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I was reading a blog article on cooking rice now and in the years gone by and it brought back memories which I share with you.

Years back, 20, 30, or so my mother and others cooked rice in a way not influenced by the present day rice cookers. The rice is cleaned, running water through it a few times, then it is placed in a hollow bowl usually an earthen container and boiled over an open fire using firewood – no electric or gas stoves then. Water will be added to just below the mouth of the container and the stuff is boiled. When cooking is over the rice must be filtered from the water; the contents remains soggy with rice and water. Every house will have a wooden gadget shaped like the 2 H alphabet placed on top of the other without the centre line. The boiled rice is then placed on this gadget and the water is filtered away.

The starch mixed with water is known as ‘Kanchi Thani’ in Tamil, and it was one of the best forms of starch when you wish to iron your clothes, which those days were all cotton, no synthetic stuff. This filtered water was fed to cows and goats.

My father owned a cow or two, mostly a single animal, as looking after cows was a tedious job, which my father did to supplement his income besides working in the Railways – part time husbandry. So ‘kanchi thani’ was required to feed the cow. My father cut out empty kerosene tins and fixed wooden handles embedded to the inside for ease of carrying. My job was to place these empty tins in the neighbour’s houses and collect the ‘kanchi thanni’ on a daily basis. Was it heavy, not so if the people don’t dump the remnants of rice and other edibles not consumed. Then you struggle a bit to carry the tin – this was when I was still in my pre-teens. The starch corrodes the bottom of the tin very fast and my father a mason or brick-layer, had the bottom cemented to prolong the live of the tin. Phew that was heavy. But struggled I did, to bring the tin home.

It was the practice then to mix this decanterd rice water with oil cake (punnaku in Tamil) for cows giving milk and pregnant ones, possibly to give them extra nutrition. Again this oil cake can be from coconut (coconut oil) or sesame seed(gingerly oil). My grandfather in Batu Gajah had two of these oil mills – don’t be carried away by the word mill, this is the nearest word I can think of, but in actual fact they were two contraptions made of wood, a big bowl with a pestle of wood as well, which a bull will pull in a circle to pound the contents either coconut or sesame seed. When the contents have been pulverised, the oil is drained off and the remnants become oil cake. Even today, older people, will curse a lazy person as a ‘chekku maadu’ meaning the bull that goes around and around the monotonous beaten path.

Now to continue with the rice water, boiling rice the old way removes the starch, and the present health conscious world of rice eaters may benefit by cooking the rice thus. But can present wives do this. After a hard days work, barely any of them cook in the house, reserving the cooking for the week-end or holiday. Even full time house wives are so used to the rice cooker, they may not know how to cook the rice the old way. They talk about ‘neraikatrathu’ and measure the limited water in the rice cooker with the fingers dipped in water to know how much water is needed. the old mothers just filled up the water to the brim of the pot and as I remember the rice cooked was different. Anyway this is a price we pay for modernisation. Phew.

Gettin my learn on. « Textiles and Bicycles

My dad told me a lovely story today about cooking rice. Apparently back in the day, while growing up in Northern India, they would make rice by boiling it in water and then draining the starch-laden water, much the same as we do with pasta. The way I’ve seen most folks make rice these days is to use the exact amount of water necessary leaving nothing to drain. The way my father used to do it eliminates most of the starch in white rice, making it much healthier. Now the best part is that they then used the starchy water to starch their laundry! They would rinse their clean clothes in the starchy water and then hang them out to dry…presto, starched clothes. Spray starch is rendered useless and the earth can smile. or at least crack one for a sec.

How’s that for some recycling?

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