During summer holidays every year, I used to visit my Naniji. She was born in the pre-independence era but her affluent family had given her good education. During the tough times of partition after her marriage, she taught home science in a school to supplement the family income. I remember it was a morning ritual for both my grand parents to getup early, bathe and recite their prayers aloud. We nocturnal animals however pressed pillows to our ears and continued to sleep with a grimace.
After the prayers Naniji would take charge of preparing breakfast and lunch. Mamiji looked after cleaning and laundry. During one such stay, I heard the usually cooperative ladies have a tense conversation. Pretending to sleep, my cousin and I heard it all with our eyes still shut. A day ago my Mamiji had bought a new kadhai (a round shallow saucepan with handles). It was made of brass and plated with tin. Mamiji wanted it to replace the old iron kadhai, the old one gave the food a dark and dull colour.
For Naniji nutrition was not just theory it was a way of life. She was insistent that the dark hue was due to iron and it was healthy. Mamiji repeated the storekeeper’s words. Old karahi was shabby, tough to clean and easily rusted.
Naniji however was no easy customer. Her argument was that if people remained satisfied with what they had, how would the stores make sales. Sales talk and fashion trends played over buyer’s emotions to sell their products. They highlighted only the merits and never disclosed the demerits. It was for us to think what was good for us.
After much argument there was a ceasefire. They decided that my Naniji would continue to use the old kadhai and Mamiji would cook in the new one at their own turns. We kids were least bothered as long as both showered their love on us.
Recently I saw a video on lucky iron fish campaign of Combodia. Food grade Iron fishes have been distributed to poor families to put in pans while cooking their traditional meal of fish and rice. In nine months of use it has made a marked difference in the Anaemia prevention drive. I surveyed my own kitchen. We had slowly switched from brass to white duralmin to now the Teflon coated pans. So many articles are now being published how the plastic coatings release carcinogenic dioxins at high temperatures. It reminded me of the two ladies in my childhood. I decided to use my Naniji’s wisdom.
I no longer go for what looks trendy in my kitchen. Have now bought a new Iron kadhai and with much satisfaction, I am cooking my food in it. The veggies turn out a little dark, but that reddish hue is welcome. It tastes much better and we get our much-required iron so easily. The haemoglobin count of my girls has improved. A simple and practical way to prevent anaemia.
Also read about clay pot cooking in https://thoughtsmithscorner.wordpress.com/2017/01/15/the-joy-of-clay-pot-cooking/