World Coconut Day
I dedicate this year's World coconut day to the most beloved kitchen tool of the Malayalees, 'chirava' ( the trusted coconut grater/scraper, made of wood and with iron spiked blade attached to one side ) and the art of scraping coconuts. Without these we can’t use this much loved nut in our everyday cooking. Thenga chirandal, (scraping/grating coconuts) is also the earliest taught domestic chore in a malayali household.
The original chirava was a sit down and grate the coconut affair, which compelled you to sit on a small plank a few inches from the floor, smaller than your fourth seat in a Mumbai local. Scrape out the coconut into fine flakes with the sharp teeth attached to this plank.
We were taught the right way to do it, start on the sides and work our way to the middle to scrape it all out without waste. The coconut had to be scraped at a particular pace so that it is finely shredded, if you tried to rush your way through it, it came out in big chunks. This was met with disapproval.
As you know its world coconut every day, for us from Kerala, you can take a Malayali out of Kerala but not the coconut from our lives. So here I was, shifted to Netherlands a few years back with my trusted chirava and all, one which had travelled with me around India.Thanks to its connection with Indonesia and a large Surinamese population coconuts was available in the Netherlands.
I regularly bought whole coconuts & diligently used the scraper for chutneys, thorans etc. This led to my Dutch neighbour (we had a wooden floor which meant that all noises carry to the downstairs neighbours) to ask whether I was scrubbing the kitchen every other day. When I explained about my coconut scraper, she felt compelled to come up and see it in action.
Now the chirava has morphed from its traditional avatar into many new forms, table top, hand held, automatic and grated coconut and coconut milk are readily available. I wonder if our earliest acquired skill has become redundant.
From the land of coconuts wishing all of us a happy world coconut day!