The rasam made in an eeya chombu (made of tin) from Kumbakonam brings back memories of grandmothers and mothers cooking in traditional vessels, with the aroma permeating the house. Apart from the high nostalgia value, Indian traditional vessels are now in big demand for their health and aesthetic appeal.
Archish Mathe, Founder - Zishta Inc, which sells traditional Indian cooking ware, says that they have recently started shipping abroad and now have “a slew of NRIs who see the value of these traditional products and have started ordering with us.”
Zishta works with more than 20 clusters of artisans across India from Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Orissa, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Gujarat , Manipur, etc. “Our focus is bringing back our traditional range of home and kitchen products made of cast iron, soapstone, tin, bronze, brass, copper, Manipur black pottery, Solapur chadhar, River grass mats, clay ware, knives etc. Our focus is on leveraging traditional knowledge to inspire our homes to be more traditional and sustainable,” says Archish.
Zishta was started three years ago with a focus to “capture, document and share traditional knowledge that resides with different communities. In the process we realised that people were interested in these products as well. We were inspired by our grandmother who still uses most of these traditional home products that formed the base to our exploration. We started working with these artisans and realised that there is a huge unmet need and wanted to explore this opportunity to sustain our main focus which is to document and share traditional knowledge.”
Archish says they started in a car garage and set up shop two years ago and 8 months ago launched their online store. They also consult patrons on how to shift to a traditional home.
As part of their documentation and research, they “focus on understanding the history behind each traditional cookware, artisans who have been making it for generations, the history and utility of these products at home with focus on health. We document all this information and share it in our website.”
Products made of Cast Iron, Soapstone and Clay are the most popular in the kitchen category and their home designed Brass spice box is a fast seller among patrons.
Archish says that many customers who visited their store would tell them about how they had discarded many similar vessels inherited from their grandparents’ home because they had not appreciated the value of traditional Indian cookware. “The downward spiral with modern cookware has been arrested with greater awareness about how our traditional cookware adds more value to our cooking and holistic experience.”
Some of the interesting and very traditional vessels they sell include -
• Tin vessels - eeya chombu is a unique vessel used predominantly to make rasam. We have been working with the traditional artisans of Tamil Nadu to revive this art form. It takes 5-6 hours to make one vessel as it has to be completely hand beaten and made.
Eeya Chombu (Photo credit - Zishta Inc)
• Copper: Zishta works with a cluster based in Maharashtra who have been making copper ware since the days of Shivaji Maharaj. Their unique tambat work is free hand beaten copper which is made of the highest quality copper.
• Soapstone: This is available only in Tamil Nadu. It’s the most versatile cookware and can be used for all forms of cooking.
Soapstone - Kalchatti (Photo credit - Zishta Inc)
• Manipur Black Pottery: this is a unique tradition of north east made mainly in Manipur and is rich in Iron.
Brass Coffee Filter (Photo credit - Zishta Inc)
• Brass coffee filter: Kumbakonam is known for making the best filter coffee. Off late the entire cluster had shut shop due to cheaper and poor quality machine made products from other states. Zishta wanted to bring the best quality brass filter and so Mathe got their heirloom 70 year old filter from their grandmother and gave it to the cluster in Maharashtra and got them to remake it for them.
Archish says that all traditional cookware have immense heat carrying capacity so they cook food uniformly with minimal nutrition loss. “The alkalinity of the material used helps in neutralising the acidity in food which in turn prevents issues like acidity, acid reflux, stomach burns etc. As they retain heat, most of these cookware also work like hot case and can keep food warm for hours (especially soapstone). You don’t have to reheat food and reheating food is when you lose maximum nutrition.”
He adds that the anti-oxidant properties of these material helps in retaining the anti-oxidants in food thereby removing cancer causing free radicals from one’s body.
(Zishta can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)