Pongal celebration being one of the identities of our tradition is an ancient festival. On this day it is a common practice to draw colorful rangoli at the front yard, wear new clothes, and prepare sweet rice, pongal, using new rice using a new mud pot. It’s not only during Pongal festival but till the last generation of ours, Mud pots utensils played an important role in our daily life. But in the name of ‘modernity’ we have abandoned using them. At present, pongal has mostly been prepared as a formality using aluminum, ever silver and non stick utensils.
Recently, there is an upsurge of public interest towards traditional food items. People prepare rice, fish curry, appam and paniyaram using mud pots. They prepare these items using mud pots avoiding aluminum, copper and ever silver utensils. Even in hotels, customers show interest to be served the foods using mud utensils and also have the food prepared using mud vessels.
Truly, what is so special about our traditional practice of cooking with mud vessels? What was the reason for our previous generation to celebrate use of mud vessels? We spoke to Mr Rathnasakthivel, a nature lover about it.
“In those days, not only the cooking vessels but also from the container used for storing water to the plates used to serving food, all were made of mud. It was a blessing for the poor who could not afford to have steel, copper or brass utensils, to have made mud vessels with their own hands. But in this modern age, the use of mud vessels has come down even in villages. Instead they cook with aluminum and ever silver vessels.
The true taste of a food item could only be deciphered using mud vessels. Those who have tasted that kind of food only know how delicious it would be. Food made using mud vessels do not spoilt quickly. Particularly the fish curry made using mud vessels has no equivalent in its taste. It will not get spoilt even for a week. Food items stored in other type of vessels will become watery. But it won’t be so with mud vessels due to their quality.
Having realized the benefits of mud vessels, even star hotels make wonders in making food using mud vessels. In some hotels in the city, there is a sign board at the entrance, advertising their practice of making food using mud vessels. It is a welcome sign to learn that people have got interest in using mud vessels. Similarly, all of us need to realize the recommendations of our ancestors by virtue of their experience. Besides, drinking water stored in mud pot will prevent us from diseases. Therefore use mud vessels. Similarly, it is our tradition to make pongal using mud pots. We should never abandon that practice”, thus he emphasized.
We enquired to Doctor Deepa about the benefits that we accrue out of eating using mud vessels.
“Along with nutrients, natural foods offer immunity to diseases. When they are properly cooked and consumed the total nutrients from the natural food will be available to our body. Using mud vessels is not only our tradition but it will enhance the taste of food without affecting the nature of food. Food made using mud pots can easily be digested. The type of vessels that we use now can change the nature of our food due to the presence of metals.
Generally, when food is cooked, important and essential nutrients in the food will be lost. Especially, when green vegetables are cooked the chlorophyll present in them will be lost. But when the same is cooked in mud vessels no nutrients will be lost and remain as such.
Through the micro pores present in the mud pot will facilitate equal distribution of heat to food being cooked. Therefore the food prepared in mud pots will remain as if it is boiled, retaining its quality. It is good for our health. There is no need for more oil to cook with mud vessels. The mud vessels will only utilize what is actually required for cooking. This too is an important contributor to our good health.
In our modern life style, we use a specific kind of vessel for cooking, hot packs to maintain the food warm and use refrigerator to prevent food from spoiling. But, mud pots themselves served as refrigerators in olden days when there were no modern kinds of vessels or gadgets. The microscopic pores present in the mud vessels allowed evaporation of water through those pores. The temperature of the pot and the water inside the pot was continuously lost through evaporation, therefore keeping the temperature cool inside the pot. The water inside the refrigerator will become ice but the water inside the pot will remain the same but cool.
Besides, the food cooked in mud pots need not be reheated often. Unlike other kinds of vessels mud vessels will keep the temperature stable within. Therefore the food inside the mud vessels will remain stable for long without being spoilt.
Further, mud vessels will facilitate beneficial bacteria to thrive. That is the reason the fish curry made in mud vessels will not cause any contamination related health issues even if it is consumed after a week.
The mud vessels can neutralize the acidity present in the food items. Foods from mud vessels facilitate better health, sleep and appetite. They can also cure constipation and also able to increase fertility. The blocks in blood vessels will be cleared. Body temperature will come down. We can keep on listing out the benefits of eating food items prepared using mud vessels. If one aims at having various types of healthy and delicious food items one should use mud vessels to prepare foods”, thus advocates Dr Deepa.
(This article written by G Lakshmanan in Tamil has been reproduced in English by V Amalan Stanley)