The timeless power of the Pestle and Mortar

The timeless power of the Pestle and Mortar

How this simplest of objects has had the power to span millennia transcending cultural barriers. The pestle and mortar is ubiquitous; found in every culture, its use can be traced back through each millennium. Evidence of its place in the lives of humankind dates back to Ancient Egypt and 1550BC, but it’s estimated that this simple yet highly functional tool was actually put to work more than 6000 years before the existence of the Pharaohs. Essential for preparing medicine in Roman times, the pestle and mortar was an early symbol for apothecaries or pharmacists. In Malay and West Asia, it’s still used today to grind meat, whereas in the Philippines its function continues as a rice de-husker.

The pre-Hispanic cultures of both the Mayan and Aztecs used the pestle and mortar to grind spices. Indeed, they’re still employed for exactly this task in modern day Pakistan and India. And it’s long been understood that in Papua New Guinea, pestles were carved into elaborate birds’ heads, whilst the Chalon and Mutsun peoples of California’s Salinas valley chiselled shallow depressions into bedrock in order to grind up their grains and acorns. Browse the Internet today and you will find numerous articles describing the best way to go about choosing the pestle and mortar ideal for your modern kitchen.

The longevity of the pestle and mortar’s design is astounding; it has changed very little over the course of thousands and thousands of years. From culture to culture, it has merely adapted in order to suit the materials to hand, the only caveat being that the user – whoever and wherever they were – must be able to crush and pound. And even though modern kitchens might have access to industrial grinders, many chefs prefer to use the traditional pestle and mortar to bring the best out of their ingredients; much like bread enthusiasts often choose to enjoy the immediacy of kneading dough by hand instead of machine. One place where the cuisine is just as diverse as the population is Africa. As varied as the food is over this vast continent, there’s a tool that is the common denominator: the pestle and mortar. Essential for preparing everything from staples to spice mixes, the use of the pestle and mortar was once so prolific that it was the custom in some West African cultures to give one to every new bride. Traditionally, the African mortar is a large, heavy vessel made of wood on a pedestal base. Between one and one and a half feet high, most have a diameter of between 24 and 30 inches.

The design of the pestle is a slender rod form with a ball-shaped end and therefore a larger surface area, thus making the grinding process less time consuming and more effective. Cleaning was simple: water, a clean rag and time to dry naturally. Modern technology has made the process of grinding easy and - on the African continent - food processors, blenders and powdered staples have all but rendered the need for this handcrafted tool redundant. Except for one thing: flavour. For a tool that predates agriculture, many have made the mistake of considering the pestle and mortar obsolete and inefficient. However, the pestle and mortar cannot be underestimated for its unrivalled ability to create rich, authentic aroma, taste and texture. Simple, organic and seemingly as old as time itself, it’s not very often that form and function come together to create such a joyous and long lasting union.

Continue reading

Interior Design Investment Pieces and their Pivotal role in Interior Styling

Interior Design Investment Pieces and their Pivotal role in Interior Styling
Buying an investment piece for your home needn’t be complicated, but it does warrant careful thought. When making a more expensive purchase, it’s easy to be dissuaded by what can seem to be - at first glance - a large outlay. Of course, that old adage of buying something of superb quality and avoiding false economy is true, but there are other factors to consider. Pair of vintage, cocoon FLOS table lamps designed by Castiglioni

An heirloom for the next generation

The reason some pieces of furniture or artwork have come to be referred to as ‘investment pieces’ is just that: they are an investment. Buying a beautifully designed, iconic object means greater expenditure in the short term, but, in the long term, it’s almost a certainty that the piece will retain its aesthetic appeal and even increase its monetary value. Carlo Scarpa Samo table

Balancing aesthetic appeal with functionality

An investment piece might well have been chosen for its beauty and design credentials, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be used and enjoyed. What is the point of a handcrafted dining room chair if it’s not pleasant to sit on, or a desk that can’t withstand a heavy workload? Choose classic pieces that are comfy but resilient and able to weather the knocks and scrapes of life. Seek out objects that look even better as they age: leather, which will only become softer, wood that takes on a patina. Being surrounded by objects that are beautiful yet highly functional contributes enormously to a sense of peace and well-being and highlights design as the art form that it truly is. Good design has evolved to enrich people’s day-to-day lives, not to create museum pieces, untouched and only admired from afar. Vintage wooden screen

Protecting heritage

Sometimes it might be that an investment piece is chosen because of the importance of its heritage. This could be a decorative object rather than a functional piece, but either can provide tangible reminders of our past, enhancing our own self-awareness. Why we are who we are and how we have arrived at that point is equally as important as the person we might become; a certain object can remind us powerfully of both our history and our traditions. It brings to mind the generations that have come before us and – on a personal level - those individuals who have made an indelible mark on our lives. Pair of huge vintage Willy Guhl planters

Choosing classic designs

Passing trends certainly have their place in interior styling. However, for a more sustainable approach, it’s always worth choosing something that has been expertly designed and made to last, whether it’s a handcrafted side table or an iconic light. More often than not, it’s worth spending the money if a piece will still be both loved and fulfilling its function in fifty or sixty years time. And just because something has design longevity, doesn’t mean it’s staid and boring; a multitude of design classics demonstrate whimsy and playfulness and were highly original at the time of their inception. There’s always room for frivolity, but hopefully not at the expense of sustainability. Moon rock stone lamps, Andre Cazenove

The versatile investment

Versatility is one factor that makes a piece of furniture an excellent long-term investment. If something can be used, reused, adapted and then even repurposed, the investment will pay for itself many times over. An investment piece will rarely sit in isolation. A side table may double up as a bookshelf or transform into a storage cube, perhaps even travel from a living space to a bedroom. Whichever piece you choose, however, needs to fit seamlessly into your interior, complementing the elements already there and creating a unified whole whatever its function. Handcrafted glass top coffee table with marble legs Finally, no matter how versatile the investment piece, how iconic its design or practical its function, there’s one more factor to consider before making an important purchase: do you like it? Trust your instincts and choose what you love; all things taken into consideration make sure you buy a piece because it sings to your soul. Continue reading