Proud owner of a mortar and pestle

I love watching the Discovery travel and living channel. I am just drawn into their world of exotic locales, intriguing cultures and myriad food shows. Bobby Chin, Curtis Stone, Jamie Oliver, Kylie Kwong, Anthony Bourdain, and Nigella Lawson keep me engaged with their varied culinary skills. Now don’t get me wrong; I’m not a huge fan of cooking. Neither is the kitchen is my favorite hangout and nor do I potter around trying out new recipes. In fact my kitchen setup is very basic – a few pots n pans, a wok, a pressure cooker, a mixer/grinder/blender, a food processor, a toaster, a sandwich maker, and a juicer (which I have used just once), some basic cutlery is all that you will find in my cooking space. While I do enjoy rustling up a meal I’m not as passionate as my TLC gurus. Yet, I am inexplicably drawn to their shows…and heavily influenced by them.

I’m not sure if it’s got to do with the way in which the shows are presented but it’s quite motivating and inspiring to watch Kylie stir fry finely shredded carrots, shallots and crisp cabbage in a rich and (seemingly) flavorful sauce or drool over Nigella’s desserts or feel refreshed by simply watching Jamie toss salad leaves, and cherry tomatoes with an olive oil dressing. I can’t help but pick up certain pointers on the techniques of chopping, grinding, frying while watching these chefs at work. And this is how I was drawn to the mortar and pestle – that simplistic looking primitive device. When I saw Kylie grind her Schezwan peppercorns or Bobby furiously pound garlic and shallots in the mortar and pestle I just wondered if it was a cook show gimmick or if there was any truth to their claim that it actually released the flavors of the ingredients.

Given that I’m a Gujarati the mortar and pestle was not alien to me. You will find it in every gujju home. The only difference is that it’s not made of granite or marble but is instead set in brass or steel – not too impressive looking for my liking. So when I had to run my own household I didn’t think much of owning it. I just used to pull out the mixie and get done with my grinding. However, the more I watched these chefs use the mortar and pestle, the more I was drawn to it. It reached a point where I simply HAD to own one. And so my hunt began. I searched online forums for hints on where I would find it in Singapore. I looked in neighborhood ‘all purpose’ stores. I walked down the aisles of hypermarts. I even trudged up to Mustafa thinking that my search would end there. But I was out of luck. The mortar and pestles were lone pieces and quite non-impressive. My mind was set on a black, smoothly polished granite one. One weekend I just happened to drop by a cramped store in Little India that seemed to stock utensils and pots and pans and voila! There it was! My prized possession. I was as excited as a little girl who has been given a doll.

Today, the mortar pestle proudly sits on my kitchen top and I never lose an opportunity to pound fresh garlic or grind cardamom powder in it. Is the experience gratifying? Yes! Does it make cooking more enjoyable? Oh yes! Do the flavors of the ingredients seem enhanced? Yes! Yes! Oh yes!

At the risk of sounding crazy, I’m going to say this: If you have ever doubted the usefulness of this tool, do yourself a favor – go get one and put an end to all those questions and apprehensions. 😉


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