When I was a child, I used to see my mother prepare rotis (a roti is also called chapati, the Indian flatbread) on a chulha, a charcoal-fired furnace made from a steel bucket lined with clay. On the chulha also went vegetables, like eggplant, for roasting. Little did I know then that the chulha was very close to a grill.
Years later, well into adulthood, I saw a grill being used in the United States. As I passed by fast-food restaurants, the smell of meat and poultry being grilled or roasted filled me. It became an integral part of America in my mind.
Recently, I learned about how well-known food writer Mark Bittman prepares chapatis on his grill. As I read the recipe, I felt as though life had come back full circle – from my mother’s kitchen to the pages of the New York Times.
The chulha can rival a grill any day. Unfortunately, the once-ubiquitous chulha has all but disappeared from Indian homes, thanks to the advent of LPG. Soon, the chulha will be a relic of the past.
Dear reader, if you have seen a chulha, do you miss it?