What is heirloom to you?

What is heirloom to you?

As someone who has moved a lot, you’d think I don’t get attached to things. In reality, it’s the opposite. I think constant change has only made me more attentive and more emotionally invested in the objects that have anchored my life.  

One of my earliest memories of belonging, and indeed, of having agency in the world, was of pounding whole spices and herbs in the kitchen with our granite mortar and pestle. “Is this enough?” I would ask my mother as the mixture in front of me transformed in form, texture, and aroma. For an ever-restless child, the dramatic, noisy metamorphosis of ingredients could captivate my interest for precious minutes at a time! Over time, this became a daily ritual and my contribution to the food that made our house a home. And the mortar and pestle? Not only is it used every day at home, but it also became our logo, a testament to the extraordinary power of beloved ordinary objects.   

If there was a second contender for our logo, albeit a bit harder to design, it would have to be our wet grinder. An indispensable appliance in many traditional South Indian kitchens, it is used to make the perfect batter for dishes like dosas and idlis. Instead of a regular blender which uses blades to cut through ingredients, a wet grinder uses rotating granite stones to crush ingredients into a uniform texture. This brings in precious air into the batter, making for delightfully fluffy idlis! Wet grinders have found a new life in small scale chocolate production as chocolate melangers - this is how roasted cacao beans are ground into silky chocolate. It prevents the mixture from getting overheated and better retains flavors and nutrition.   

But I’d be lying if I said our love for it was purely for the functional benefits.When we moved continents and arrived in America, my parents, brother, and I carried with our meager luggage allowance three suitcases and one hefty wet grinder. Was that a practical choice? Not particularly. Did it seem necessary and non-negotiable, absolutely! My parents were very dedicated to their fluffy pillowy idlis. No electric blender would come in the way of such an important small pleasure of life. 


Of late, some other objects have attained the distinction of family constants. Only this time, my pride is compounded because I helped create them. These are the pan and utensils from the Kanakam dosa trio. After a year of testing the set at home, when I made the mistake of sending this set off to someone else for testing, my parents felt deprived and were bereft (it was our final prototype, the only unit at hand before we placed our full order). They made it very clear to me that the unit must be returned and that they missed having it at home. 

 The trio had already become a necessary mainstay at our family dosa time. Not only had this set elevated our family dosa time, but with their artful splotches, scratches, and nicks, they had become keepers of stories, love, and laughter. Suffice to say, they were recovered promptly and only the worthiest of heirs (me!) will be deemed fit to have them. (Currently, as the creator, I stand a better chance than my brother, Sunny). 

We live in a world of plenty and Google searches. There is little need to “pass down” things when you can find everything on eBay or Etsy. But beloved kitchen utensils? Objects that come to life over precious shared times with family and friends? These become true heirlooms. And it’s why we decided to name our dosa trio ‘Kanakam’, which literally translates to gold or wealth.