| Tehreem Butt
Food is not only the source of providing nutrients and energy to the body but it is more than a mere tool of survival. Food provides pleasure, comfort and security. Moreover, food is a symbol of religion, social status, culture and traditions which include indigenous practices and hospitality. Food plays a vital role in festivities such as religious celebrations, weddings, special occasions or funerals. Methods of food preparation, storing, serving and eating food has been evolving with the availability of local ingredients such as excessive apricot oil, Bakla, butter, cheese, yogurt and mulberry. Through this exploratory research the shift in kitchen utensils and use of space has been mapped and how these shifts have resulted in loss of traditional food.
The architecture of houses in Gojal valley is unique and reflects the significance of their culture. Overall the house is made of one large room with Bukhari in the middle and a skylight above it. In older times instead of Bukhari, Dildoung was used. Dildoung was a pit made of mud in which wood was burnt. Dildoung caused many diseases like eye irritation, tonsils, asthma and coughing due to which initially its size was reduced and then replaced by Bukhari in 1975-1980. In bukhari wood or coal is burnt all the smoke generated is collected through chimney attached and released outside. House members sit around the Bukhari in hierarchy. With time and changes in the house the sitting arrangement of the household members is also changing but the essence remains same. A step down there is an area called Chiskash which is used to keep kitchen essentials including spices and crockery. In earlier times there was only one shelf of mud but currently it is replaced by multiple wooden shelves. A temporary stove in summers is also placed in this area to manage the temperature of the house. Next to chiskash there is a storage room in which containers of wood or stone known as Ghoov were used to store wheat. Only the elder women in the house were allowed to go in the area after saying holy rites to prevent the wheat from evil eye. These days the flour from the down cities is stored in their sacs and is not valued as much.
Food in older times was cooked in large pots of copper or brass. These days’ pots of silver, steel and non-sticking material are commonly used. Sand and homemade soap were used to wash the dishes. Large wooden plates were used as serving plates and one plate was shared by all family members. Dom family was specialized in making wooden utensils and wood of Mozor tree was used to make them. This tradition had an economic relevance but also caused the transfer of diseases. After the silk route Roghani was introduced in 1970’s. Roghani was the separate plate for each individual. For drinking water Germany glass were used currently glassware and plastic is common in every household. Yogurt is commonly used in every household. Yazin was used to make yougurt in older times. Yazin is made from processing goat’s skin. After Yazin a wooden container Sogho was used. For mixing in Sogho a wooden blender Pidar was used. This sogho and pidar are now used in pastures only. Electric blenders are now widely used in every household. Apricot oil is a common ingredient and used commonly. In older times apricot oil was extracted in homes using equipment of stone called Juwaxg and Deshem. Juwaxg was used to grind the seed and Deshem to separate the oil. Currently none of the households interviewed were extracting apricot oil at home. Pithkhorm is a wooden utensil used for putting dough which is replaced by steel bowl.
In the past few ingredients were used in making food. Those ingredients were abundant and locally found. These ingredients included butter, yogurt, cheese, milk, apricot oil and butter milk. Food has evolved due to availability of new food ingredients in market. With changing food ingredients tastes of people especially young generation have also changed. Now commonly cooked food in households include chicken karahi and biryani. Use of yeast has increased in making phitty, in past the dough was naturally fermented. Use of cooking oil, packed spices, onion and tomatoes, has started. Use of salt has increased over the years. Earlier salt was not part of the local dishes but due to emergence of goiter and other diseases due to lack of iodine in locals salt was introduced. People have started to grow new vegetables such as tomatoes. Women were given training by the council to cook new kind of food items. Traditional food is now only limited to festivities and special occasions.
Traditions and Food
Guests are served with tea, phitty (homemade bread), yogurt, milk or fresh fruits. Some traditional food is cooked on special occasions and is representative of that celebration. Simn is made to celebrate the arrival of spring season. Moul is made for women after delivery. Bath is made on weddings in winter. To make bath desi ghee is wrapped in skin of a tree (furz) and stored underground for some time to enhance its flavor. Chamus apricot juice is widely used in summers. Other traditional foods include Garal, Mooch, Molida, Shulbut, Ghilmindi and Yep Khach.
Common practices of past include:
- Use of sand or mud to wash dishes
- Sand filtration system to purify water
- Storage of food items underground near water body to keep them cold
An evolution in kitchen and its practices has been observed over the years. This evolution is resulting in the erosion of traditional food. Tourism can play an important role in revival of traditional food through innovation.