Wed | Jan 27, 2021

A walk down memory lane: Jamaica then and now

Published:Sunday | August 2, 2020 | 12:14 AM

Arianne Hammond and Kareem LaTouche/Gleaner Writers

OUR FOREPARENTS had a much harder task to get their duties done. However, with the diversity and growth in Jamaica’s culture, there seems to be a twist in the traditional ways of doing many things today.

Partially gone are the days when our foreparents had to grater coconut to get milk to make that hearty pot of rice and peas or recovere from sore knees from having to clean floors all day.

While some persons still use traditional methods to carry out their tasks, many are delighted by these modern alternatives that make their workload much lighter.

Today, we take you down memory lane.

Starch – Used on fabric

Then: From the days of the Tainos, persons have been using the tuberous root of cassava to extract starch. Cassava roots need to be processed almost immediately after harvest as they are highly perishable, and enzymatic prowess weakens within one to two days. A first-rate starch can be obtained from grated cassava that is soaked in only water. The procedures that follow include soaking the selective clothing item in the cassava-starched water. Then, it is put to dry and ironed.

Now: People do not have to go through that vigorous process. They just spray canned starch on the selecteditem of clothing and iron it.

Castor oil – hair treatment

Then: The castor oil plant is a species of a perennial flowering plant in the spurge family, Euphorbiaceae. The seeds are used to make castor oil. However, the seeds are toxic. They are said to be fatal if eaten, and as such, it is recommended that this plant be grown out of the reach of children.

The ripe seeds are put to boil in water until they have an oily, very pale, yellow colour. Then they are strained, put to cool, and bottled, and sometimes, there is a mild odour.

The finished product is use to steam hair and as a laxative.

Now: While persons still use castor oil to steam hair, they either purchase it from stores or use alternatives. There are now pills that can be taken fas a laxative.

Coconut brush – shining the floor

Then: When the coconut has ripened and the outer husk has turned brown, a few months later, it will fall from the palm of its own accord. At that time, the coir (endosperm) has thickened and hardened, and the coconut is less likely to cause damage when it falls. This husk is cut in two, grated, and used to shine the floor.

Now: There is no need to worry about the long time it takes for a coconut to fall when there is self-shine polish.

Metal irons – keeping your clothes smooth

Then: It is hard to know the exact date when people started to press fabric to smoothen it. History has acknowledged the Chinese for using hot metal for ironing before anyone else. Long before the 1960s, many households in Jamaica had plain metal irons that were heated by a fire. These iron designs were forge by a blacksmith, and the metal handle had to be gripped with a thick rag.

Now: there are electrical irons that iron or press clothes faster and are easier to manage.

Dripstone Water Cabinet

Then: This apparatus is amazing because it is ingenious and simplistic and is known as the Dripstone Water Cabinet. It is a filtration system, where water would run through

coral limestone, and in the process, be purified. It is dripped into a jar that can keep it cool for a prolonged period and is stored for consumption. The concept was introduced during the Spanish era, and its popularity continued into the 19th century.

Now: Most refrigerators have a water dispenser in the door, which helps to conserve energy.