The Vaarpu or rather its little cousin, the Uruli, is one of my favorite traditional cooking utensils from home state Kerala. It is made of brass or bell metal and is essentially a heavy bottomed, often conveniently two handled, circular, wide-mouthed vessel with a nicely polished surface. It is the best vessel for slow cooking on wood fires and is capable of retaining the natural colour and flavour of ingredients.
In fact we use it a lot in the Lumiere Hearth and the one we use occupies a place of the highest honour. The Vaarpu in fact was used mainly for cooking ayurvedic medicines to perfection because of the way it evenly distributes temperature in the vessel.
It is believed that some of the metal of the cooking vessel reacted with the herbs making them more potent. But as time passed fuel-efficient (no matter that it was made with harmful metals like Aluminium etc) like the modern Pressure Cooker took over and the large Varpu along with its cute smaller cousin, the Uruli were discarded in a dusty corner, only to re-emerge (heartbreakingly for those who know their real worth ), as decorative vases for floating flower arrangements in the foyers of posh hotels ...
The classic case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater as has often happened in our approach to traditional wisdom with its commitment to Well Being. The convenience of Modernity, cheap perhaps to the pocket as well has blinded us more often than not to the enormity of the price it extracts in terms of Wellness & Life.
Now for some science as to why use traditional utensils and why they deserve a comeback in our lives : The fact is Metals and Minerals cannot be produced or synthesised within the body even though we need metals like copper, Zinc, Tin etc for our health & wellbeing.
Ancient wisdom has recognised the power of certain plants that can draw up various kinds of metals from the earth. This wisdom has informed certain traditional diet practises where their intake has been inculcated sometimes linking it to certain ritual practises, customary fasts etc specific to climate, time of year, even at times phases of the moon to ensure they are ingested and also best assimilated in optimal conditions and in right quantities.
Using vessels & utensils made from these metals for their trace intake was thus a far sighted vision of well-being perfected by our ancestors.
Let us look at the two common metals used in making traditional cookware :
Bronze is mixture of copper (Cu) and Tin (Sn). It is also known as Kansa in Hindi & Ode in Malayalam. The best proportion to manufacture utensils is 78% copper and 22% Tin. It was called Suddha Daatu or ’The Pure Alloy’ in the Vedas, therefore it is used in worship. It is interesting that our grandmothers bought cookware by tapping them lightly and testing them for the quality of their sound as well !
Brass is a mixture of Copper (Cu) & Zinc (Zn). It is also known as Pital in Hindi or Pichala in Malayalam. Cookware made of this metal must be Tin (Sn) coated. In ancient India most of the utensils were made of Brass metal. In fact Rasam, that spicy tangy light comforting broth we are all used to in South India was traditionally cooked only in an “Eeya chombu”, a special brass vessel lined with lead that fell in disrepute with modernity and has now begin to make a comeback with new found affirmations & realisations.
While Bronze is a good source of copper and tin, Brass is good source of copper and zinc. The health benefits of Copper include proper growth of the body, efficient utilization of iron, proper enzymatic reactions, as well as improved health of connective tissues, hair & eyes. It is also helps prevent premature aging while increasing energy production. Heart rhythm is regulated, Thyroid gland functioning balanced, Symptoms of Arthritis reduced, Wound Healing quickened, Red Blood Cell formation increased and Cholesterol Reduced.
Health benefits of Tin (Sn) includes an antidepressant function and is available in all vegetables & fruits in small amounts. Researches conducted on animals have shown that insufficiency of tin can cause reduced growth, loss of hearing, loss of hair and reduced feeding efficiency. Plants can absorb tin from healthy natural soil, the kind soil whose qualities are respected in Organic Farming & Permaculture.
Health benefits of Zinc (Zn) include ensuring proper functioning of the immune & digestive systems, control of diabetes, reduction of stress levels, energy metabolism, increased rate of healing for acne & wounds. Also, it is helpful in pregnancy, hair care, eczema, weight loss, night blindness, colds, eye care, appetite loss and many other minor conditions. Zinc, being an important mineral, plays a vital role in protein synthesis and helps regulate the cell production in the immune system of the human body. The semen & prostate gland in men also contain significant amounts of zinc. It is mostly found in the strongest muscles of the body and is found in especially high concentrations in the white and red blood cells, eye retina, skin, liver, kidneys, bones & pancreas.
Need we say more about why it is important to make informed choices in the smallest little things?
That is why we are here for you and with you at Lumiere . Please do share your well being stories with us!