The maintenance aspects of Soapstone
I have observed my grandmother use this vessel like any other for years and has created unforgettable magic in the kitchen. The Kalchatti she has is as old as I am if not older. I always wondered how she could maintain this vessel for so long. I have ardently used my Kalchatti following the guide book we created, for over 2 years and recently noticed the soapstone cracked and rendered it useless. I was beyond despair when that happened.
I am sure many of the users have gone through the same emotional turmoil and have many un-answered questions as to why this has happened. To answer all my questions, I went back to speaking to my grandmother as well as many others who are savants in using these amazing cookware. The precious knowledge our older generation has immensely help many of us in adopting some of these exquisite cookware. A few more instructions helped me to improve the life of my other Kalchattis and I hope to share it with you here.
As per many grandmother's inputs, once the stone is properly treated and you have started using, if there is any issue with quality of stone, it would break within first 15 days of usage. Beyond which is purely dependent on our maintenance of the cookware. My grandmother literally scolded me for not taking care of the vessel. Now after listening to the process I followed in usage and maintenance, she gave a few key insights:
- I used to wash the Kalchatti and store it along with the other vessel. I later observed in my grandmother's kitchen, the Kalchatti is always washed and stored separately. In our modern homes we may find that little difficult. It would need a minor tweak in our workflow in the kitchen and the tweak may not be major for homes with two washing sinks. Use of of them specifically for all our traditional cookware that are used regularly especially Kalchatti, tin vessel, Manipur black pottery or clay ware. This way we can prevent other heavier vessels from sitting on top which can cause some internal cracks. Also identify specific places in your cup boards to store the cookware.
- Always heat stone with some liquid or oil. Never keep stone empty on gas for it to heat up and then add oil (For tadka or onion frying) or add water to make sambhar etc. The stone when hot and it comes in contact with cold oil/water can cause a thermal shock and can result in cracks/breakage. This I had observed as the most critical mistake I remember doing.
For those who use the soapstone kuzhipaniyara pan (Appe) or dosa tawa, remember to add oil to the cookware before you heat them up. It is imperative that stone does not come in direct contact with cold items when hot. Minor tweaks to the way we use tehse amazing cookware and improve the life of the cookware.