Anthony Bourdain’s television show, No Reservations, serves up a trio of personal delights: travel, food, and a thorny attitude. Now, if he could just work in some metalsmithing, it would be very close to broadcast nirvana.
Well, hold onto your seats boys and girls. In this week’s episode, Tony visited Kerala, a state located on the southwest coast of India. He and his crew documented an incredible group of craftsmen, known as Moosaris, who cast bell metal, a bronze alloy, into traditional cookware.
One piece they make is a uruli, a circular bowl used for cooking, serving, and ceremonial rites. The process of making a uruli is passed down from generation to generation, and the food prepared in them are believed to have a distinctive taste.
The raw materials for this type of casting are clay, natural beeswax, castor oil, firewood, coconut shells, coconut husk, and cow dung. The casting metal is comes from scrap tin and copper, and only simple hand tools are used.
The Moosaris first wrap a layer of beeswax around a rigid clay core, and then sculpt the uruli design into the wax by hand. They cover the wax model in clay and let it dry. The three-layer mold is heated in a furnace to remove the wax, leaving a cavity between the clay core and the outer clay mold. Molten bell metal is poured into the mold, taking the shape of the wax model. After cooling a minimum 24 hours, the Moosaris break open the clay core and outer mold. The cast metal is then chiseled and filed to a high shine. An object of intense beauty, history, and meaning.