Home Today The coal-pots fuelling Antigua's ghost tales and people tales

The coal-pots fuelling Antigua’s ghost tales and people tales

By Gemma Helpful
Sea View Farm, Antigua

A traditional coal pot being made by hand

picture captionThe normal earthenware pots are nonetheless being made by hand

Breaking bread has been a trademark of household life in cultures throughout the globe for millennia.

Ask the elders in Antigua and Barbuda for his or her reminiscences of communal meals in days passed by and lots of will recall with fondness the occasions spent sitting round a standard earthenware pot, heated by sizzling coals, because the night meal cooked.

In generations previous, this was the place people tales and ghost tales had been delivered to life, and superstitions and proverbs handed down.

  • First evidence of cooking plants in pots

Culinary strategies could have advanced through the years however the expert apply of moulding the clay vessels fully by hand and firing them on an open bonfire survives to at the present time.

Third era potter Edith Lyne is one among a clutch of individuals nonetheless crafting the pots from pure clay within the countryside village of Sea View Farm.

picture captionEdith Lyne is without doubt one of the few individuals nonetheless making the pots in Antigua

At dawn, she is discovered elbow-deep in a bag of damp black clay which she is going to form right into a “jabba” – much like a crockpot – utilizing a calabash to airplane the edges.

It takes about half an hour to type, she explains. Then it will likely be left to dry within the air for a number of days earlier than being daubed with pink clay combined with water as a varnish.

The ultimate stage is the firing. This half, Mrs Lyne says arranging her creations amongst a pile of tree branches soaked in gas, is the rationale why the artwork is in decline.

“Younger individuals cannot take the warmth,” she grimaces because the flames burst forth.

Daybreak could barely have damaged however the temperature is already stifling within the Caribbean climes.

For Mrs Lyne’s grandmother, pottery was a thriving enterprise. Again then when the nation was nonetheless beneath British management, she offered her items for 2 pence every.

The cooking pots Mrs Lyne makes, together with the ashtrays and collectible figurines she sells to vacationers for a number of {dollars}, are a complement to her day job as a cleaner.

Lately a lot of the pottery seen in backyards nationwide is essentially ornamental, a nod to nostalgia and helpful as flowerpots. However some traditionalists nonetheless use the vessels for cooking, and roadside stalls barbecuing ears of corn on them and simmering stews could be seen sporadically throughout the panorama.

picture copyrightCourtesy of Alex Rhodes

picture captionMany traditionalists nonetheless use the pots for cooking and say it creates a singular smoky flavour

“Nearly each home in Antigua has a coal-pot in case the gasoline runs out,” Mrs Lyne says. “You possibly can prepare dinner something you need in it actually and it solely takes a couple of minutes longer than a range.”

Sea View Farm has been a hub for pottery as a result of each sorts of clay used are discovered inside its environs – though the precise areas are stored secret from outsiders.

Whereas Amerindians are recognized to have used ceramics for cooking, a number of the varieties which persist at present are more likely to have their roots within the customs that Antiguans’ ancestors introduced with them from Africa.

picture copyrightCourtesy of Nationwide Museum of Antigua and Barbuda

picture captionThe artwork of native pottery has been handed down by the generations

Similarities, historians say, embrace the pottery being non-wheel made, baked in open fires, and created nearly completely by girls.

“After I was a baby all of the cooking was on a coal-pot; we did not use a range till the early 70s. However my niece nonetheless makes use of a coal-pot each weekend,” Mrs Lyne says.

The time-honoured apply makes for a singular style too. Coals or wooden are positioned contained in the bowl of the construction used to help the “jabba” which sits atop it.

The within of the jabba needs to be wiped with inexperienced banana earlier than inserting the meals in, Mrs Lyne explains.

A typical meal could be nationwide dish pepperpot, a hearty stew of meats and greens together with okra and eggplant.

Some elders nonetheless eat “tratcha”, a dumpling of cornmeal, flour and coconut, wrapped in banana leaves and roasted.

The jabba’s cousin – the “yabba”, a flat, tray-like vessel – is used for roasting cassava bread, recognized domestically as “bamboola”, amongst different issues.

“The pots are primarily used for slow-cooked meals like stews and soups,” says one resident, legal professional George Lake. “Using wooden or coals offers a smoky, earthy flavour.”

picture captionThe best way the pots are made has not modified

The times earlier than electrical energy was when coal-pots had their heyday, says Myra Piper, a analysis assistant on the nationwide museum.

“In my grandmother’s day, household life concerned sitting sharing tales whereas the meals cooked. Pepperpot, salt fish and rice and what we known as ‘widdy widdy bush’ – much like spinach – had been frequent dishes.

“Tales may embrace the Parham ghost of a lady who burnt to demise, and old-time proverbs like ‘cockroach do not write in foul pen’ which is sort of a warning to keep away from confrontation,” she smiles.

Meals stays an integral a part of native tradition in Antigua and Barbuda however many individuals, akin to Mrs Lyne, concern the artwork of native pottery may quickly be misplaced eternally.

“Folks do not realise how a lot work goes into it; it is a ability,” she says, including: “There are solely about three or 4 of us left making them now. It is unhappy as a result of it is part of our historical past.”

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