I love watching old school, traditional, village cooking videos. You get to see how all over the world there are so many similarities in traditional cooking. Ingredients are pulled from the earth, hand ground, and cooked over a fire.
This is how food is meant to be known.
I’ve seen an Italian nonna use a mortar and pestle to turn basil, garlic, and pine nuts into pesto by hand. I’ve seen a Mexican abuela do the same with pimientos and comino to make asada de puerco.
Today at my in-laws’ house we all watched the Village Cooking Channel, which is in Tamil, but sounds close enough to Malayalam. There was a giant flat mortar and cylindrical pestle. The cooks mashed raw turmeric, chili peppers, and more. It was so satisfying to watch.
They dug five holes in the ground and put bricks around each. The bricks then held large clay pots. A fire was lit under each. The clay pots kind of close in at the top, so they don’t lose the oil and spices when they splatter.
One by one, shallots and tomatoes were sliced. Coconut oil, cinnamon, star anise, cloves, caraway, ginger paste, mint, cilantro, and more made their way in, coating chunks of mutton.
It is so mesmerizing to watch. And to hear the sizzle.
My mom said in the old days, this was done for special occasions like weddings. The whole town would come together, dig the holes, start the fire, and start cooking. Once a year they would change the thatched coconut leaf roofs on the house, and everyone would cook for this occasion, too.
Nobody had a jar of ground spices. It was all freshly ground just before cooking. What flavor!
A favorite channel of mine is Traditional Me because viewers can see ingredients picked just close to the home.