It is no secret that even the best of recipes are passed on through generations. A family won’t be enough to produce the same savour as the original creation because there are two things that matter more than the ingredients. Remember grandparents naming it ‘a magic’ when we ask for the secret recipe to that mouth-watering meal? Part of the magic was in the expertise of the person who cooked it, and then there are the traditional pots which they used. Priya Deepak, who runs a natural cookware company called Kitch.in in Kochi, is on a mission to bring back that good old cooking culture.
While giving a lecture at IIT Bombay, explaining why traditional pots and pans matter and how she thrived as an entrepreneur in that bastion with Kitch.in, someone asked Priya what the inspiration behind the project was. And she, without hesitating, said, “Ever wondered why the food tasted so good in the early days? It was a question that she kept on asking herself before starting the project in 2015, a question that inspired her to start a new revolution from the city of Kochi.
“A combination of love, farm fresh food, and natural cookware is the reason. We may not be able to provide you with farm fresh food, but rest assured we will provide you with authentic natural cookware and a whole lot of love,” she adds.
In 2015, Priya Deepak and Radhika, who was with her at the initial stages of the project, came together with a vision to bring back traditional living style into modern homes. Thus ‘The Village Fair’, one of the earliest providers of natural cookware, set the ball rolling. What was an idea has now transformed into a movement called Kitch.in. “Kitch.in is the result of that movement. It works with craftswomen and men from across the country to bring the best of natural cookware. They make sure that each item is handcrafted/seasoned using traditional methods,” says Priya. What prompted them to start the project was hearing about the significance of cast iron fish that had been invented by a Canadian, Dr. Christopher Charles. “The idea is that you drop the iron fish while cooking is taking place so that the iron seeps into the food. So, we started off by doing a study and found out that using iron utensils will help to increase the intake of iron. We wanted to spread awareness on the advantages of iron cast utensils among people of both rural and urban areas. I believe traditional pots and pans encourage sustainable living. And the taste is better, too,” she adds.
“More than establishing the brand that sells traditional iron cookware to homes and restaurants, what I am looking forward to is to bring back the old food habits and cooking techniques, which we sometimes fondly call ‘Grandma’s way.’ The handcrafted/seasoned pots and vessels are one-time investments,” opines Priya.
According to her, it is high time we spared a thought about what we eat and how it is cooked. “In this era, people are more exposed to fast foods, and their availability is really high. In just one click, you could get anything at your doorstep. But how many of you think how it is cooked? For years, people believed that cooking in cast iron pans enhanced the intake of Iron. The feasibility of traditional cookware needs to be looked at from a holistic health point of view,” she says. “There’s enough research that proves they retain the nutritional value of the food, thereby enhancing health benefits. Research shows that the use of cast iron reduces the incidence of anaemia, which is the biggest problem of women in India today.”
She says the quality of their products is second to none. “The fine quality that you experience while using your cookware is a result of attention to detail at every step of manufacturing. This starts with procuring high-quality raw materials. Our partner manufacturers use the best and time-tested manufacturing methods to ensure that your cookware is worthy of being handed down through generations. We hand season each cookware; some say it is unnecessary, but we believe hand seasoning elevates your cookware to a league of its own.”
Their project also provides a livelihood to dozens of artisans and craftswomen/men who help bring out the best in your cookware. Traditional hand seasoning techniques is a dying art, and they are doing their best to keep this alive. Today, due to the thriving online presence, they have patrons across the country and overseas. “Since we started online sale for our product, we have been getting great responses from every part of the country. There are international customers too. What I am aiming is to widen the reach to hotels and other public gatherings where more number of people would be beneficiaries,” she shares.
Priya is now also giving lectures at various institutions including IITs on the importance of going back to the culture of using cast iron utensils and its health benefits.
Kitch.in is now aiming to use the modern technologies available in pottery making along with handcrafted efforts by dedicated artisans at her unit in Kochi. “I have been traveling a lot lately with an objective to learn more about traditional pottery making. There are many types of traditional vessels that we can incorporate with Indian ones. And, I would like to give it a modern touch in designs too. I hope that would help to attract younger generation into using these traditional vessels.”
Priya affirms there is a sudden surge in the demand for traditional vessels and iron cast utensils. She says this is not a passing fancy, but the result of well-informed choices. Cooking styles may differ across cultures and cuisines, but traditional cookware certainly impacts the outcome in more ways than one and Priya is hoping to use it well to revolutionise the way of cooking in the country....