The tradition of cooking on hearth
A hearth is the heart of a family. In rural India, it has come to symbolise the power of community and togetherness. At Pratapgarh farms, the rural women of Haryana use hearth to prepare lunch for all the farm visitors, and last we checked, the food is greatly enjoyed by those who come to the farm. We use a hearth that is ecological, efficient, and good for health. There are several reasons why a hearth has found an important place in the Indian rural household:
Community and family
A hearth needs to be managed by more than one person. In many rural households, using the hearth is considered as a family task, and all the social activities within every home take place around it. To make a hearth work, family members need to cooperate and have multiple skills since it helps execute different needs that vary from heating the house to cooking food. When one family has separate hearths, it shows the independence of a particular family unit, but the wonderful thing is that they never separate from the main family.
Where there are hearths, one can almost always find an intimate community. In such communities, members share a certain kind of closeness with their fellows, the surrounding environment, the objects they use to live and activities they perform to sustain. The lack of technology helps them keep close relationships and maintain their connection with the biophysical world.
Symbolism of Fire
In Indian ancient literature, fire is considered to be a protective agent against any evil. Hence, a hearth fire is thought to be a protector and friend of the household. It is also seen as a way to domesticate temple fire and many times, prayers are recited in front of the hearth.
Entertainment & learning
Traditionally, a hearth is where all family members would gather, socialise, and entertain each other. In the absence of Youtube and Netflix, a household makes use of the time around the hearth to sing songs and perform rituals on occasions that are considered auspicious and important. Sometimes, family members gather around the hearth to listen to tales and feel warm. The oldest would use the opportunity to educate the younger ones after a long day of sweat and labour.
Importance of an Ecological Hearth + Cookstove
In modern times, hearths have become an integral element of interior design given their antique quality and aesthetic appeal. Almost 3 billion people use open fires or basic stoves for cooking. However, not all hearths are combined with cook stoves that are made from eco-friendly materials and unfortunately cause environmental and health hazards. Indoor air pollution is the leading cause of death worldwide, and much of it happens because of open air fires or inefficient cook stoves that are insufficiently ventilated.
Advanced biomass cook stoves are proven to be the best ecological alternative, but they tend to be a little more expensive. One can also find improved and affordable cook stoves made of lightweight metal with a metal alloy combustion chamber. This technology allows the stove to last longer, is good for quality control and safety, and transfer of heat. Most importantly, it doesn’t pollute the environment and keeps the carbon emissions to a minimum.