Kaviya Cherian, founder of artisanal cookware brand Green Heirloom, takes us through her journey of setting up the business and crafting traditional utensils for modern kitchens
Walk into any supermarket or utensil store and shelves groan with stacks of non-stick pots, pans and skillets. Buy them once. Use them for a few years. Replace. Repeat. Not the wisest investment! (And we won’t even get started on the alleged health hazards of the questionable materials that go into that non-stick coating.)
Kaviya Cherian, founder of Kerala-based artisanal cookware brand Green Heirloom, is here to fix the problem, with utensils made for the ages from traditional materials like bronze, cast iron, stoneware and clay. Her story involves finding herself and her calling through this idea. “I was working as an actuarial analyst in Bombay and wanted to branch out and do something on my own. I quit my job and took a one-and-a-half year sabbatical,” she says. During this time, she lived with her grandma and watched her cooking and serving meals in her traditional pots and pans. “She used bronze and cast-iron cookware, stuff that had been with her for 60-70 years, almost indestructible. And the food tasted better!”
Back home watching her mom using non-stick pans did not cut it anymore. “But those were the only kind you could find in supermarkets. I saw a gap and wanted to show people that there is another option, in the form of traditional cookware. I wanted to educate people about the kind of cookware my grandma used, the difference it makes to the food we eat, and how by using it, we don’t consume toxic non-stick coating with our meals,” she explains.
We got more details from her about changing your kitchen cookware, and getting healthier from the inside-out. Edited excerpts from an interview:
Kaviya Cherian: According to Ayurvedic principles, bronze is one of the best materials to cook in. Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin and is an excellent conductor of heat; it heats evenly. It can also retain up to 90% of the nutrients in food. Copper also has antibacterial properties…this is why water was put in copper jugs in olden days, to kill bacteria. This isn’t just a holistic wellness claim, it is science-backed!
KC: For a cast iron or bronze pan, the more you use it, it becomes attuned to you and your cooking needs. With regular use, the pan becomes more non-stick in nature. So, with continuous cooking and seasoning, you end up taming the utensil to your needs.
KC: A clay pot easily lasts for 6-7 years, unless it breaks. There’s not much you can do if it breaks, unfortunately. Cast iron and bronze can last a lifetime, if not more. These materials are quite indestructible. Even if it does break, these materials have good resale value and can be melted and reused.
KC: Most traditional cookware made back in the day was bulky, meant for larger families and big kitchens…they didn’t really fit into a small home kitchen, which is one of the reasons people switched to non-stick and rendered them (almost) obsolete. As a brand, we are bringing back traditional cookware with smart design interventions. Traditionally, bronze was used for urlis only. But we are using it to make Dutch ovens, skillets, pans, saucepans. These utensils are ideal “cook and serve” pieces like Le Creuset pots and pans.
KC: Definitely! People are a little apprehensive about the price point, though. But, this is where I say that a Green Heirloom piece is an investment, it lasts a lifetime. We’ve had to tell consumers about why the product is expensive, the value we are adding, and how it’s better.
KC: For bronze, wash with regular soap and water. If it gets dull and loses its shine, you can buff it with Pitambari powder or tamarind. For cast iron, simply rinse the pan and use oil when you cook again. When it comes to clay pots, don’t use soap. Clay is porous and can absorb the chemicals in your dish soap. Instead, rinse your clay pot with water and lime, use a natural detergent, or soap nuts.