat on the floor, press the wooden plank to the floor with your feet and cut fruits and veggies on the sharp, curved menacing looking iron blade. You have both your hands free to hold the veggie and peel and then cut it.
The serrated tip pf the boti also served the purpose of grating coconut and it was much faster than any other method I have seen.
A larger version of the same boti, with a bigger blade is used for gutting & cutting fish. So you see the average Bengali household would carry not one but at least 3 boti of different sizes and a separate one for the Puja Room alone.
Growing up I hardly saw my Ma or Aunts use knives for chopping veggies, fruits yes but veggies no. The daily morning ritual would be to sort out the veggies bought fresh from the market or from the “sabjiwali” who brought fresh fares home and then would start the peeling, chopping, cutting. The various boti were brought out and the household help along with the oldest member of the family would sit down on the floor to start on their task. Gossips were shared and tea sipped at while the veggies were cubed and the fish gutted.
As we moved away from the joint family to another city, the morning chores were no longer that leisurely for my Ma but the boti still held its place. I too was apprenticed in cutting vegetables with the boti and took to it ok, though I wasn’t very fast with it.
Slowly my Ma’s knee started giving her trouble and squatting on the floor was no longer that easy. It was the household help who was in total charge of he boti now until one fine afternoon, the intruder came home. A chopping board and a set of shiny knives entered the household but the boti was yet to be ousted. No one was really happy with the knives and the chopping board and my Ma grumbled about how it wasn’t the same thing.
My Ma now largely relies on the knives and I got her a good set from here, but the boti is still there and the help still uses it to cut veggies.
The pic as you see here is one sent by my Baba from Calcutta. I do not have one here so could not take any more pics. Though the pic is not exactly an artist’s delight, I thought this would be a nice entry for Click:Metal hosted at Jugalbandi, to celebrate “The Boti”
Note: Bring on your entries for RCI-Bengal, a event started by Lakshmi and hosted this time around by humble me. And mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Also remember to link back to RCI Bengal post from your entry posts in your blog