A Gourd Ladle

12/19/2023 Tuesday 31-41F Mostly Cloudy

The kitchens in the village where I was born were always separated from the villagers' main houses. Usually it stood on the west side of the yard, with one little eastern-faced wood door and one little wood window. Opened the door, a three to four-foot long clay kitchen range would pop into the eyes, one side of which was a big pile of dry wheat straws and wood twigs, the fire source of the range; while the other side was the area for preparation and cooking.

Opposite the range and next to the door, you would find a big earthenware vat standing silently under that little wood window. The water there was often filled full, letting a small or large gourd ladle floating on the surface all year round.

How many times during those summer holidays spent in my uncle's house, I rushed into the kitchen from outside, grabbed the gourd and swigged the water with gulps. The water was fetched from the well in the yard, tasted clean, cold, and sweet after being purified in the vat; and the gourd, gentle yet firm, holding the water and offered my hand and lips a touch of authenticity.

Plant a seed, wait for it to sprout, to leaf, to flower, to fruit, to ripen; then choose a desired looking gourd, let it stay on the vine until it gets old and yellow; pick if off, hang to dry under the eave for about one to two months; saw it vertically into two halves, empty the seeds inside, cover the halves with a cheese cloth and place them in the sun. Another one week or so, when you tap the shell and can hear a clear, metallic sound, it means they are ready for use--As a ladle, a scoop, a spoon, or whatever you want it to be.


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