Monday, March 17, 2008

Boti: a unique cutting instrument

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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 rcibengal@gmail.com

Also remember to link back to
RCI Bengal post from your entry posts in your blog

44 comments:

  1. oh i remember this...in telugu we'd call it "kathipeeta" meaning quite literally knife and chopping board....infact i think its somewhere up in the attic....and yes my grandmother swore it was much better and faster than using a knife...brought back loads of nostalgia...thanks for posting on this....

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  2. hi sandeepa, in konkani we call it "addeli".my ma-in-law uses only the addeli,she even peels the skins of papaya/pineapple etc.I am also learning to use the addeli these days..hehe!!

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  3. Hi Sandeepa! thats avery nice entry.we call it pankhi in oriya and yes the post did make me miss my home:)

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  4. Hello Sandeepa..We call it "aruvamanai" in Tamil.I have been reading your blog for a while now.Have tried some of your recipes and they have been a big hit with my Bong hubby :) I really enjoy reading your posts and am looking forward to RCI roundup.
    Cheers,
    Shalini

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  5. hi, we call it "vili" / "morli" in marathi. my mom still uses it for cutting vegies ..

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  6. Yes, it is very common in Maharashtrian kitchens too, called "vili". I never did learn how to use one, and neither does my mother. But the lovely lady who has cooked lunch in my parents' home for decades...she raises her eyebrows at knives and continues to use the "vili" every single day, at lightening speed!

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  7. Oh Yes! this instrument has its pride of place in any kitchen. My mom still uses, though she perches on the kitchen counter and works with it. Knives just don't "cut it" over there :)

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  8. Hey, Sandeepa, nice. We discussed this earlier, remember? All the varieties I've seen, including the one at home, have a swan-like blade.

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  9. when i stepped into my baung ma-in-law's kitchen for the first time I felt at home since i had seen it in my marathi, punjabi, gujrati, kannadiga, friends's home back in bombay. i am a maloo but we do the same thing in our house when we have to cut blocks of meat. we arrange one end of our knife vertical between the two toes of the feet and the head of the knife on half a coconut - just like the boti. my maloo mom should have just one boti or vili..things would have been less scarier ! but then she wanted to preserve the maloo culture !! can you beat that !!!

    Lincy

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  10. My both grandmothers have this in their kitchen. It's called "Mane`" if I recall it correctly, use it for chopping veggies and the top part is used to grate halved coconut with shell intact. They have a larger one with a plate like wooden under the grater and they sit on the longer and wider plank of wood.
    I was always scared to go near it since that sickle like thingie is so sharp and always sat openly upright in the kitchen! ;P
    Great entry, loved it. See you in May, take care Sandeepa, hugs to you!:))

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  11. oh yes!! My grand mom had it too... We caleld it "thuriyo mane" in Kannada.... they used it to grate coconut and also chop veggies! Thanx for bringing back old memories :)

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  12. that is a fantastic pic. your baba should participate in click mote often. :)

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  13. Hey Sandeepa, we have it too and call it "daat" in Punjabi :). It is used to chop saag and other greens.

    Great picture!

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  14. Hi Sandeepa, we call it viLi in Marathi! My Mum , grandma used this , i was taught how to use it, but preferred knife ;)
    My Mom still prefers the viLi!
    and we now have a 'new fnagled' one... it has a longish screw under the 'knee plate' which one uses to affix the thing to the kitchen platform ( indian platforms have this border) and so the boti/ viLi is propped on the platform and one cuts veges standing!

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  15. it's a comfortable piece to grated the coconut than all other modern one's.


    Nice entry Sandeepa..

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  16. hey Sandeepa, in konkani we call it AadoLLi. We keep two at home one for veggies and one exclusively for fish.

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  17. As divya said, we call it "Addoli/advali".My mom does not like to use knives, she always uses this. It was a must in my home when I was in Bangalore. Now I have learnt to live without it :(. Such a handy tool....

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  18. What a surprise!! It is Boti indeed!
    Reminds me of grandmother and her generation instantly! My Ma is more efficient on the boti but her knees do not allow her to use it that much. It's a great idea to gift good set of knives to them. What a lovely post Sandeepa (as usual). Ahh...ekhon bujte parcho keno tomai fire ashar jonno jhamela korchilam aamra shobai.

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  19. I am back ..

    What a knife.. I havn't seen this before in my life..

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  20. I am back ..

    What a knife.. I havn't seen this before in my life..

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  21. Wow, its nice to know that the "Boti" is not an alien instrument to you all and it is used in a diff avtaar all over India

    Amazing, and I thought it is a Bengali birth right :)

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  22. It felt like revisiting childhood. But I too have one hidden behind my gas cylinder. I don't use it, but my Bong maid needs it and so does my Mom whenever she is here. My Mom suffers from severe joint aches, so has found an innovative position of using it while standing, fixing it between herself and the wall above the kitchen table...but still... refuses to be bogged down to using the knives.

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  23. Yeah....we use it in Mangalore too.In konkani its called "kaanthne".Some of them dont have the blade,just the portion to grate the coconut.

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  24. I have seen this in some Maharashtra's house also I have seen it in Tamilnadu state, I don't know what they call it .
    We Gujarati people dont use it , Neither had I seen that in nay house if Gujarat .
    When I see people cutting veggie using Boti ,It scares me , and I never dared to give it a try :)) .

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  25. Baap rey! I had even forgotten about the boti... now kitchens have gone high tech with knives and food processors! Brought visions of when I was little back... (a long long time ago of course)

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  26. oooh I have one and I love it, I also have a boti like thingy which scrapes coconut. Both provide an interesting topic of conversation for my canadian friends when they are over for dinner. Both are well used, they keep the senses sharp.

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  27. hi sandeepa,
    in kannada we call it-``kaayi turiyo mane´´..still today my mother uses this..and she doesnt chop the veggies using knife and board!!

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  28. We call it "aruvamanai" - and yes it was used for everything from grating coconuts(the tip was a rounded serrated one) to peeling pumpkins.....I would still love to grate coconut on it rather than those pesky new fangled ones!

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  29. Its a wonder how each state in india use the same thing..with different names!..looks great..we still use it...though in daily hectic schedule, we prefer the table top board..:)..nice entry!

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  30. Ooo ... brings back crazy memories of childhood - when my sis and I would want to try grating a coconut on this. And my mom would start flipping out :)

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  31. Hey we also use that in oriya kitchen. My mom still finds it easy.It is called paniki.

    very nice website

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  32. It is called Paniki in Odiya..I feel scared to use it. Have seen it being used back home..

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  33. We call it 'aruvamanai' in south TamilNadu. It used anywhere from scraping coconut to cutting fish. I was so happy to see it here. Its been ages since I saw one. Thanks.

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  34. In some part of South Bihar, presently Jharkhand, it is called "Hansua"(Hun-s-oo-wa) esp. common amongst Radhi Kayastha community. I tried buying this in a Gujarati store in New Jersey. They didn't seem to understand what I was talking about. Could someone please translate this in Gujarati? Moreover, people in my village in Jharkhand use this as their regular vegetable cutter and believe me; this stuff chops vegetables in rocketting speed if one knows how to use it.

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  35. I have linked this post to one of my posts...hope that's okay?!

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  36. Hi... I'd like to know what a boti is called in Sylheti - does anyone know?

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  37. woo thanks a lot for your wonder ful post and the wonderful comments.
    BOTI in bengali, kathipeeta in telugu,
    addeli/advali in konkani,pankhi in oriya, aruvamanai in tamil , vili/morli in tamil .mane/ thuriro mane in kannada , daat in panjabi, hansua in bihar, hasiya in m.p. ,kaanthne in manglore...
    my question is that is there any specific name for this in english.

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  38. Hi, i just wrote a buzz about my grand mother today, and was searching for the english word for this "viLi" as we call it in Marathi. My mom, granny and even our maid is very accustomed to using it, like you said, its very handy for grating coconut. I can use it with ease too, but now use chopping board and knives.

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  39. thnk u to all.. these all commnts r helpful 2 me, bcoz im designing studnt n now findind a prodct with problem n i choosen hasiya or konkani as my prodct so dat i can improve its design to not have any problm 2 any1 due 2 d joint prblm or anythng else.. n old age people can also get enjoy 2 use 2 cut veggies.. thnx again :)

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  40. and i got lots of information by d hlp of u guys, diffrnt names in difffrent languages...

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  41. I've never seen or heard about this cutting instrument. Makes me wonder if some restaurants still use this.

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  42. This is good site to spent time on. allergy

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