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

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By Gemma Handy
Sea View Farm, Antigua

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picture captionThe conventional earthenware pots are nonetheless being made by hand
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Breaking bread has been an indicator 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 folks tales and ghost tales had been delivered to life, and superstitions and proverbs handed down.

Culinary strategies could have developed through the years however the expert follow of moulding the clay vessels solely by hand and firing them on an open bonfire survives to this present day.

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

Edith Lyne at work
picture captionEdith Lyne is likely one of the few folks 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” – just 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 purple clay blended with water as a varnish.

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

“Young folks cannot take the warmth,” she grimaces because the flames burst forth.

Firing of coal-pots

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

For Mrs Lyne’s grandmother, pottery was a thriving enterprise. Back then when the nation was nonetheless below British management, she bought 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.

These days a lot of the pottery seen in backyards nationwide is essentially ornamental, a nod to nostalgia and useful as flowerpots. But 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.

imgoverflow:hidden;position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0;display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-box-pack:center;-webkit-justify-content:center;-ms-flex-pack:center;justify-content:center;-webkit-align-items:center;-webkit-box-align:center;-ms-flex-align:center;align-items:center;width:100%;height:100%;object-fit:cover;]]>The coal-pots are still used at roadside stallspicture copyrightCourtesy of Alex Rhodes
picture captionMany traditionalists nonetheless use the pots for cooking and say it creates a novel smoky flavour

“Almost each home in Antigua has a coal-pot in case the gasoline runs out,” Mrs Lyne says. “You 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 varieties of clay used are discovered inside its environs – though the precise places are saved secret from outsiders.

While Amerindians are identified to have used ceramics for cooking, a few of the varieties which persist right this moment are prone to have their roots within the customs that Antiguans’ ancestors introduced with them from Africa.

imgoverflow:hidden;position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0;display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-box-pack:center;-webkit-justify-content:center;-ms-flex-pack:center;justify-content:center;-webkit-align-items:center;-webkit-box-align:center;-ms-flex-align:center;align-items:center;width:100%;height:100%;object-fit:cover;]]>Historical photo from the National Museum of Antigua and Barbuda of a woman making traditional potterypicture copyrightCourtesy of National Museum of Antigua and Barbuda
picture captionThe artwork of native pottery has been handed down by way of the generations

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

“When I used to be a toddler all of the cooking was on a coal-pot; we did not use a range till the early 70s. But my niece nonetheless makes use of a coal-pot each weekend,” Mrs Lyne says.

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

The inside 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, identified regionally 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. “The use of wooden or coals offers a smoky, earthy flavour.”

Edith Lyne at work
picture captionThe approach the pots are made has not modified

The days 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’ – just like spinach – had been frequent dishes.

“Stories may embrace the Parham ghost of a lady who burnt to loss of life, 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.

Food stays an integral a part of native tradition in Antigua and Barbuda however many individuals, similar to Mrs Lyne, worry the artwork of native pottery may quickly be misplaced ceaselessly.

“People 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’s unhappy as a result of it is part of our historical past.”

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