Baba Roche Cari in France

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Thinking, planning and designing a modern kitchen for our French house prompted me into thinking about the different kitchens I have been into in my nomadic life. My native home’s kitchen back in Mauritius cannot fail to come to my mind. In spite of having electrical grinders and mixers, the reigning queen was our ‘baba roche cari’ made of the volcanic basalt of the island. A duo present in every Mauritian self respecting home, one would know if you are getting good cooked food by checking out the state of their baba, used frequently, you know you are in the right place.

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Changing times have redefined the kitchen workspace. Technology has converted our kitchen into the Designer customed made we are all in craze of.  There is a gadget for every need. Modern appliances can almost make human hands extinct, so to speak. In modern times, when everything is so round-the-clock, these appliances are a welcome change and in fact, they are great devices to work out, if you missed your gym. Promises of an extended healthy life in a bullet blender, for example.

I am sure most of us have seen these tools in our kitchen, while growing up. Like vintage – these tools are now getting a facelift and finding places in several modern kitchens. The physical health benefits are most obvious. Do not look further than your kitchen for those well – toned arms. The texture and form of the spices, flour or batter that is ground in these are definitely more aromatic and filled with natural goodness. I did not spare any effort to bring my inherited ‘baba roche-cari’ all the way from Mauritius to UK then France, and recently during our first removal, while my French friends were helping, they encountered this nicely wrapped packet, but were surprised when they lifted it. Someone said jokingly ‘ what do you have here which is so heavy, are you carrying a stone?’ But bang on. It was a stone. When I replied ‘Yes!’ surprise and disbelief would be understated.

Baba Roche Cari (Wet Masala Grinder): primarily used to grind wet spices. A large rectangle stone on which the spices are placed and a cylindrical rolling pin to grind the spices in a forward and backward motion. The tricky part for us was to ensure we use the stone to pull the spices without using hands. I have mastedred the art after many years of training.

Every year, large quantities of spices would be ground in it. A woman would come visit our house, she would spend all day grinding. Days of pickle making, of several fruits drying out in their brine in the sun. We’d hear the rhythmic thwack of the pestle and sneeze when the masalas tickled our noses. I tried my hand at it, of course, but gave up after an hour. Besides, the red chillies burnt the palm of the my hands, as all scooping and re-positioning of the paste was manual.

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These days, we’ve mostly switched to ready-made masalas. A friend of mine who visited me in the UK was shocked to see me still using a Malay stone grinder in my modern kitchen. Yes, I do believe in making my spices from scratch. Spices can best be understood for their predictive flavour in a very tactile manner. Too coarse, they would be unpleasantly gritty in your curry, too fine they lose their capabilities of a truesome flavour. But this is understood by a newly turned curry aficionado like my husband, who would not spare his remarks and appreciation.
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To be honest, I enjoy the whiff of the first grind of the cumin seeds, cardamoms and cloves which enjoy an unusual strong marriage with ginger and garlic. Should I use ready made spices, it feels devoid of freshness.
So looking forward to using my ‘baba roche cari’ after many years!
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